I don't just enjoy my fellow members but I'm continually blessed by the elders (and their wives) who shepherd our church. Wise, seasoned, and generous with their time and compassion, they pour into our little church. It is a beautiful picture of the gospel - love, grace and an occasional kick-in-the-pants that points me to truth.
Currently two elders and their wives are teaching a parenting Sunday School for any of us brave enough to show up. They are teaching us from the book "Shepherding a Child's Heart" by Ted Tripp. The book, another example of the grace and kick-in-the-pants truth I mentioned above, is a convicting and encouraging read. I highly recommend it!
Of course all of us in the class would just like to be given the 3 easy steps to perfect children. Those exist right? So far we haven't been given those :), but during the first month of class foundational blocks have been laid. One of those blocks is: "A person's life mirrors his heart. The heart determines behavior. Therefore, behavior is not the basic issue of child rearing. The basic issue is always what is going on in the heart."
A couple of weeks ago, we read discussed some excerpts from an article by Micheal Pearl. Disclaimer: I am not whole-heartily endorsing everything Pearl writes, but I was encouraged and convicted by these paragraphs so I wanted to share them with you...
"The first step in all of child training, the foundation stone that must continually be renewed, is fellowship between parent and child. In most homes children are in an adversarial state of mind most of the time. The first step, the step without which all other attempts are in vain, is to establish mutual ties of respect and honor. Unless the children can trust their parents with the handling of their souls they will not make themselves vulnerable. It is the same with you, is it not? Children must be brought to the place where they want to please their parents. Until children value the approval of their parents more than the lure of any indulgence there is not foundation for training…
Fear of punishment is not sufficient to make children complaint; it will certainly not remove the adversarial mentality. When parents get to the place where they are relying on threats alone, they have totally lost fellowship and are functioning as the IRS. Threats might get outward compliance but never the heart – quite the opposite.
…the first step in child training – establish a relationship of trust and respect. How is this done? Enjoy the children and cause them to enjoy you…Give them your time, your attention, your laugh, you approval, your touch, hugs, reading, silly funnies, rolling on the carpet or yard, pushing in the swing, or pulling in the wagon. But most of all, let them bask in your smile until they need it like they need the next breath. Cause them to feed on your fellowship, to relax until they are sure you care only for their good, that you live to enjoy their company and would not be happy without them. Do this and you will have achieved what most Christian homes are missing.
…Your reach as a disciplinarian cannot exceed the limits of your fellowship with the child. Rebuke (and discipline) must be delivered in an atmosphere of trust and respect. If you have lost the child’s heart, then the child will have lost the heart to please you."
What a tall task - to love my children and pursue their hearts the way Christ through the cross has pursued me. And when I fail (which is daily upon daily) I am reminded it is only by Christ's grace that I can parent and love my children.
Here's to the grace-filled adventure of parenthood,