Note to reader: The following is the result of further study, research and reflection after reading a portion of The Resolution for Women by Priscilla Shirer, a book written upon the influence of the movie Courageous, which hit theaters nation-wide in September/October of 2011.
[You will] love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 6:5-7 NASB
Even if God may choose in His wise, good, and sovereign plan to bestow upon me other blessings besides the experience of motherhood.
There are still many valuable things that I can learn as a friend, a counselor, and a key influencer in the lives of other children.
I’m part of a group that’s about to start a new church in Minneapolis, MN, and we already have three children (the possibility of more) in our children’s ministry. While I adore all three, one in particular has a rather firm grip on the strings of my heart: one special little girl who enjoys scooting along thefloor, watching movements on the TV screens, and gnawing on my army-issued dog tag chain all while giggling with delight and humming “mama.” She’s beautiful.
Just last night, we had gathered as a group to discuss what our children’s ministry would look like, at least for the first six months or so as we have no idea what to expect. While God has given me a very active role on the worship team and I may not be able to do as much with the kids, it’s good to be in the know just in case something where to come up down the road. (Especially since one item on my bucket list is to serve in other areas of the church…not just worship.) Being included in that part of our ministry will allow me to be an influence to kids during the rest of the week, not just before around the church service on Sundays.
This resolution couldn’t fall at a more perfect time. I just finished reading the section on kids and Priscilla Shirer is one wise woman, who is still learning…just like the rest of us.
On page 206 of The Resolution for Women, Shirer points to a higher calling for mothers…a mission statement that should be the center of their motherhood: To lead [my] children with intentionality, guiding them toward becoming men and women of distinction, filled with integrity, girded with responsibility, and firmly rooted in a love for and honor of God.
She goes on to argue the difference between being in love with your children and loving them as God intended. She argues that love is not passive. It’s demonstrative and active. Being in love with a child can lead to a lack of discipline…doing whatever they want, when they want. One cannot be the best friend to a child when they are young and still learning…and that doesn’t mean that you can’t be at the opposite end of that spectrum. It just can’t be the primary pursuit now. Love is not child’s play. It’s serious business.
You and I are the mechanisms God has put in place to keep today’s corrupting systems of thought from taking root and then taking effect in the hearts of our children. You are in position to intervene. You…have been placed specifically in your children’s (or the children in your life) lives to make them rebel against a culture that’s telling them to rebel against you…we must remember that our principal charge and mission as parents is to send our boys and girls into the world as young people who bear God’s Spirit, who are purposeful about His mission for their lives, and who are intent on being His agent for change on the planet.
In looking back over my own childhood, my mother was like that. She was not my best friend when I was young. I disagreed with many of things (boundaries, rules, disciplines, chores) that she and my father put in place when I was a kid…I can still recall rebelling against them when I was a teenager. I used to think that I had the right to many things…including making my own decisions…going out when and where I wanted…staying out as late as I wanted…the list goes on. And I’m sure that loving me that way did not feel like to my parents most of the time. Look where it took me.
If they hadn’t put those restrictions in place, I would have made some stupid decisions. I wouldn’t be responsibility in most areas of my life. I might not have even finished college…who knows. I can say, now, though that my mom and I are not just best friends, but we’re sisters in Christ. There is so much grace in that.
Shirer goes on to point out three roles that parents play (mothers, in this instance) in their children’s lives: the soul shaper, the intentional encourager, and the disciple dealer.
- Soul Shaping.
The human soul. A magnificent composite of mind, will and emotion, as well as the seat of the conscience. Every human being is created by God with this part of their makeup in place. The only problem…is that without the indwelling of God’s Spirit, the soul is completely degenerate, ruled by fleshly lusts and totally separated from God…all thanks to the Fall. Only a personal relationship with Jesus can mend that. He is the only hope for a lost soul…and that includes a child’s.
Hard to comprehend that when we see their innocence. As sweet and beautiful as they are, they are each born as sinners in need of being rescued from themselves.
Their parents must pray that God would stir their hearts. And they are the ones who continue praying even after that child has grown.
I’ve seen (and heard) my own mother comment on this. She’s been praying for each one of us kids (I have three younger siblings) since the day we were born. That’s humbling.
As children grow, the soul shaper continues to work along with God’s Spirit to see to it that shaping takes place. Decisions are not made in reaction to temper tantrums or tears but are expressions of love, determined ahead of time what will be complement God’s work in the shaping of that child’s mind, will, emotions, and conscience. This continues even after the child is grown as God’s work is never really done (at least not until He comes again).
