Friday, April 23, 2010

Teaching Without Provoking Part 1

How does God treat me when I sin? Does He hover over me, scream at me, smack me, or exclaim, "I have poured so much into you, you ungrateful child! How could you do that??" Conversely, does He ignore what I did, roll his eyes, and shrug his shoulders, saying "I just don't know what to do with her. No matter how many times I tell her not to do that, she just keeps on."

He does neither. With eyes full of love, devoid of judgment or wrath (after all, this was poured out on Christ for us), He tenderly convicts me and invites me to admit (confess) that I am wrong. He uses the Spirit and His word to do this. Sometimes, if I am being especially stubborn, He steps out of the way and lets me experience the nasty fruits of sin (broken relationships, hurt to myself, etc). When I am living in sin, the sinful nature controls me, and I live as though I am not a beloved daughter, but an orphan, cutting off my fellowship with Him, though His arms are every openly extended towards me.

I recently read a study on Ephesians 6:4. The verse reads, "And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger." I believe that this applies to me as a mom as well as to my hubby. There are three types of anger in the Bible. One is "thumas," meaning explosive anger. This is the kind that results from living in my flesh and is sinful. Another type of anger is "orgay," and it is used in the Ephesians 4:26 when it says, "Be angry, and yet do not sin...". This type of anger, then, is not necessarily sinful, but depending on what I do about it, could become sinful. The third type, which is used in Ephesians 6:4, is "perigismos." This means "seething hostility." This is what we are supposed to avoid provoking in our children. If I deal with my son harshly and judgmentally when he does wrong and try to control his every action, he will bury his anger towards me deep down inside. If I ignore my son, and never move to correct him, he will feel neglected, and this could also lead to seething hostility.

Learning to not provoke my son when I teach or correct him is a case by case process. Sometimes I mess up. Then I realize that I cannot parent out of my own strength and wisdom.

My husband and I have been so amazed, however, to see that lovingly helping our son obey, while requiring a lot of work, pays off--our relationship remains intact; seething hostility is avoided. We ate supper at a very relaxed outdoor restaurant yesterday, and being that our son wasn't very hungry, we created a playspace for him to run around in. One section of the space was blockaded by chairs, which of course he wanted to escape through. Now, we could have hovered over him, smacked him or intimidated him to stay within his area. Or, we could have decided that it was too much work to enforce the boundary and let him run wild. Instead, we gently grabbed his hand each time he attempted to escape, and redirected him to the area where he could play. Pretty soon, he quit trying to escape and stayed within his area.

Sometimes when we correct our kids this way, they will have an outburst of anger. This is different than seething hostility. Aydon does sometimes. We still hold him to the standard, but with empathy: rubbing his back, saying, "you are angry because of ...., but you have to obey mommy and daddy," holding him firmly and kindly if necessary. We choose not to worry about the judgmental looks of some people, because our relationship with our son is worth it. After all, we Christians sometimes throw month-long tantrums when God tries to teach us, yet He continually chooses to deal graciously with His children.

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