When I first found out I was pregnant with our first child, I gave my husband a t-shirt that read, “Parenting, the hardest job you’ll ever love.” Of course, at the time I had no idea how true it was, but I’d heard from a few people that had experienced this exciting and maturing process. At the time, I was more excited than nervous. I mean, between my husband and I, we had enough academic degrees to prepare us for our next journey in life.
When our first son was born, it was such a healing time for me. I had spent my early adulthood repairing myself, gaining confidence in who I was in Christ, and learning how to love. Seeing his complete innocence and dependence on us, I completely fell in love and learned how to love at another level. For most of his early life, it was the just the two of us, so I completely devoted myself to him and his needs. He was a happy baby and toddler. Yes, I had to discipline him and set boundaries, but, despite his hyperactivity and forgetfulness, he was not defiant at all. He didn’t throw fits. He simply corrected and went on to do something else, just as happy as before. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog, his temperament is much more like his dad’s than mine.
When our second son came along, I began to learn to love in another way. From the beginning, it was evident that his temperament was much more like mine. I can be very expressive with my face and body language when I’m not happy with something or someone, and I am not likely to just take my lumps and move on. I mean I’ve heard stories that I would hold my breath until I passed out if I was not happy with the treatment I was receiving from my parents. Some people might call me strong-willed. Samuel was also a happy baby and toddler as well, but man, could he pout. He used crocodile tears and any other means in an attempt to melt your heart and change your mind about punishment, and he seemed to be watching the whole parent-child dynamic with his brother in order to improve his next move. He is also the kid that would, and will, choose to miss out on fun to show you how upset he is about his latest behavior correction.
I say all of this to say that recently our youngest has been trying to test our resolve as parents. He’s making sure that we as parents really know what we believe and are willing to pass it on to him as truth, so he’s been pushing the bounds of acceptable behavior. He’s ten, so it is small things like, not getting dressed when he’s told or brushing his teeth. He does the big stuff like taking out the trash, cleaning his shared room with his brother, or picking up both of their animal chores, because he can get praise and recognition. Yes, some would say that he’s simply discovering his autonomy or place in this world as himself, not Benjamin’s little brother. And many of the behaviors are “good.”
Why does this matter? Why is this such a big deal? Well, let’s go back to the Bible and ironically look at a story that was influential in choosing his name. The whole 15th chapter in 1 Samuel is really a good read, but let’s look at verse 22, “And Samuel said, ‘Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” Again, you’ll have to read the whole chapter for better understanding, but long story short, God took the reign of king from King Saul and his descendants, because he did things that seemed good but were exactly the opposite of what God had asked him to do.
Well, a few weeks ago, the train came off the tracks when he was asked about completion of one of these small jobs, and he lied. Instead of fessing up to the mistake so that he could receive his punishment and his dad could build a plan of restoration with him, he simply lied, making the sin worse, because he bound himself to it just like King Saul in 1 Samuel chapter 15. Well, since he is not or king, nor has the promise to be a king, that was not an option, but something needed to be done to stop this cycle of stubbornness.
Once again, God provided an amazing opportunity of time. You see, Nana and Pa take the grandkids to the big city of Lubbock about once a year to do all things grandkid oriented. This year was the first year, they’ve split the boys and girls, so it was an all-day boys’ day packed with shopping at Bass Pro and eating at Golden Corral. This tradition is something of legend that the kids and adults talk about year-round as more and more stories about their adventures are revealed in epic narratives that become part of the family folklore. I mean it is a big deal, and with all the lore, it seemed too big to take away from him. That is until you compare the punishment of King Saul when he sinned, then double downed and owned that sin by lying.
Going back to 1 Samuel chapter 15, Samuel tells King Saul, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” So, no. Him missing out on a grand adventure with grandparents, his brother, and cousin does not compare to him, as an adult, losing out on the kingdom of God as the story in 1 Samuel goes on to explain about King Saul’s life.
So as hard as it was for big brother, big cousin, and grandparents to leave without Samuel in the truck that morning, it was necessary. And has hard as it was for me, as mom, to admit my shortcomings as a mother by allowing this insidious crouch of sin in his life, it is better that he miss a day of fun and memories than to lose his reward as an adult. Because by continuing to allow him to believe that he is the author of his own world and that he has the ability to maintain that world, we would have been complicit in rejection of a need for Christ in his life.
To those parents who are struggling to keep your bearing and set a steadfast example of love through discipline, remember that no matter how much it hurts today, set your eyes on the prize at the end. No worthy reward is given for a good start or good intentions, and it is sure not given for following our own will (2 Timothy 4:5-8). As Pa so wisely advised Jeremiah and I early in our parenting journey, “Discipline must break their will, but never their spirit.”
I still love being a mom to both of my boys. They have both taught me to love outside of myself more than I’d have ever been able to do in isolation. Yes, my oldest taught me, through God’s design and nothing of Benjamin’s, that love was safe and necessary. I am learning with my youngest that although love requires boundaries, if we do not set these boundaries of what is acceptable and not acceptable, we start believing our own lies, or self-truths, that we’ve created (Genesis 3:6). So, as painful as it is in the moment to see my sweet baby missing out, I pray that the boundaries set by love will guide him to obedience in Christ. Without this obedience, he will be a reprobate unwilling to bend to God’s will which will not allow other people in his life as well.
So, I don’t know if the accumulated degrees that my husband and I have earned have helped guide our parenting, but I do know that the truths in the Bible have, and I want to leave you with another piece of advice from Pa. He shared this wisdom with us as part of our premarital counseling, long before we were parents, “When you become parents, tell them yes as often as you can, but when you tell them no, it is hell no.”
— Written by Kati