mini idols

 

This may possibly be an unpopular post, it’s definitely not a feel-good post. This is a post about the reality of Parenthood and the dangers we all face as believing parents when we make our children or our Parenthood greater than God. I will call them mini idols.

I brought this topic up at home group last night as we discussed Proverbs and heart idols. Parents, have we made idols of of our own children? I know as a parent it is easy to fall into the trap of loving my children best, thinking they are better than all other well-loved children. Of course this is common for parents, we think our children are the greatest things to walk this side of our spiral shaped galaxy and possibly beyond that. But what if they aren’t? What if are children are just like us, people that fall short? What if what society models as a parent is completely wrong?  What are we teaching them by elevating them to the highest points in our hearts and minds? What is it doing to our families? As a believer, what is the solution.

After bringing this topic up in home group last night, my friend Wendy sent me this article: How American Parenting is killing American Marriage. If you get a moment you should read it today. To summarize, the way we prioritize our children over everything else is hurting our Families, hurting our Marriages. It’s pretty taboo to say that you love your Husband/Spouse more than your children because we all know that ignoring one another for 18 plus years works wonderfully. It sounds like to the layman that you must hate your children, because obviously you hate your children if you happen to put your spouse first or even more shockingly God. Ayelet Waldman, who is not a believer that I know of, went on OPRAH to explain that she believed that loving her husband before her children has been a wonderfully healthy thing for her kids to witness, she received death threats and reports to Child Protective Services. Now, if a non-believer is telling us these things, how much more important is it for the believer to realize that God must be first then our Spouse and then our Children. I mean you don’t have to agree but this is biblical truth.

There are so many opinions on how we should raise children and there is no possible way to do them all, nor should the believer. Our Godly Mandates as parents should look foreign to the world. They may not like it. All the books by this Doctor or that Specialist are no match for Godly wisdom. Remember that worldly wisdom is foolishness. There is a grand story at work and we should be shaping our families with that mindset. American Society tells us that parental love looks like bussing your children around to all the things, giving them all the things, never letting them miss out or lose or be disappointed, keeping them cage in our homes and teaching them to be afraid of all the things, the list is longer, I’ll stop there. We need to be wary that this cultural example is contrary to a biblical one. We need to be careful that we aren’t forming mini idols based on culture and and our selfish desires.

There are many ways we can make children and Parenting our Idols. Christina Fox gives some examples in this post, more specifically for Mothers who seem to fall prey the easiest to this issue: The Idols of a Mother’s Heart (I’ll paraphrase):

-We can make Affirmation our Idol. We are affirmed in our beliefs about our children when family, friends or strangers tell us we are “doing a great job”, our kids are “pretty” or they are “well-behaved”. We can be prideful and desire affirmation more and more. We also can desire affirmation from our own children.

-“Our children in and of themselves can become idols.” Living for your kids and making them happy can become the most important thing in our lives, it’s a dangerous thing to do.

-Success. The “perfect family”, successful children, the “American Dream”.

-Control in every area of children’s lives, planning life out with no deviations or exceptions. This shapes the family dynamic causes us to fear, worry, have anxiety, and just plain grumpy.

When we make our Children or Parenting or Motherhood an idol in our lives we are setting a dangerous path for our children. Dissenters may say you cannot love your children too much, and of course that’s true, we can’t measure the love God has for us but what that looks like is obviously different then the love of the world. 1 Corinthians 13 is our reminder. As parents what does my love look like toward my child? Does it look the Father’s love?

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives. Hebrews 12:5- 6 

Not only must we put God first and prioritize our family biblically we must not put our children so high as to forget that we are commanded to lead them and discipline them. A lack of discipline is not love, a choice to not discipline your child only offers greater hardship for them later.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11

I think it is clear but I just wanted to state that there is a difference between Discipline and Punishment, the first is corrective and the latter in Punitive, so on the other end we need to seek God in our parenting on how to do the first, we can go the other extreme and punish our children for our irritances with them. Godly love disciplines and reproves.

So back to making our children idols or role as a parent an idol, so how do we safeguard against these. I am a Mother so I tend to speak from that viewpoint a lot. We may all know Mothers occasionally that may have extreme views on this or that and let everyone know whenever they can, they might hold one of the previously listed idols of parenthood in their heart as the utmost importance. But it can be the quiet mother as well that holds their children idol in their heart. This is not a judgmental statement. this is the reality that we all can fall easily to idolatry of our children, our families, our role as parent. 1 Corinthians 10:14-18 states:

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?  Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel:are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?

We must be vigilant to keep ourselves focused on God and to keep our hearts tuned to Him. That is when our children will benefit. There have been many times where I followed my own selfish desires as a parent. My child is not perfect and it is foolishness to act like she is but also I have let my flesh anger toward my child when I should be leading her. I also fall to wanting to hear the affirmation that my children are “the best” or what have you. I need to pray for the Spirit to reveal the idols of my heart so that God can deal with them. We must be humble as parents as well, our children are not our own. They have been given to us, we do not deserve them and it is our duty to raise the according to the instruction of that Giver. Children will be formed by how their parents act, so in my humility must ask my daughters to forgive me when I have sinned in my parenthood.  Just like our children we need Godly reproof to battle the idols that pop up in our lives:

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:19

The only way we can can combat the idols of parenthood or our mini idols is to turn to God.

