Discipline and Selfishness

Recently, I read a very good blog post about busy moms in the trenches of baby-/toddler-/preschooler-rearing and how we need The Church. I loved it, even though avoiding church out of exhaustion isn’t a particular struggle of mine. Still, a certain Scripture stood out from the article:

…make my [the apostle Paul’s] joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

~Philippians 2:2-4

The application in the above-referenced blog was to parenting, and how even though we may miss out on sermons or worshiping because of a fussy baby or a defiant toddler or preschooler, we need to refocus and consider our children’s needs as more important than our own. Bingo. I loved that. I “liked” it. And then I set about making breakfast.

Bennett (my nearly-three-year-old) was busy playing cars, waiting for breakfast to be ready. I communicated that he would play until breakfast was ready, which would be in just about five minutes. I gave him a two-minute warning. And finally, I let him know it was time to come to the table. OH THE HORROR!!! Flailing limbs, much wailing and gnashing of teeth, “BUT I’M NOT DONE PLAYING CARS!!!!!” Waaah waaah, whine, whine, scream.

I had a truly textbook response. It was a proud mom moment. I calmly and sweetly said to him, “Oh, my. Is that how we talk to Mom? Let’s try standing up, using your Big Boy Voice, and telling me what you need to tell me.”

It couldn’t have worked better — he promptly stood up, wiped his eyes, and stuffed down his whimpers as he c8471029060_40cabca059_oalmly asked, “Can I play cars for one more minute, please?” VICTORY! Glory hallelujah and amen. I said that he *could* have one more minute, and “thank you for your respectful attitude. In one more minute you will come to the table and eat breakfast with Mama. Yes ma’am?”

“Yes ma’am!”

One minute came and went, and it was a total train wreck from there. I won’t give you a play-by-play, but it ended with my removing him from his spot at the table, walking him to the living room, and having a discussion face-to-face, which was reinforced on his backside, and then leading him in repentance, prayer, and hugs.

The whole thing took so long (it always does; thanks Tedd Tripp!), that my eggs and muffin were ice-freaking-cold when we finally got back to the table. It would have been so much easier to just let him play with his dang cars until he decided he was done, and then let HIM eat cold breakfast alone.

As I sat down (after reheating my food), I remembered Paul’s words. Here’s a VERY amplified “paraphrase,” courtesy of yours truly:

Make my joy complete by being of the same mind with the Lord. Remember His mandate on parents and children — you *must* take the time and effort to discipline, as obedience to authority is at the heart of serving God. How can you obey God if you never learned to obey your parents? Maintain the same love — God disciplines those He loves. Unite in spirit with His Spirit, and be intent on one purpose: shepherding and disciple-making. Do nothing from selfishness (like wanting to eat a hot breakfast in peace) or empty conceit (like worrying about what other people will think), but with humility of mind regard your child as more important than yourself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the long-term, eternal interests of your child. It may seem like this is about breakfast and cars, but this is an important battle in the fierce war that is being waged for his soul. 

That’s some pretty fancy “exegesis,” isn’t it? Even so, the principles remain the same, even if Paul wasn’t really talking about parenting, eggs, or Hot Wheels.

Whenever I choose not to deal with misbehavior or defiance, I am putting my own needs above my son’s. Whether it’s my need to spend my next several minutes doing such-and-such pressing thing, or my need to avoid judgment in public, or my need to just not expend the energy right now, whenever I fail to discipline swiftly and appropriately, I am putting myself before my son. I’m choosing my own comfort and desires over the spiritual well-being of my son.

So, what?

So, this is my new go-to Scripture when I am reluctant to respond the way I should — “Angela, do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself. Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

Amen. (And Lord, help me.)

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More Advice from Mom

(Maybe.) Because my Bible titles Proverbs 31:1-9 “The Words of Lemuel” and then verses 10-31 “Description of a Worthy Woman,” I treated only those first few verses as the oracle from Lemuel’s mom (it seems that’s a pretty common approach). Well, that may not be so. It could be that the entire chapter is the oracle!

