Download Discussion (revised 4/14/2018)
Mother’s Encouragement Group
April 14, 2016
Inspiration for today comes from G.K. Chesterton. Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born in London in 1874. He was a Christian, a Catholic, and a writer with strong intellectual powers. He loved to debate—George Bernard Shaw and Clarence Darrow were two of his antagonists—and he is well-known for his pithy sayings: “‘My country right or wrong’ is a thing no patriot would say except in a desperate case. It is like saying, ‘My mother, drunk or sober;’” “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is as adventure wrongly considered;” “Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere;” “Beware of no man more than yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us.” These are some of his famous quotations. C.S. Lewis, in his introduction to Mere Christianity, states that much of his material is simply a re-working of Chesterton. The idea, for instance, that Jesus Christ could not possibly have been just a good man—he had to have been either a very bad man and a liar, a lunatic or He had to have been telling the truth about Himself—was Chesterton’s thought. In an article for the Illustrated London News, Nov. 16, 1929 (in Collected Works, 35, 201-02), Chesterton wrote the following addressing the relatively new phenomenon of women working outside their homes, and wanting to, despising domestic work as inferior and boring:
I have never understood myself how this superstition arose: the notion that a woman plays a lowly part in the home and a loftier part outside the home. There may be all sorts of excellent reasons for individuals doing or not doing either; but I cannot understand how the domestic thing can be considered inferior in the nature of the thing done. Most work done in the outer world is pretty mechanical work; some of it is decidedly dirty work. There seems no possible sense in which it is intrinsically superior to domestic work. Nine times out of ten, the only difference is that the one person is drudging for people she does care for and the other drudging for people she does not care for…
But, allowing for the element of drudgery in both cases, there is rather more element of distinction, and even dictatorship, in the domestic case. The most fully trusted official must very largely go by rules and regulations established by superiors. The mother of a family makes her own rules and regulations; and they are not merely mechanical rules, but often very fundamental moral rules. Nor are they merely monotonous in their application. Mr. [Henry] Ford is reported, rightly or wrongly, as saying that the woman should not be in the business of the outer world, because business people have to make decisions. I should say that mothers have to make many more decisions. A great part of a big business goes by routine; and all the technical part of Mr. Ford’s business goes, quite literally, on oiled wheels. It is the very boast of such a system that its products are made rapidly because rigidly, upon a regular pattern, and can be trusted ninety-nine times out of a hundred to turn out according to plan. But a little boy does not, by any means, always turn out according to plan. The little boy will present a series of problems in the course of twenty-four hours which would correspond to a Ford car bursting like a bomb or flying out of the window like an aeroplane. The little boy is individual; he cannot be mended with spare parts from another little boy…. The domestic woman really is called upon to make decisions, real or moral decisions, and she jolly well does. Some have even complained that her decisions were too decisive.
I suppose the prejudice must have sprung merely from the fact that domestic operations occur in a small space, and on private premises. Even that is illogical enough…. The most epoch-making scientific feats have been performed in a space no larger than a parlour or a nursery. A baby is bigger than a bacillus: and even the little boy is larger and more lively than a germ under the microscope. And the science that is studied in the home is the greatest and most glorious of all sciences, very inadequately indicated by the word education, and nothing less, at least, than the mystery of the making of men.
Now I doubt that most of us need to be convinced that what we are doing with our children is of utmost—even eternal—importance; in fact, often we can be so overwhelmed with the importance of it that we are nearly paralyzed as to how to proceed. But it is the “drudgery” Chesterton speaks of that I think we can find difficult to do cheerfully: I remember feeling that I needed a philosophy for mopping my kitchen floor, else I just didn’t think it was important enough to do! The hard truth that nothing ever stays done—the laundry, the dishes, the cleaning which must be done over and over—is, I believe, a large part of what Chesterton is talking about. We do these things in service of our families—our children—creating for them a safe, clean, healthy environment for them to grow and thrive in. Doing these things, over and over, is part of our expression of love for them and to them and all the while we are “drudging” for them, we talk to them, teach them and train them, showing them how Christians live who love the Lord and love His people, wanting His kingdom on earth to grow.
