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Lent 2013, Entry 9

This series I’m writing is based on a simple idea: Occasionally, I’m reading and praying in Proverbs with “parenting eyes” and blogging whatever comes to mind. That’s the plan, for good or bad. Today, I read Proverbs 22: 17-29.”

“Why are we stopped?” I asked the bus driver. Our hired school buses were at a standstill on a potentially busy road. Granted it was 7:30 on a Saturday morning and traffic was scarce but as a youth pastor with about 120 kids in my charge I was keenly aware that this breach in protocol had the potential for something to go awry. Our trip to the arena student ministry event already had enough moving parts to the degree that my safety checklist hit my already fine-tuned radar and we weren’t even 10 minutes into the deal.

“A lady has been flashing her headlights behind me for the last mile and just pulled in front of me. Nearly cut me off. I thought it might be an emergency. Here she comes now,” replied the driver.

He opened the door. It was a mom of one of the kids in my group.

“I’m so sorry,” she said to the driver and she handed a small cooler to the adult volunteer in the front seat. “My kid forgot his lunch and I didn’t want him to be hungry. Could you get this to Joe for me? Thanks so much!”

Out the door. Back into the car. Away we all went.

I was stewing on the checklist of all the ways this mom had put 120 kids in danger. Granted, not very likely at all…but still in an extremely unnecessary manner. “For a stupid lunch,” I thought. “She cuts off the driver, stops us in one lane of a four-lane road to make sure her kid has his lunch. There are 120 kids who all will have too much food in their lunches and he’d be able to beg some food. I’ve got a foot-long sub I’ve shared for that matter. Besides, we’ve got way too much pizza coming for dinner at the arena anyway. Worst-case scenario is the kid’s tummy rumbles for a couple of hours. And for that, she stops a bus like that.”

Now, this was before mobile phones and all. And, yes, I was aware that the kid did not have diabetes or hypoglycemia or any other dietary issue that I could at least give a little more grace to the mom if that had been the case…but this was a classic example of helicopter parenting, man. They lost sight of a much bigger picture.

And this is what pro-active parenting demands: a long-range view of raising children, which is what I gathered from the section I read today.

It starts out in verse 17 with a reminder of what we should be doing: “Incline your ear and listen to the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my instruction.” We’re supposed to be actively leaning in to hear what a wise person is saying. Not halfway watching the movie while scrolling our Facebook feeds on our smartphones. Leaning in & hearing. Letting is seep into our hearts. The fibers of our beings. Obviously, in parenting, this is what we’re supposed to teach our children how to do, so we gotta be doing it, and we have to be instructing them how to do that very thing.

Then in verse 18 we get the first of 3 reminders of “how” we get wisdom: “For it is pleasing if you keep these sayings within you, and they are ready on your lips.” First, we have to get the “sayings” into our children. We need to highly prioritize the ways in which our kids can gain truth. As I’m a firm believer in the reality that truth will set our kids free, therefore, error will put them in shackles, we need to put them in situations where they are given truth. Yes. I believe that truth is found in Scripture and we need to make sure that our kids get steady doses of that. Maybe it’s sitting in Sunday services of a church that teaches the Word (I favor exegetical teaching over “preaching”–yes, there is a HUGE difference–but I know plenty of preachers who teach biblical truth, so to each his own), or in a children’s/student ministry that disciples in a relational context with a significant reliance on the Word, or a Sunday school class that teaches truth or even having them serve on mission trips and in their church’s ministries so they can try to live out those principles (and they’ll really get truth if they are in ministries where they teach them to others)…and yes…even going to arena events if the focus is on truth/teaching Scripture.

All too often, we don’t make those thing priorities even if we say they are. We tell our kids their homework is more important than their small group by using it as a carrot, or the soccer tournament is more important than the weekend retreat, or the travel team or instrument lesson is more important than the small group involvement, or the summer camp is more fun than the mission trip, or not being willing to drive them to church one more time to serve can all be subtle messages our kids pick up on.

