On Not Sponsoring Stupidity

The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom, wisdom for those who need to get wisdom, and wisdom for those who need to give it. Solomon helps the one who already understands obtain guidance and then also give guidance to others.

One of the proverbs most quoted in our house is Solomon’s lesson on the unteachable.

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates reproof is stupid.
(Proverbs 12:1, ESV)

The word “stupid” (translated as such in the ESV, NAS, NIV) usually referred to an animal that lacks sense. To hate correction is “brutish” (KJV). Lots of times parents are up against the worst sort of willful stupidity. Some other times parents are the worst at keeping their kids dumb.

Jonathan Edwards illustrated it this way.

If any of you that are heads of families, saw one of your children in a house that was all on fire over its head, and in eminent danger of being soon consumed in the flames, that seemed to be very insensible of its danger, and neglected to escape, after you had often spake to it, and called to it, would you go on to speak to it only in a cold and indifferent manner? Would not you cry aloud, and call earnestly to it, and represent the danger it was in, and its own folly of delaying, in the most lively manner you were capable of? Would not nature itself teach this, and oblige you to it? If you should continue to speak to it only in a cold manner, as you are wont to do in ordinary conversation about indifferent matters, would not those about you begin to think you were bereft of reason yourself? (emphasis mine)

Who has the bigger problem, the child in the burning house or the dad who sees the child in the burning house and acts as if it’s no big deal? He who hates reproof is stupid. He who hates giving reproof when it is necessary sponsors stupidity, and death (Proverbs 19:18). Maybe the most ironic response is hating correction so much that you get fired up to correct the ones urging your kids to get out of the burning house because you don’t like their tone. We should be wiser than that.

Adorned with Divine Delight

A fantastic footnote (#10) found in chapter 6 of The Things of Earth (paragraphs added):

Now observe that when that clever harlot, our natural reason (which the pagans followed in trying to be most clever), takes a look at married life, she turns up her nose and says, ‘Alas, must I rock the baby, wash its diapers, make its bed, smell its stench, stay up nights with it, take care of it when it cries, heal its rashes and sores, and on top of that care for my wife, provide for her, labor at my trade, take care of this and take care of that, do this and do that, endure this and endure that, and whatever else of bitterness and drudgery married life involves? What, should I make such a prisoner of myself? O you poor, wretched fellow, have you taken a wife? Fie, fie upon such wretchedness and bitterness! It is better to remain free and lead a peaceful, carefree life; I will become a priest or a nun and compel my children to do likewise.’

What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels. It says, ‘O God, because I am certain that Thou hast created me as a man and hast from my body begotten this child, I also know for a certainty that it meets with Thy perfect pleasure. I confess to Thee that I am not worthy to rock the little babe or wash its diapers or to be entrusted with the care of the child and its mother. How is it that I, without any merit, have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving Thy creature and Thy most precious will? O how gladly will I do so, though the duties should be even more insignificant and despised! Neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery nor labor, will distress or dissuade me, for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in Thy sight.’

A wife too should regard her duties in the same light, as she suckles the child, rocks and bathes it, and cares for it in other ways; and as she busies herself with other duties and renders help and obedience to her husband. These are truly golden and noble works….

Now you tell me, when a father goes ahead and washes diapers or performs some other mean task for his child, and someone ridicules him as an effeminate fool, though that father is acting in the spirit just described and in Christian faith, my dear fellow you tell me, which of the two is most keenly ridiculing the other? God, with all His angels and creatures, is smiling, not because that father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith. Those who sneer at him and see only the task but not the faith are ridiculing God with all His creatures, as the biggest fool on earth. Indeed, they are only ridiculing themselves; with all their cleverness they are nothing but devil’s fools.”

–Martin Luther, “The Estate of Marriage,” in Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, 2nd ed., ed. Timothy F. Lull (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2005), 158– 59.

Parents Are Always Parenting

Other real live souls are now depending on you. You are the creator of their childhoods. You are the influencer of their dreams and tastes and fears. You are the emcee of all reality, the one to introduce those small people to the true personality of their Maker (as imaged by your life more than your words). The choices you now make have lives riding on them. Always.