That’s pretty awesome if it is. First of all, it just makes Lemuel’s mother even more special. She didn’t just model for her son what a virtuous woman looked like, but she intentionally wrote out examples — according to a Hebrew acrostic for “easy” memorization — and painstakingly taught it to her child! Acrostic or no, that’s still a lot to memorize, which is the second reason I think it’s awesome if it’s part of the mother’s oracle. Lemuel memorized all of it! I hope he found himself the kind of wife his mother would approve of! I hope that both for Lemuel, who would have to hear it from his mom if she was still alive, and I also hope it for his wife, who might have had to wake to these little verses whispered in her ear if she stayed in bed past dawn. Sheesh!

Whether it’s part of the oracle or not is unclear, but I like the idea. I will be studying, meditating, and blogging through the remainder of this chapter verse by verse in the coming days and weeks. While I have no specific timetable for this, I would think I will publish no fewer than one or two posts per week. As I examine each verse, I will be keeping these ideas in mind:

  1. Lemuel’s mother was intentional about teaching her son how to select a spouse.
    How can I be intentional about teaching my son the same thing?
  2. This is not a list of absolute standards, but a beautiful example of a very valuable and cherished wife.
    What steps can I take to move closer to this excellent goal?
  3. The Bible presents Christian marriage as a symbol of Christ’s relationship with the Church.
    (Christ : Bridegroom :: Church : Bride)
    How can these verses be translated into the Christian life and relationship with the Lord?

I’m excited about this journey, and I would love to read your thoughts as you read along! Blessings!

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(This post is part of a series on Proverbs 31. Click here to see all posts in this series.)

My Oracle for Bennett

In my last post, I asked you what would be in your oracle, if you made one, for your child(ren). Well, I wrote one.

Now before some of you get excited, (“Oh! She’s a writer! I’ve never read one of her poems before!), let me caution you: I am not a poet. I don’t try to be a poet. My “poems” are ALWAYS totally free verse. It will be immediately obvious that any attempt at discovering meter or rhyme in this oracle is futile. So, this is just my oracle, so shaped to look like a poem at first glance. 😉

(And I plagiarized the first stanza.)

What, O my son?
And what, O son of my womb?
And what, O son of my vows?

Do not waste your life!
Do not squander your gifts and talents!
Give yourself to the Lord God Almighty;
Serve Him and love Him with all that you are.
There is no god beside Him,
And in Jesus alone is your salvation.

Be courageous in living and sharing your faith.
Do not be timid, but open your mouth!
Speak the truth, that more might be rescued!

Have integrity.
Do not speak and act so as to be seen and respected by mere man.

Love the Lord.
Be His faithful servant in the farthest corners of your heart.

Honor God.
Remember him even through the darkest watches of the night.

Be merciful.
Remember who you are and Who gives you your strength.

Again I say, do not waste your life!
Discover your gifts, and be a blessing to others.
As your name is Blessed, so be a blessing.

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(This post is part of a series on Proverbs 31. Click here to see all posts in this series.)

Wishes and Warnings

I like King Lemuel’s mom. She wasn’t lazy.

Parenting is hard! And my little one is only (almost) seven months old. I know the days are coming when I will be ceaselessly guiding, instructing, correcting, disciplining, repeating. Oh, those toddlers, with their wills and ways and wonderful whining! A mom has to be so diligent, so intentional, and willing to persevere for decades! This mom with the oracle in Proverbs 31 sure sounds like that kind of mom!

I mean, this lady made her son, the heir to a throne, memorize this poem of her wishes and her warnings concerning his future. And what a collection of wisdom!

Do not give your strength to women,
Or your ways to that which destroys kings.

Don’t be stupid. Think with your BRAIN. Don’t take lightly your high position. Be wise and discreet, choosing wisely with whom you associate. This is not a game.

It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
It is not for kings to drink wine,
Or for rulers to desire strong drink,
For they will drink and forget what is decreed,
And pervert the rights of all the afflicted.
Give strong drink to him who is perishing,
And wine to him whose life is bitter.
Let him drink and forget his poverty
And remember his trouble no more.