So, while our hands are busy our minds constantly need to be busy too so that what comes out of our mouths are things the Lord wants His little ones to know and, of course, they need to come out in happy, winsome ways that will be appealing and embraceable to the little men and women who are in training in our homes. We have mentioned so far: 1) that the Lord made women—and suited them—for the job of mothering children 2) that our children, who belong to Christ because they belong to us, are born foolish and stupid, that is, they are prone to sin; 3) that we must love our children so that they know that we are absolutely and unquestionably on their side all the time; 4) that obedience is the first and most important rule for our children; and 5) that if your children do not fear you they will not fear God either.
Today I want to mention two more principles: first have only a few rules in your home—rules of principle that must never be allowed to be transgressed. Jesus said in Matthew 22:37b-40: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Everything else is just detail. And second, when your child rebels—and you know he will—the strength of his or her rebellion needs to be met with equal parental strength. Our goal is to reach our child’s heart in order to form the character but one begins by reforming his behavior—at the outset it’s all we have!
So to begin. If what you say must be law in your children’s life—in other words, they need to obey or suffer consequences for not obeying—then having a lot of rules is simply a pain in the neck and makes everyone’s life miserable. We ought rather to follow the Lord’s own pattern. He gave us the main principles of His law: love God and love our neighbor (who may very likely be a brother or sister!). So, we must tell the truth; be kind; be self-controlled; worship only God etc. All the rules of your household should be derived from these and built into your child’s mind, bit by bit, piece by piece. We are by this means teaching them to replace their own little wills with God’s will for them, to build their character. They do not get to worship themselves, feeling that they are the center of the universe, but God only.
Of course, you get to be the one who defines “truth,” “kindness,” “self-control,” “love” etc. You do this by your speech, by your life and by the constant pressure you put on their little lives. Deuteronomy 6:4-9: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
This is “education,” if you will, that “mystery of making men” that G.K. Chesterton was speaking about. You put into their minds the things of God no matter what time of day it is. Pauline Saxman would read to her children a Proverb every morning at breakfast, calling it their “spiritual vitamin!” I found that to be a great way to be talking about one principle all day long e.g. “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out!” Proverbs 17:14 (NIV)
The Lord gave us His law but He didn’t tell us what to do with our lives: we have a lot of freedom to do what we want with them as long as we are seeking to be godly in every decision that we make. So, after you have helped your children begin their life each day, feeding, dressing, praying—spiritual vitamins—etc. then let them live their lives and you live yours, going about your work, yet always knowing where they are and what they are doing so that when you see or hear sin you can correct it right away. Otherwise, let them play, using their imaginations and developing their creativity. It is wonderful and amazing how important their play becomes to them; it is real life worked out in their own understanding, on their own level, giving them a chance to work out the character that is being built within their hearts and minds.
This was illustrated to me recently during my visit to the Wykoffs in Chattanooga. Peter, the only boy, has three sisters. His older sister goes away to school on Wednesdays so he is the oldest at home on that day and is very happy to be so; Thursdays, however can cause difficult adjustment between Bryonie and Peter since she is back calling the shots. His mother overheard him telling his sister, “You hurt my feelings in two ways…!” (She’s thinking he shows potential for practicing law!) After that he wanted to play by himself, which hurt Bryonie’s feelings, until she decided to play happily with Maggie, which made Peter jealous! I was outside planting things for Vange and watching all of this unfold. Peter built a little playhouse and wanted to lure Bryonie away from Maggie and into playing with him; he said, “Only two people can play in this house!” That was when I intervened; I told him it had to be either one person or three people, not two. I could see his little mind at work for a long time and then he finally said, “anyone who helps build the house may play in it!” He knew full well that Maggie was not able to help build the thing! You can see that their play was working out their relationships with one another—not always successfully—just the way adults have to work out theirs, not always successfully either! Bit by bit, piece by piece, experience by experience.