Nonetheless, we need to be prioritizing our lifestyles so our kids get truth to counter the lies they’re fed every day. I know. I know. There’s a delicate balance. But strive to find ways they can be on a team and still make the retreats or small groups or find a Saturday/Sunday evening service where they can be in the tournament and still get to church gatherings. Alternate weekends where the retreat opportunity is declined and concerts are played in and the next time you skip the concert for the youth group retreat. Be willing to make an extra trip so your kid can serve, etc.

The second “how” in acquiring wisdom is found in verse 19: “So that your confidence may be in the Lord, I am making them known to you today – even you.” We want our children to have confidence in the Lord, right? We want to consistently and constantly be showing them that His ways are trustworthy, largely in contrast to the ways of the world.

See, I mentioned it earlier. The ways of the world constantly bombard our children…from advertising to mindsets to teachers they trust to coaches to their friends parents to newscasters to anything and everything in-between. They’re young and learning and it’s good that they get a broad spectrum of ideas. In fact, I’m a big fan of teaching kids to be critical thinkers and have been known to throw out ideas I don’t even believe in a classroom to see if they’re paying attention. But when I did that, I was trying to see if my students to correlate the bad idea against putting Scripture up first and seeing if the idea withstood that test.

I’ve found that this is best seen if a child has a mentor that backs up the parents’ diligent modeling and teaching. Parents used to bristle a bit when I’d have coffee with a kid and that kid would go home and tell the parents about some wise decision they’d now make “because Brent told me to seek first His Kingdom and righteousness” or whatever, and the parents would see me at church and say, “I’ve been saying that for 15 years and one coffee with you and they somehow decide to do it.” The reality is that because it had been said for 15 years prior, and now a person they trust is saying the same thing, well, it gives them confidence to trust in the Lord. It’s simply the Body of Christ doing what it does…and that mentor doesn’t have to be a paid staffer, just FYI. Just another adult reiterating what the parents are saying.

Finally, in verses 20 & 21, we see the final “how” of acquiring wisdom: “Have I not written thirty sayings for you, sayings of counsel and knowledge, to show you true and reliable words, so that you may give accurate answers to those who sent you.”

Basically, what this means is that wisdom is cyclical. Here’s what I mean: These “30 sayings” were given to us, and we learn they are “true and reliable” over time. Once we learn them, we kind of pass them along to others. For example, I was raised in a comparatively liberal tradition when it came to things like alcohol or music or television/movies/books and the like. I mean, my family gatherings had wine on the table for the grownups or might involve my grandfather and bourbon and son-in-laws or beers around the barbeque. No harm, no foul. Well, the harm would come if “drunkenness” came into the equation. At least that was the clearly communicated message to us. Don’t drink until you’re “legal” and don’t get drunk. Message received and understood.

And I went by that my high school years (even if my motivations for that abiding might not have been deeply spiritual in nature) I saw friends that got in trouble with the law for underage drinking or suspended from teams because the coach caught them drinking or a friend’s dad lose his license because he got a DUI. The wisdom of God was reiterated time and time again. If I’m being truthful, they were also reiterated when I failed to follow them. Not so much the underage thing because I didn’t really drink until I was legal. But in the Solomon-type experimental phase in the undergrad years you gathered that too much alcohol had all sorts of costs. Said the wrong thing to the girl you liked. Maybe you threw up. Maybe you figured out how expensive a night turned out to be buying drinks at the bar and blew your budget. You were hungover and lost a day recovering but couldn’t study or write that paper you needed to.

So, you glean wisdom when you see truth rewarded, and you can even learn from failure to abide by it. Sometimes we learn the most when we forget our lunch and our mommy doesn’t bail us out.

And, as we parent, we’d all do well to take the long-range look at who we are and what we’re about rather than the short-term, comfortable solutions. Just know that if you do, there might be really inconvenient lifestyle changes afoot for you & your family…