As soul shapers, we must consider ourselves warriors, fighting for our families…or the case of us singles, the family of God. We must not willingly sit idly by while other people and cultural paradigms tamper with their mind-sets…they need to hear and see more of God evident in our lives. It’s not enough to just say it, but we must live it. Breathe it in. Be willing to die for it.
Soul shapers believe that their work is Kingdom business. And she knows that she doesn’t have the strength to do it alone. She seeks God first and foremost, partnering with Him to complete the work He started in each child.
A transformed child begins with a transformed mom (or dad).
- Intentional Encouragement
Shirer points to the King Solomon to hit this point home. When the young man was twenty years old, God asked him what he wants for his life…and, mind you, anything he wants. What does Solomon ask for? Wisdom.
What twenty year old would ask for something that goes above and beyond the typical things young adults would ask for? Money…fame…I don’t know many. Do you?
It must have had something to do with the way Solomon was raised.
His father, David, was one of the most respected men of his time. He wasn’t perfect…He didn’t get it right all of the time. He was just like you and me. And not all of his children turned out the same way…think of the situation with his daughter Tamar and his son Amnon. Tragic and sad…just thinking of it makes my compassionate, merciful heart ache.
Perhaps 1 Chronicles 29:1 could shed some light on how David spoke to and about his son: “My son Solomon-God has chosen him alone-is young and inexperienced.”
Doesn’t that sound like a modern day version of “Hey, listen buddy, you don’t know everything!”? David was open and honest about his son’s deficiencies almost in a way that sounds like a public rebuke. But it didn’t deflate Solomon’s spirit.
Look at the middle phrase.
God has chosen him alone.
That might have something to do with it. David affirmed what he saw God doing in Solomon’s life as a boy. Talk about encouragement with discipline!
In the same way, we need to be intentional in encouraging children even when their talents have yet to be honed, even when their leadership skills were not yet intact. We need to encourage them to see the potential in themselves and encourage others to see it too.
The intentional encourager is honest with her kids; telling them what they need to hear when it’s not what they want to hear. She chooses to temper her honesty with the grace of edification and encouragement. She doesn’t try to force them to be more like someone else, but, rather, embraces who they are. She seeks rather to focus on the unique gifts, talents, and skills God is patiently perfecting that particular child, doing everything possible to foster it, even when it’s different from what she expected or is developing more slowly that she had hoped.
We need to inspire excellence not by demanding that children meet the arbitrary standards of others but that they rise to the achievable challenge of their God-given purpose and potential in every arena of life. We need to speak highly of the children in our lives to others and not be bashful about soliciting positive, prayerful help in calling out the best in those kids. Intentional encouragers know that they are to be their most honest confidant and also be their biggest cheerleaders (that’s goes for you moms!).
Intentional encouragers believe in their children. My mom did…pushing me in the area of the arts and teaching me how to make a home when the school system was failing in both areas…and when the church didn’t support our family…and through many other circumstances and situations.
- Discipline Dealers
Shirer tells of a man whose sons, now teenagers, continue to amaze guests and outsiders with their willingness to set the table, help mom with the laundry, the respect with which they speak to others (and each other) and the trust they’ve earned from their parents. Loving parents.
As loving discipline dealers, we are called to not “provoke children to anger” by inappropriate forms of correction, but we need to be seriously hands-on about bringing them up in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Self-discipline is only produced as the result of being lovingly disciplined.
If we want them to be responsible, we must train them to be responsible with their chores, homework, and personal duties. If we want them to be considerate, we must enforce the manners we expect them to use with siblings and friends. If we want them to respect and submit to authority, we must make it start with how they treat us as their parents, while also letting them see us demonstrate this same principle ourselves in our home, our work, our church life, and other areas.
Discipline dealers follow the mission statement: To lead [my] children with intentionality, guiding them toward becoming men and women of distinction, filled with integrity, girded with responsibility, and firmly rooted in a love for and honor of God.
And it requires time and effort.
We should do all of this willingly because our highest priority (in the lives of children) is to raise them to be responsible, respectful, compassionate, considerate, humble, selfless, generous, and gracious. People who are a joy to be around.
I would also like to add that these roles apply to some extent to those of us who do not have children but do have an influence in the lives of children around us. For me, currently, that would be:
I could go on.
And while it’s not my place to discipline (that’s the parents’), I can encourage them and live a life worth looking up to…worth asking questions of…and be prepared to give an answer or point them in the right direction.
God may have called me to be single and childless in this season, but I can still learn to be and simply be an influence to the children around me. After all, I’m sure I will be an aunt one day and it would be an honor to be a godly figure the lives of my future nieces and nephews.
Praise God for kids!