Now the second thing I mentioned: when your child rebels—and you know he will—the strength of his or her rebellion needs to be met with equal parental strength. Our goal is to reach our child’s heart in order to form the character but we have to begin by reforming his behavior—at the outset it’s all we have. We start with the outward behavior and move to the inner: it’s a little like kneeling to pray; we kneel to express our humility before God but the act of kneeling also increases the humility in our hearts before the Lord. When a child is very young, reason and speech are not possible because he does not have these skills but he has a body and the Lord made us bodies just as much as He made us souls. Strong communication can and does happen through our bodies and the more we can communicate to our children through their bodies the more they will be able to understand when you are able to add speech to the discipline and so build on his understanding. All kinds of touch is so important—both the positive, loving kind and the negative, correcting kind. One communicates our commitment to them and the other communicates displeasure with their behavior. Both kinds are absolutely necessary else they may either begin to think they are not loved or they may think they can do anything they want whenever and however they want to and will become more angry when others don’t think so too!
So, the rebellion that will surely come: tantrums are its evidence and they need to be treated swiftly, directly and decisively: self-control is the rule of the day. A child out of control and defiant is the demonstration of open rebellion. “I am center of the universe and I want what I want right now and you are not going to interfere!” We have all experienced this kind of behavior either in our own children or in others and usually both at some time or other. A child is on the floor kicking and screaming—often in public—or he becomes so stiff that if you pick him up his body is like a board. I sometimes wonder if the little buggers pick the public times on purpose because they think they have us over a barrel: “Mommy can’t possibly spank me here in front of everyone!…or can she?” The punishment for this behavior should be swift, painful and scary for him, so that he begins never to want to do this again! It should be uncompromising and over quickly so that repair can be made to your relationship with him. He must be reminded that you do this because you love him and want only his good. Proverbs 23:13 & 14: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with a rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.” Our children must never feel that there is any moment in their lives that is not under the observation and control of their parents because that is the way God is: He sees all, knows all, controls all, down to the secrets of every single heart. (Note: though the behavior may begin in public the punishment ought not to be. You can and should remove yourself and your child from the observation of others, preserving his dignity and keeping the possibility of making your own decisions without feeling the judgment and influence of others.)
Of course the disciplining of a child is never convenient; that public tantrum must be dealt with right away, public or not. When our Courtney was little, had been disobedient and would not say she was sorry, it happened to be a Sunday when our table was filled with guests. Her dad took her into the bedroom and was gone a long time while I sat with our guests and tried to continue with our meal! Embarrassing? You bet. Necessary? Absolutely! She could not learn in that moment that under some circumstances she could win.
Being on the phone is another time children often choose to sin, wanting Mommy’s undivided attention: this is a moment when they simply need to learn to wait, sharing the attention, for the sake of someone else. Not an easy concept but a necessary one and should be insisted upon: their demands should not hold you hostage; they must learn that you have others in your life that you must attend to as well as themselves. (Of course, if you are on the phone in order to escape from your own responsibilities, well, that is another matter!)
Sometimes children are so involved in their own little worlds that they need to have a little shock in order to get their attention. A big booming voice is very useful in some circumstances that call for it such as when a child is reaching for a pan of boiling water! One wouldn’t say, “Honey, now don’t reach for that; it’s hot and it will hurt you.” No, I think you’d say, “STOP!!! RIGHT NOW!”
Every child’s heart is different in its sensitivity; every circumstance is different in its importance; every behavior varies in its strength. The response of the parent should match the sensitivity of the child, the importance of the circumstance and the strength of the behavior. The point is to reach the heart and make it teachable not simply to make our lives easier or our children less bothersome and annoying, though that certainly may be a side benefit! We ought never to use more force than we need in any given circumstance or we may hurt that little soul but neither should we use less than will accomplish our goal—the Lord’s goal—in our child’s heart. We need the Lord’s help for this and He will give it if we ask Him. Proverbs 15:11: “Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord; how much more the hearts of the children of man!”
I have often been amazed at Gabriel’s different responses to Zechariah and to Mary when it would seem from the texts in Luke that their responses to him were the same. Zechariah says in Luke 1:18: “How shall I know this?” after the angel told him that his wife Elizabeth would have a son, “For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” You can just see Gabriel bristling, standing up to his full height, maybe spreading his wings and raising his voice, “I AM GABRIEL,” hello! “I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words….” But then he goes to Mary to tell her that she will be conceiving the baby Jesus and Mary says, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” Gabriel answered her sweetly, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you….” But then we see Mary’s heart: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Gabriel saw that heart and he saw Zechariah’s heart and responded to each according to what he saw. So we need to read our children and use only the strength necessary to get our point across to them; harshness and impatience are never acceptable—that communicates nothing except that they are a bother to you and an interruption to the life you are trying to live—but loving pressure and strength with muscle in it, absolutely!