Exploring Grace Together by Jessica Thompson; A Review

 

How important is it to learn about Grace at an early Age? It is of the utmost importance, in my opinion,  just as it is equally important to learn as an Adult as I am doing now. Grace colors the way we interact with others and even ourselves in all of life. Grace, simply put, the In Faith,Grace that is undeserved comes from God and is the antithesis to working to no avail to pay your for your own debts, for your own righteousness. It just doesn’t work that way. Grace is transforming and refining because it is difficult to extend Grace if you don’t understand Grace and once God’s grace is understood it can change everything that you think you know about Him and what that means for your faith.

Are we teaching our children about Grace? Are we learning about Grace? How do we bring up conversations about Grace in the everyday, ordinary moments of life? Sometimes you need a starting place. That’s what I feel Jessica Thompson’s book is, a tool for conversations about God, Grace, and remarkable Love.

It is no secret that we homeschool (Charlotte Mason style) and as a part of that we do daily bible studies, I love that time where we talk about scripture and what it means to us. We discuss Gospel things and what they mean in our day-to-day.  Emma who is six-almost-seven is not always interested to be truthful, but we do get a lot out of it and it is a great way to point to the Gospel then and later when things happen in life and she loves to listen to the stories. We also do something called Character Training, we learn about biblical character that we should embody.  Most people do more than one Character in a year and we started the year that way but since we were struggling with Obedience with the mini teenager (that’s what it’s felt like) in our home we decided to stick with Obedience as our  character for the entire year. If you ask Emma what Obedience is she will tell you that it is “doing what you are told with a happy, submissive heart”. The expectation in our home is “First-Time Obedience”, meaning that you do the previous the first time you are told. In this we are all learning about obedience al-together because I also tend toward the opposite. The apple does not fall far from the tree. We can see how teaching this way does work on hearts little by little with God’s help.

I say all of the above to say if those things are not learned along side Grace and Love then it completely defeats the purpose in my mind. Bible Stories and learning about how we should live can mean nothing if we aren’t connecting it to the Love Story we’ve been given. Without learning Grace, we will tend toward moralism or legalism. That’s why Grace is important. So, I was very excited to get the happy mail that contained my copy of “Exploring Grace Together” by Jessica Thompson. Thank you, Jessica! I treasure “Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus” written by Jessica and her Mother, Elyse Fitzpatrick. It has truly been a wonderful resource for our family. I was very excited to dive in this devotional with Emma and our family.

We have done a week’s worth of devotions from the book to date and we enjoy them very much so far. I of course have read ahead and am excited to discuss all the things inside with my daughter. My praise is that it brings to light everyday issues children and yes, adults struggle with and shines that Gospel light on them so we can see them with new eyes.

For example in Chapter 1 “The Good One” we discussed how all fall short and following the rules does not win you what is given freely. This is so important for us to discuss because Emma in most cases is a “follow the rules to the letter” and has what I like to call a high sense of justice when it comes to herself and others. She is the first to point out among friends that they aren’t following the rules so it was a really great discussion for us.

In Chapter 4 “Just Not Sure” Emma shared that sometimes she doesn’t understand Faith as well just like Sam in the story but that she still wanted to have Faith and thought it was very important. It was a great way to tell her that she is always welcome to talk with us about her thoughts and doubts and we will examine them together, because she isn’t alone in this. Then prompted from the questions we prayed for the special Gift of Faith.

Bullies are a new thing for us this year, I’m not sure if it’s because of the age of her peers or what but we had never experienced it. Emma is a very sensitive child and is really affected by “name calling” or unkindness but she also is not always aware when she is the one being unkind to others as well. Chapter 6 “I Can’t Be Nice” was a great devotion to discuss what we are to do in these scenarios, when we feel like we can’t be nice to others regardless the circumstance. We were able to bring out some situations that have happened to and by Emma and discuss what we can do about them. It is a great way for Mom as well to talk about how she struggles with this.

I really have enjoyed the devotions so far and we will continue with them with our family in hopes that the Gospel conversations continue. The only thing we have done differently in the devotions is that in our Charlotte Mason tradition Emma will narrate the story back to me before we discuss it. We do this for retention in our home and it seems to work for us. Anyone can do this as well but it isn’t necessary for the material. Here are some thoughts on Narration, if interested.

I completely recommend this book. It will become another invaluable resource for us as we raise young children’s hearts and also examine our own hearts. Do it with your families knowing both you and your children will benefit from it. I can’t wait to see what else Jessica has in store in the future, I am totally fangirling her on Instagram and Twitter and almost referred to her as @thejesslou in most of this post. Anyways, go and give her a follow https://twitter.com/Thejesslou and http://instagram.com/thejesslou.

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What are your thoughts on this book? Was this review helpful? I love posts to start a dialog for more conversation.