August 9, 2011

Et tu, Brute?

He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding. Proverbs 15:32

Shh! Don't tell my kids, but I am a bit of a pushover. Don't tell my mom, but she is a total pushover as a grandmother.

Occasionally I have to punish one of those cute Crawford kids. I know how to do what I know has to be done, but I would love to skip to the hug part and bypass the whole yucky law enforcement part.  Unfortunately for the pushover part of me, I have grown in the Lord and grown up as a parent, I have seen first hand that obedience is paramount. It starts with me obeying God in every little thing throughout my day. I am called to obedience to the Lord within my friendships, my marriage, and my professional life. And when the Lord instructs me on appropriate parenting, it is imperative for those that I love that I just go ahead and follow through. Those cute Crawford kids need me to obey God in my own life and as a Spirit filled parent, making decisions that affect them. That includes bringing an unpopular verdict sometimes.

Recently one of our children was experiencing selective hearing about basic instructions from me. "Mom, can I play with this?" "No, we're leaving in a minute." That cute kid ignored me and spread out said toys anyway.

Drat! Now, I have a choice to make. Do I let it go and move on with the day in peace? Or do I correct this problem? Well, to be honest, I was having a perfectly pleasant day overflowing with grace and love, and I just plain wanted peace. I wanted to move forward and offer, yet another gentle, verbal reminder about doing what you are told.

Suddenly I remembered that the Lord showed me years ago that I was not supposed to parent emotionally. When our oldest was a toddler,she was an easy, cooperative kid. But when, on occasion, she did not obey, I did not take it well. I was heartbroken that she did not want to please me. The conflict within me began. Thankfully, the Lord soon showed me that discipline could not be based on my mood. It was not to be about keeping me happy. Mom's having a good day; everyone gets warnings. Mom's having a hard day; everyone loses TV for a month. 

Please don't think that I am claiming to be perfectly fair in how and when kids are punished. I am always seeking, and I have often been blinded by the cuteness of a child. At this house, we often show grace when a child has been expected to behave way past mealtime or bedtime. But the lesson for me in 1999- when the Lord first revealed it- was that no matter what needed to be done: it wasn't about me. That child's behavior was not about me. Parents needed to do God's will in that situation, not take things personally.

Oh boy! I did not want to call and cancel the fun activity that this kid had planned with friends. I did not want to ruffle any feathers or create a headache for another family. And yet, I knew that minor rebellion was still rebellion. I knew that this kid with a very cute face was also not responding as she should. I knew that I had the Holy Spirit nudge to stand strong and be firm. So, after some crying, a claim about a stomach ache, and an elaborate picture drawn of her broken heart, we moved forward with the reality that actions have reactions. Choices have consequences, and this kid was not going on the sleepover. 

Each family has to establish its own standard and its own boundary lines. We start with the Word. We apply it to the little things, those "harmless" areas of compromise, in our own lives. We experience a renewal of our minds. We are slowly transformed as people and as parents; our own closeness with the Lord will lead to the boldness and strength needed in the moment. 

Ring! My mom called, and I told her my plight. She supported me, and she agreed to pray for my family. Feeling strong, I continued to pray for wisdom and for the cute faced rebel.
Thirty minutes later, my pushover mom left a voicemail for me: "Leigh, I changed my mind. This kid has such a cute face. Maybe you should let it pass."

I laughed and exclaimed, "Et tu, Brute?"*

* From William Shakespeare's play "Julius Caesar"  when the emperor is betrayed by his friend Marcus Brutus. "You, too, Brutus?"