Rants, Musings, and Mental Meanderings of a former Conservative Christian Mother. Standing Strong against ignorance, preconceptions, labels and excessive housework. Celebrating original thought, religious freedom, parenthood, free enterprise and chocolate.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Digging Ditches

I have mentioned Jean Fleming's A Mother's Heart, and I really wanted to share one of my favorite chapters, or at least an excerpt. I will italicize what I take directly from the book.

This chapter is called "God's Part, My Part." First of all, unless God labors with you, your labors are in vain. We cannot do anything of spiritual or eternal value in the lives of our children. Oh, we can read all the parenting books, go to all the seminars, develop relationships with them, worry about them, pray for them, closely monitor their actions... and have them rebel against it all. You can take a child to church, but you can't make him worship. You can require Bible reading, but you can't make him enjoy it or learn from it. You can live a godly example, but he is not required to follow it. The best possible parenting cannot produce spiritual children any more than witnessing to others can make them Christians. This does not minimize our responsibilities, it simply requires us to acknowledge that our faith, by its very nature, must be embraced by one's own free will. You can beat a child to keep him from sinning, but then he will cease from sinning only to avoid a beating. When the danger of a beating is passed, the sinning will resume in earnest. There has to be a deeper and personal work done in the child's heart, and this is not something that can be beat into anyone. (If it could be, then the militant Muslims actually have it right. Why stop with our children? Why don't we just threaten everyone with physical pain and beat them into Christ's kingdom? But I digress...) Our very best mothering, done in faith, is our part. The rest is up to God working in the child's heart, coupled with the child's free will and ability to choose whether or not he will embrace the faith of his parents. Force it on them, and they will shake it off the first chance they get. Let them choose it on their own, and they will cling to it even when the threat of your punishment is past.

The author beautifully illustrates this concept with the story of King Joram of Israel in II Kings 3. He was leading his army against King Mesha of Moab, but after days of marching through the desert they faced a fatal problem - they had no water. They cried out for the man of God to give them guidance, and Elisha responded for them to "Make this valley full of ditches." Joram's men were given a back-breaking, thankless, unbelievably difficult job - digging ditches in the middle of the desert. This was their part, unromantic as it was, but they became part of a miracle. In the morning, the ditches were full of life-giving water. The army was refreshed, and their enemy was defeated. Mothering is the same concept. We can dig the ditches, but we cannot fill them with water. We can teach our children about God, live the Christian life before them, pray for them, and surround them with those who love and serve God. But only God can bring them spiritual life. God doesn't need our help, but He...invites us to co-labor with Him.

Again, this is not to minimize our responsibilities as parents, or to say that we have no blame if our own sinful lives drive our children away from Christ. I am simply warning against those who believe that a personal relationship with God and a deep and abiding faith in the authority of His Word can be produced in a child simply by "breaking their will." Break a child, and you end up with a broken child. Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

1 comment:

molly said...

I am simply warning against those who believe that a personal relationship with God and a deep and abiding faith in the authority of His Word can be produced in a child simply by "breaking their will." Break a child, and you end up with a broken child. Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.


Preach it, sistah!