When your first child is about two or three years old, it seems like most of your day is spent in correction. In our house, it was the “terrible three’s”. I remember calling my dad during a particularly “no” filled day and asking if I would still have to punish her this often when she was older. He promised me if I were diligent at three, then the rest of her childhood would seem easy in comparison. He was right. After those crazy few months, our daughter has been delightful and punishments have had to be given only rarely.
At some point after the year fondly known as “establishing who the parents are”, we tend to go into more of a maintenance, correction mode. Most parenting books will tell you this is a result of establishing firm but loving boundaries when your children are young (for the most part!). Because rebellion becomes less common in our homes, we sometimes forget to train our children how to avoid sin and deal with ongoing temptations.
Life is about choices. Every choice we make has some sort of consequence. It may be good or bad, but something happens because of the choices we make. Many are so minor we don’t even notice them. Others can change our entire world. Some consequences may be immediate, while others will happen years later. As Christians, we also believe that some of our choices have eternal consequences.
Part of teaching our children to make good choices is teaching them how to prioritize. Eternity changing decisions need to be made with the most thought and prayer. Choices about what to have for breakfast shouldn’t require as much of our time and effort. Yet often, we find our priorities have gotten all out of order. Suddenly we find we have spent hours searching for the perfect outfit, but don’t have the time to read our Bibles or attend Church.
Most non-profits will tell you one of their biggest battles is convincing people to no longer be apathetic about the social problem their group is trying to address. Many spend countless hours and dollars developing ways to help people understand the urgency of the problem. Groups like charity: water and Toms have actually done a great job of informing and engaging people about their mission with creativity and style.
We know our world is filled with more problems than we can count. We know God commands us to serve others and teach them about God. The pure enormity of the problem is overwhelming. So overwhelming, most people become apathetic. It is easier to block out all of the problems and opportunities and focus on our little world, where we feel like we have more control. The problem is, not only are we not in control of anything, the problems of the greater world can become so large they begin to invade our personal worlds. I think everyone learned that lesson in very real and horrible ways during World War II.
One of the most effective ways to teach your children God’s principles and concepts is through casual, but planned conversations. Some parents call them teachable moments. A teachable moment is when another child almost darts into the street and then a car whizzes by. The parent uses what just happened to reinforce or introduce the concept of “that is why you don’t run into the street without looking, because he could have been killed!”
Teachable moments are different than lectures. There is almost a “we are in this together” tone to the conversation. The conversation mentions the rule or the principle but focuses more on the natural consequences of not obeying the rule or principle. (As opposed to the more lecture oriented “If I ever catch you, I will ____” consequence!)
King Saul could have been called the King of Excuses. From the time Samuel told Saul he would be king, almost until his death, Saul had an excuse for just about everything. He couldn’t be king because he was from the smallest clan in the smallest tribe. He sacrificed when he wasn’t supposed to because Samuel was taking too long to get there. He didn’t kill animals he was told by God to kill because he was saving them for sacrifices. And on and on. Saul had excuses for why he couldn’t do what God wanted him to do and excuses for why he disobeyed God.
Excuses are one of Satan’s best weapons. From Adam until today, we seem to think excuses will either get us out of doing something we don’t want to do or keep us from getting punished when we do something wrong. Reading the Bible though, gives us a picture of a God who is not fond of excuses (to put it mildly).