—N. D. Wilson, Death by Living, 44

The Whole Row

One attribute of God in Genesis one that isn’t always mentioned by commentators, theologians, and preachers is that our God gives. All of creation is overflow. He doesn’t make anything because He needs it, or so that He could take something back from it, or so that He could have servants who will do work He finds distasteful on it. Look at the creation story less as an answer to scientific questions and more as an answer to sociological questions. If this is God, and He made us to bear His image, what should we do?

There is no relationship under the sun unaffected by that constant catechism. But since we have a parenting seminar coming up at the end of this month I thought I’d take a moment to apply creation theology to dads and church. How do Genesis 1, parenting, and liturgy fit together? Is there application for fathers when they recognize that creation sings the Father’s song?

God made us to be particular kinds of people. We are worshippers, but even how we worship should show something of what He’s like. For example, He is a God of order. Our worship should not be chaotic, but should include structure and regularity. Also, God is a God who gives. God gave a place for men, God gave food to men. He gave us stars and seas, fruits and veggies, birds, bugs, and birthing bovine all for man to receive with thanks and joy. God made it all and gave it to man.

That means, among other things, that dads should give to their kids, and the corporate meeting of the church for worship is no exception. Give a place to sit, maybe the squirmiest one right next to you. Give attention. Give direction. Give an arm around his shoulder or a pat on her back. Give a small piece of candy (one they won’t choke on, and maybe unwrap it a bit pre-service if necessary). Give some paper to color. Give encouragement. Give example.

You may need to plan how to make church sweet. But shouldn’t you? I’m not talking about turning your pew into an amusement park. I’m talking about dad leading in giving in such a way that the kids receive these ninety-plus minutes as good. This isn’t just to keep them quiet. This isn’t just because God takes worship seriously. It’s because we are showing what God is like even now.

What are you showing? How are you helping to lead your family in joy? When we think about it that way, who needs to grow up most? It isn’t only our kids, it’s the whole row.

Raking Face

I was listening to a message a few days ago that dealt with our need to repent from sin rather than adjust our definition of sin in order to protect our sin. I paused my run, got off the treadmill, and gathered all the kids together, along with Mo, for a confession.

I know that it’s important to show our kids how to respond, not merely tell them how. I know that yelling at them to stop yelling is an ineffective, let alone ironic, approach. The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God, yet we keep trying to paint pottery with sledgehammers. Sledgehammers do do something.

Earlier that morning I was in my study preparing the liturgy for our worship service–obviously a very important job–while the oldest three were playing outside in the leaves near that end of the house. Within a few minutes I heard loud, long wails of blood-curdling catastrophe. I pushed myself out of the chair, marched outside, and convened a meeting to find out what could possibly be so terrible.

Apparently there had been an accidental raking of someone’s face. One wasn’t paying attention, one got in the way of said leaf rake, and one gave a muttered explanation of the sorry event. It was all quite inconvenient (to me), quite a big problem (to me), and quite an inappropriate response (from me).

Yes, leaf rakers should pay more attention, and so should I when I approach a situation of little people who are learning how to live with each other, even when one of them hurts another one. Yes, there is no need for dramatic, excessive crying for a small scrape on the face, just as there’s no need for my dramatic, excessive anger about the crying. Yes, explanations should be clear and to the point, and I should show an eagerness to listen.

So I gathered the troops and asked for forgiveness for reacting wrongly to their wrong reactions. None of them had sinned; that was me. I was not loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, or gentle, which means that I was parenting in the flesh. The family granted forgiveness, and we learned that we don’t tolerate bad attitudes because we’re parents/fathers, we confess sin. By God’s grace, hopefully our kids will learn to do the same.

THIQ Obedience

Most Christians probably don’t need another acronym for our spiritual walk, and yet a well-applied acronym can slow down unraveling strings when we’re in the fray. YMMV but, at our house, we’ve written a certain acronym on our “heinie remindie” tool (AKA, “the rod”) to remind us all about obedience.

What is obedience? Oftentimes a child who asks the question knows the definition, he’s filibustering to save his fanny. In order to avoid the need for a word study in the heat of a disobedience, we talk about obedience that is THIQ: total, happy, immediate, and quick. Admittedly, that may not be the best logical order but IQTH doesn’t quite roll of the tongue.