Be a leader. Take this seriously, because it is serious! Don’t waste your life partying and thinking only of yourself; you do not have that luxury.

Open your mouth for the mute,
For the rights of all the unfortunate.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.

You have great responsibility and can do so much good. Serve the poor. Seek their good. You are not better than they are. You are their mouth, you are their hope, you can make your life make a difference.

That was the burden on the heart of King Lemuel’s mother. Don’t we all have a similar burden for our children? Wishes and warnings, hopes and dreams? This mother carefully taught this oracle to her son, word for word, so that its words reverberated in his mind. I bet you could just start the first words of it — “What, O my son? — and then he’d be off! The rest of the oracle would come spilling out of his mouth with very little effort because she took the time to teach him the reality of his responsibility as not just a king, but as a human being.

What a great lesson for us moms. Persevere. Your children hear more than you think they hear, and remember more than you think they remember, for sure. (So keep a song in your heart and train yourself to have a pleasant reaction when you stub your toe!) But don’t think that this general acquisition of your home’s cultural climate will translate into your child truly knowing right from wrong, or truly valuing what you value. You’ve got to teach him. As the ancient Proverb goes,

Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6

So what are your wishes and warnings for your child(ren)? What would you include in your oracle, whether you have children yet or not?

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(This post is part of a series on Proverbs 31. Click here to see all posts in this series.)

What, O My Son?

I have decided to start a series on Proverbs 31 because I am a woman, I am a wife, and I am a mother. The 31st chapter of Proverbs has a lot to say about women in general, and wives and mothers in particular! It’s been a while since I looked at this chapter closely, and it has been never since I really savored each verse, meditating and evaluating my heart in light of them. What better time than now?

Although most Proverbs 31 studies seem to begin at the tenth verse — “An excellent wife, who can find?” — I am starting at the very beginning, with King Lemuel’s wise mother. You see, she had an oracle — a burden, a longing, a yearning — for her son. So much so that she taught it to him. And that word translated as “taught” in verse one carries with it the connotation of reproof, discipline, and careful instruction. She was very serious about it, and very serious about making sure he remembered her words. If she lived to see his kingship, then I’m sure she was pleased to learn that he had remembered (of course whether or not he heeded her advice is unknown).

Her words begin:

What, O my son?
And what, O son of my womb?
And what, O son of my vows?

I love that.

He was her son. He came from her body. She cherishes that physical connection right from the start, reminding little Lemuel of her tenderness and love for him because he is forever a part of her. Even more, she shares with him her commitment to the Lord concerning him. Lemuel’s mother had apparently made some sort of spiritual vows regarding him, perhaps reminiscent of sweet, barren Hannah‘s, who had been rewarded with a son after years of yearning. Maybe Lemuel’s mom had a similar story, but we’re not told here; we can only speculate. One cool thing I found out is that the name Lemuel means “to God” or “belonging to God,” so it seems that in addition to the wisdom imparted in Proverbs 31:1-9, she wanted his identity to be as one who serves the Lord and who knows well who his Heavenly Father is.

Oh, me too, Mother of King Lemuel. Me too! I prayed for years and years before we were ready to start having kids. I prayed for my children by name, and I begged God for their salvation. I asked that He deny me motherhood, making me barren, if my children would only be destined for wrath by refusing to choose Life. Time will only tell what His complete answer to that prayer will be, but I’m still praying!

I now pray constantly for my little, almost seven-month-old boy, and for his younger brother or sister who is yet to be conceived. (Hopefully, there’s a little egg in there somewhere just waiting for its time!) Lifting up all the normal things a momma lifts up in prayer, I also really harp on that salvation and faithfulness part. It’s part of my vow to God for my children.

Now that I’m a mother, so much of my purpose is wrapped up in my son. May he know well that he is deeply cherished, that he’s forever a part of me, that he is fervently and constantly prayed for, and that he has a purpose!

More on this oracle soon!

 

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(This post is part of a series on Proverbs 31. Click here to see all posts in this series.)