This series I’m writing is based on a simple idea: Each day, I’m going to wake up, pray and read in Proverbs with “parenting eyes.” Then I’m going to blog whatever comes to mind. This could be brilliant or an epic failure. But that’s the plan. Today, I read Proverbs 1: 1-8.
That Sunday some 40 years ago was different.
See, every Sunday morning of my youth was of the high-church variety: Stained glass. Dimly lit and candles all over the place. A small pipe organ. Kneelers. The priest would say something and we’d give the appropriate response. We’d walk to the front and take communion out of silver goblets. Lots of gold & ceremony & incense. We dressed up. This went on for years, rain or shine, hell or high-water. Even had pot-luck lunch with our small, loving group after the service, too. Eventually, each and every Sunday blendered together into sameness.
One Sunday, my dad threw me a curve ball. Put on some shorts and a t-shirt, he said. While I’m getting ready, throw my golf clubs in the car, he said. We’re going golfing, he said. I was inwardly secretly thrilled about this, but tried not to show that to Mom as I didn’t want to risk throwing this curve ball into jeopardy in any way. But, for the first time I could ever remember that didn’t involve a thermometer or a trash can beside my bed, I wasn’t going to church. Not today. 3-par golf was on the agenda.
Or so I thought.
Don’t get me wrong. We did play 3-par golf. Well, he played 3-par golf. I played 5-par (or 8-par) golf. I don’t remember much about the scorecard that day.
My dad was a blue-collar steel worker and generally lived like whatever you’d envision that to be. He did his job. He loved his family. He drank his beer. He didn’t say much. But somewhere on the back nine he stopped walking toward the green. He closed his eyes and just stood there. It was a beautiful Alabama spring morning and he was taking it all in.
“Everything okay, Dad?”
“Couldn’t be better. You know, sometimes I feel a lot closer to God out here. Really, this isn’t far enough out, though. I guess that’s why I love fishing so much on the river…but especially on the deep sea. And hunting. But this is better for me than the church services we go to. Sometimes I need this. Don’t get used to it, kid. Our happy asses will be back at church next week, so let’s enjoy this while we can.” It’s the only time I ever heard my dad talk that way.
My parents were both right in their own ways. My mom experienced God in concert with friends who loved God. She appreciated the awe and reverence and mystery of something bigger than herself. The environment of stained glass and incense and candles delivered, too. My dad experienced those same things on a deep-sea fishing boat or the quiet solitude of a 14-foot aluminum boat with a trolling motor or sitting in a field waiting on dove to fly. The sunrise and the trees and the water delivered, too.
The bottom line is they both loved God. They lived it out in their own ways…and I was their kid. So, I had the chance to figure out what I believed about God, which, interestingly, is blendered between the high-church/high-nature reverence they both had. As much as I like to think I’ve moved miles from both of those sides of my parents with all my seminary training and reading and personal experience and blah blah blah blah, well, it all boils down to that hybrid in some fashion.
And reading Proverbs, what jumps out at me is Proverbs 1:7: Fearing the Lord is the beginning of moral knowledge but fools despise wisdom and instruction. If you keep going to verses 7 & 8, there are verses to the disciple telling him to listen to what his father and mother told him (presuming it was from the Jewish tradition of education based on their love of God) and it would be a blessing to him.
Parenting begins with us and our walk with God. There’s no way around it. We’ve got to take the first step of admitting that God is God and we are NOT Him. Well, we don’t have to…but by this reckoning we’d be, um, fools.
And the results of this are staggering.
If God is God and we aren’t Him…
…then our lives aren’t our own.
…then He gets to set the rules.
…then He gave us children as a temporary stewardship.
…then He gave us children as a blessing and as arrows in our quivers.
…then He is precisely Who He says He is.
…then He loves our children more than we do.
…then it’s his universe and we’re all just living in it.
Our role is to live this out practically and authentically in front of our children, these little charges/blessings/arrows. We have to live out our love for God on a moment-by-moment basis because they’re going to learn this wise reverence for Him a LOT more from you and I than they are from pastors and Sunday School teachers and AWANA leaders and youth pastors and college pastors. As a youth pastor, I had plenty of stories where well-meaning parents undid an hour’s worth of small group Bible teaching in one sentence. I know from whence I speak.
See, parenting has to start with the people we are.
Read that again.
Not the people we aspire to be or some ideal we’d like to be, because our children are can detect a load of crap when they see it. Their crap-detectors come as standard equipment. And if our hope is to have kids who don’t embarrass us by drinking or having sex or doing drugs or stealing who graduate from good colleges and get good jobs, well, we can arrange that and get that very thing. Or we can teach them to walk with Him and teach them WHY those things are eating out of a dumpster when we could eat at a restaurant. That there’s a God in Heaven who knows how far the east is from the west. Who know them so well that each of the hairs on their head are numbered. Who gave us stewardship of them to us as a blessing, as arrows in a quiver.
But we can’t give them what we don’t have.
And we can’t give it to them if we aren’t the type of people who’ve taken that first step and decided to follow Him in our own ways…
…even if it looks like stained glass and incense or a lonely boat surrounded by miles of ocean…
…or some sort of beautiful hybrid of the two.
We can only answer the question for ourselves: Do we truly believe that God is God and I’m not Him, and if so, what does that look like? Because our kids are watching, from Day 1, and their crap-detectors work.
Your thoughts, patrons?