Electric fences amaze me. You can’t see the lines, but even very large animals soon learn to avoid them. I like to think those fences are to protect me when I walk by the animals. Actually, the owners install those fences to protect their animals. They know if the animals leave the safety of the yard or field, bad things can happen. If the animal stays far from the fence, it enjoys easily found food and water in abundance. It is protected from cars and hunters. Even though life on the other side of the fence may look more interesting, in reality it is fraught with dangers the animal is unprepared to handle.
The biblical concepts of laws and freedoms can be confusing, especially to kids and teens who are constantly exploring the boundaries in their lives. Since we are all too aware of the consequences of crossing the lines God has drawn, we become tenacious about repeating God’s laws. Teaching your child God’s laws is essential. If you have followed Parenting Like Hannah for very long, you know I believe it is vitally important for our kids to have firm and consistent boundaries.
Unfortunately, some parents become so focused on the rules, they shift the focus from what I think was God’s intention. You see, I don’t think God made up a list of rules to show He can control us or as some sort of test. Instead, I think the concept of grace proves God set rules in part to protect us.
When we only concentrate on God’s commands, our discussions with our kids tend to focus on sin and avoiding sin. We caution them (wisely I might add) to avoid getting too close to the boundary God has set between His people and Satan. After all, our ultimate goal in parenting is for our children to spend eternity in heaven. Unfortunately, if we lose the balance in these talks, our children can become obsessed with the “line”. Some will try to see exactly how close they can get without going over it. Others will jump over just to prove they can do it without being struck by lightening.
In all of our teaching of rules, we often forget to tell our children the best part of being a Christian. True joy and a fulfilled life are not about seeing how close you can get to the “fun” of sinning without going so far you endanger your soul. It is about the absolute joy and freedom found when living safely inside the boundaries set by God.
You see, once your kids stop worrying about the fence God put up to protect them from sin and evil, they can focus on all of the freedom and joy found within those boundaries. God has blessed Christians in a lot of ways our children may forget to enjoy in their efforts to fit in with the world without angering God.
If your children only focus on the boundaries, they may miss the joy of seeing God actively working in their lives.They will miss the loving warmth of serving someone and reflecting God’s love. They will miss the thrill of sharing their faith and seeing a heart and soul turn towards God.They may become so obsessed, they even miss the physical blessings from God seen in nature or in the very food we eat. Instead of enjoying the fellowship of brothers and sisters in Christ, your children may even want to avoid fellowship because they fear someone pointing out the lines they are crossing in their lives.
When I was a teen, our preacher said something that has always stuck with me. What if, instead of seeing how close we can get to the boundaries God has set without crossing them, we just stayed far away and enjoyed our life inside the protective fence God has placed. Perhaps that is one of the most important things you can teach your child about God: God’s commands aren’t to keep us from having “fun”. Instead they are to protect us from the consequences sin brings and to allow us to live a life full of all of the joy, love and peace God can provide us while we are on earth.
So the next time you talk with your child about sin, take a few extra minutes and talk about the freedom in Christ. Explain the joy of living life safely inside the lines. Teach her the blessings of living a God-filled life. Help him understand the absence of stress and consequences from staying far inside of the lines and enjoying all of the blessings God provides there. Shifting the focus a little, may actually help your child avoid sin more than focusing on only the rules.