THIQ obedience is total, doing everything that was assigned. It is happy, cheerful, without anger or tormented countenance. It is immediate, not traded for an obedience to be named later. And it is quick, not poky, dawdling, or meandering.

I mentioned THIQ obedience that we describe to our kids during corporate worship because worship is one of the best times for parents to model THIQ obedience for our kids. Where should they learn how to obey? They learn as we correct and train them, yes, and they learn by watching us. Our obedience and our worship should be THIQ. Our confession before God should acknowledge when it isn’t.

Are we worshipping totally, whole-hearted and fully engaged? Are we worshipping happily, gladly and without burden? Are we worshipping immediately, that is readily, when He calls, or when we’re ready to get around to it? And are we worshipping quickly, running with our hands on the worship battering ram, or are we just out for a Sunday stroll? If we’re not THIQ, let’s show our kids how we want them to respond when they disobey: humbly confessing our sin and seeking forgiveness promised in the gospel.

Clearly Outrageous

On Women, Divisiveness, and Hobby Horses

A new post from Rachel Jankovic on the joy that’s possible when we differentiate principles from methods. The principle here applies to much more than mommas pushing their favorite idols techniques. It creeps into any corner where someone says something that’s “clearly outrageous.”

Do not get caught up in method camps and chisel away at the number of saints you can fellowship with every time you read a new article about that thing that has become the most important thing. Do not build for yourself an arsenal of inflammatory topics.

Motherhood as a Mission Field

Motherhood as a Mission Field

Though normally found writing at Femina, Rachel Jankovic’s guest post on the Desiring God blog hits home for wanna-be gospel-centered moms (and dads). I recommended her book on motherhood/parenting a few days ago and it wouldn’t surprise me to see this article making a great chapter in a future book.

Jesus calls all His disciples to die, but

The closer you get to home, the less intriguing the work of sacrifice seems.

That’s a pain, especially since we spend so much time at home. Likewise, the closer you get to actual sacrifice, the less attractive it appears.

Giving up what you cannot keep does not mean giving up your home, or your job so you can go serve somewhere else. It is giving up yourself. Lay yourself down. Sacrifice yourself here, now.

I like David Brainerd. Mostly. I feel the same about Jim Elliot (whom Rachel quotes), and others of their ilk. They spent their lives in obvious ways for heavenly purposes and are commended by evangelicals for such commitment. But we’re easily tempted to measure our heavenly mindedness according to earthly standards. If something is so obviously heavenly, how do we know that? By actual heavenly standards, or by ones that were easier to determine…by earthly standards?

Amidst all the “crazy love,” “radical” speak, the key is to actually be radical, not do what everyone thinks is radical. Daily-dying parenting is radical indeed.

God calls some families to plant their homes in foreign lands for sake of gospel fruit. Families that plant thankfulness at home, no matter the street address, will grow juicy gospel fruit as well.

You cannot have a heart for the gospel and a fussiness about your life at the same time.

Loving the Little Years

*Loving the Little Years – Motherhood in the Trenches by Rachel Jankovic is the best book on parenting I’ve ever read. I’ll admit that I haven’t read as many books on parenting as I probably should have and I’m sure I’ve forgotten too much of what I have read. That said, every Christian mother and father should own this book, inside and out.

A certain sort of parent will not enjoy this book at all. Parents who view authority as a control mechanism rather than a means to fellowship, who prefer dispensing law rather than following it, and who expect change in their kids before change in their own souls should stay away from this book. On the other hand, parents who want to know and live the standard themselves and who want their kids to know and love the standard will develop much stronger muscles from this workout.

Rachel performs a tricky task, helping us toward the happy conviction that we fail so miserably by reminding us that the gospel of grace works. Death fills happy homes as dads and moms die to bring life, and she makes gospel dying look good. She illustrates that laughter is both a seed and fruit, a great blessing and at times an impossible mission. She observes the beauty of messes and the products of wastefulness. She humorously assaults petty, panicky, and proud parents. It hurts. And it helps, a lot.

I hope all the parents I know will read this book, repent (as necessary), and salt their childrearing with truckloads of God-fearing fun. That goes most for me and I plan to open this book again and again when I need to get a look above the trenches.