Tuesday, February 23, 2016

In an instant gratification culture, parents should keep an eternal perspective

Keeping the eternal perspective is vital for parents
Several mornings ago I was reading in the book of Hosea and came across a short verse that I've been meditating on ever since. Hosea 8:7 reads, "They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind." It's a biblical principle that you see in Scripture that essentially means you reap what you sow. The easy analogy is that if you plant corn, you will get corn plants and eventually, if the plants receive enough water and sun and you take care of them as needed, you will get delicious ears of corn. You don't plan corn seeds expecting to get green beans, or strawberries, or a filet mignon for that matter.

In the context of the Hosea verse, the prophet was sending the message to the nation of Israel that they will soon be judged for their idol worship -- even though time and time again God had shown them his abounding love and mercy -- and the judgment will feel worse than the sins they committed. The concept is that sin is sown over a long period of time, but judgment is reaped quickly and it can feel very intense.

I have been thinking about this in the context of parenting and how we are given our children for a long period of time before releasing them into adulthood. So the question becomes: What are we sowing into them? What will they reap?

You hear a lot in this culture about "living in the moment" and we are absolutely an instant gratification culture. When you cruise through the Starbucks drive-thru line, you don't expect to dawdle for a half-hour. You want your coffee now, you want it made just right and anything less is unacceptable. At least that's how the Starbucks workers I know describe the experience to me.

It is definitely not okay for wi-fi to go out when you are online. Downloading off the internet should be instantaneous. We don't memorize any phone numbers because they are in our contacts and basically at the tip of our fingers. An instant gratification culture is all about me getting what I want right now. That's America. And it plays out in a bunch of different ways.

We now have what I call "drive-thru church services," where churches get so big they have to have multiple services so you stack one on top of the other -- maybe an hour or so apart -- and get people in, get them out, get the next service going, no one gets hurt. Because, you know, that's what Jesus did when the crowds got so big, right? He held multiple short church services one morning a week. Oh wait, that's not what he did? Interesting.

As parents, we too often live in the moment and want instant gratification in our parenting. The kids' behavior issues are dealt with in the moment and there's not an eternal perspective. For example, instead of dealing with behavioral issues consistently and lovingly at a young age, it's easier for some parents to just get the kid on drugs that basically zones the kid out. Voila! Issue solved! Never mind there's no way that's the best long-term solution. And you tell me. What is the message that sends? What has the child learned from going on drugs that they will carry into adulthood?

Or when behavior goes haywire we respond and deal with just that specific issue and try to fix that one thing. It's a short-term solution. For example, if a kid hits a sibling and then you correct it in the moment and maybe the aggressive one is punished with a "time out" that's so popular today. The kid has five minutes in the corner and then it's over. Here's the problem: You haven't dealt with the bigger issue and that's the one in the heart. Was the child sorry? Does the child understand what he or she did wrong? Do they understand the concept of sin and why sin is bad? Was there restoration?

You can get a kid to do what you want and train behavior, but what's going on in the heart? If you don't deal with the heart, what happens when they leave your house and head off to college, or the military, or take a job and go out on their own? Or maybe as they get older they can do what you want in your house, but what happens when they are out with their friends?

I truly admire Julie over the years because she doesn't parent in the moment. She always takes the eternal perspective and looks to get to the root of the issue. If there's a hitting problem with a small child, she's going to deal with what's going on in the heart of the child and work on that issue and keep working on it until it's solved. If there's an attitude problem in a younger or even older child, it's going to get worked out and dealt with because she does not want that issue carried on into adulthood. I have one older son in particular who spent many a night as a teenager working out issues with Julie. I have another son who spent many an hour as young boy working out issues. It may vary from kid to kid but it goes back to the biblical principle of you reap what you sow.

And it's how Jesus taught: It's the heart that matters. Jesus was surrounded by a culture that had all the outward appearances of righteousness. But what was going on in the heart, particularly among the religious elite and the priests and Pharisees, was evil and wicked. And Jesus called them on it out of love. He loved them to the cross, in fact.

When it comes to our children, we want to sow love and reap love. Too often, however, parents sow wind and reap the whirlwind.

No comments:

Post a Comment