You cannot do all these things by yourself: you need the Lord! Both my experience as a mother with grown children and my theology tell me that no set of parents has ever done this parenting job perfectly; everyone has made mistakes—sometimes lasting ones—that cause sorrow and regret. Perfection is not possible but faithfulness is. What we need is to be on our knees begging the Lord to lessen the effect of our mistakes and to bless our efforts to produce godliness in our children. Without His blessing there will be no godliness. Deuteronomy 29:4: “But to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.” But the wonderful thing is that these are His children whom He loves even more than we do and their godliness is His particular interest. Deut. 30:6: “And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”
I know you’ve all had moments of terrible failure—I certainly have had many. Why else would we need a Mothers’ Encouragement Group?! I remember one time in our home when the children were little that the commotion was so great with the playing/fighting and whatever else they were doing that I was at my wits’ end to know what to do. I walked out of the room, into my bedroom, shut the door on them and began to cry—I’m not even sure that I thought to pray in that moment of exhaustion and frustration. I remember the children gathered outside the door and tried to peer through the curtain; they were suddenly very quiet. Vangie remembers being afraid: what in the world had happened to Mom? Bryonie remembers another time when the five kids and I were having lunch and they were fighting about something or just at one another so constantly that I got up, took my plate into the dining room and ate by myself!
In the end these are examples to me that the Lord uses everything in a child’s life to produce the fruit He wants—even parental mistakes and frailties, illustrating what Rob has said from the pulpit, that the Lord “uses sin sinlessly.” How does He do that? I have no idea but I’m really glad He does!
I could multiply examples of the Lord overlooking parental frailties: Jacob was a terrible father, showing blatant favoritism for Rachel’s children and Rachel herself certainly had issues of jealousy but Joseph, probably thinking more highly of himself than he should have, turned into an upright, godly man that the Lord used mightily in the life of His people.
Once Courtney said to me, “Mom, all the hard work you did in my life when I was small and look at me now! All that work and I’m still so flawed.” But the fact is we are all flawed; that is the sorrow of our being Adam’s children and still living in this fallen world. What we want, what we long for, is to be striving constantly to be on our way to Heaven and what we are trying to give our children is their own desire also to be striving to be on their way to Heaven. I said some other things that I hope were soothing to Courtney but the main thing is that she is on her way to Heaven and longs to get there and to help her children long to get there. How we get there, though not unimportant, is not the most important thing; that we get there is of the utmost importance and has everlasting, eternal, forever and ever, consequences.
I John 4:7-8, 16b-17a-18a: “Beloved, let us love one another (this means our children and for our children this means their siblings!) for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love….and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment….There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment….” I’ve said to you many times before that I really don’t get this; I don’t get why God bothered. But He did; He loved us so much that He took the punishment that our sins deserved from us, satisfying His own holy nature, loving us perfectly and showing us the way to follow. It behooves us then to follow His example by teaching our children by our corrections, by our example and by our words what it means to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
These two little songs teach two sides of the same thought which is that God is everywhere, sees everything, knows everything down to the smallest things that a child thinks in the deepest places of his heart. Remember in Numbers 12 when Miriam and Aaron “spoke against Moses?” They may have only been whispering to each other but THE LORD HEARD IT!! And Miriam was punished—publicly—for the jealousy in her heart. This reality needs to reside in a child’s mind and it will reside there if his imagination is cultivated early. Proverbs 15:3: “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” Soon in your child’s life this can become both a deterrent to bad behavior and a comfort in times of insecurity and fear.
You Cannot Hide From God
by B.D. Ackley
#2 from Let Youth Praise Him
You cannot hide from God, You cannot hide from God,
Wherever you go, Whatever you do,
You cannot hide from God, His eye is fixed on you,
You cannot hide from God.
God is Always Near Me
Wm. J. Kirkpatrick
#3 from Let Youth Praise Him
God is always near me, Hearing what I say,
Knowing all my thoughts and deeds,
All my work and play.
God is always near me, In the darkest night,
He can see me just as well
As by morning light.
God is always near me, Though so young and small,
Not a look or word or thought,
But God knows it all.