For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:
In returning and rest shall ye be saved;
In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.
I’m often asked about how I handle my children without losing my grip. If you have met
my four children, you would know that the Garfias family is not known for … meekness. Each child has inherited his father’s dark eyes, his mother’s brown hair, and both of our iron wills. After two such dynamos, I was convinced that the third child would be the quiet one. Then, I was sure that the baby would be my easy child. But the Lord has other blessings for me. An easy time of child rearing just isn’t one of them.
Four strong-willed, energetic, out-spoken, and creative children can do much to wear a mother down. I tip my hat and hand my coffee to the mothers rearing half-dozen or more. Their knees are well-worn and their homes are … we’ll say “busy.”
I have not always felt “quiet confidence” in rearing little dynamos. To the contrary, I was fairly certain my first toddler was destined for juvie. He began several mornings in a row by shaking his little fist in my face, declaring, “I will not obey you today, Mommy!” A day can only go downhill from there. These battles of the wills would leave me utterly exhausted by dinner time, when I would literally hurl the criminal at his father when the man walked through the door each evening. There. He can have him!
I was fortunate to have a godly woman at my side to counsel me through this critical stage. She gave me great encouragement that “in due season, we shall reap, if we faint not.” She prayed for me to remain calm, to stay loving and patient, and to endure to the end. She prayed with me for my son’s soul, that he would turn toward his parents and even more importantly toward his God. She helped me see that I was – and am – engaged in a spiritual battle that must not be lost through emotionalism or pragmatism.
That year or so of spiritual battle really changed how I view child rearing. I still face difficulties with a child – or all of them – at times, but the lessons I learned during that intense trial stand me in good stead as I rear our heritage for Christ. Here are some of the principles I try to remember.
~ These are not my children, they are God’s.
Lo, children are an heritage from the Lord.
– Psalm 127:3
Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders …
~ Isaiah 8:18
Keeping His ownership of my children in mind helps me overcome a controlling attitude. God has a perfect plan for each one of these young people, and it probably does not resemble any of my goals or dreams.
~ There is a way which seemeth right unto a man …but the end thereof are the ways of death (Proverbs 14:12). When I first became a mother, I devoured every book and magazine I could find on parenting. I soon became “an expert” on what to feed the baby every month, how to make him sleep every night, and what he should be wearing … according to “the experts.” It didn’t take but a few more months to realize that even my exceptionally brilliant infant would not read and follow the American Academy of Pediatric’s guidelines. Just a few months more, and my husband and I were introduced to our son’s now-infamous will-of-steal. No parenting book on the library’s shelf had the wisdom to deal with a 14 month old full to the brim with rebellion.
Paul wrote to Timothy, who surely must have had a sin nature of his own when his mother taught him “from a child … the Holy Scriptures,” to remember that
All Scripture is… profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
The most important resource for child rearing must be God’s Word. He alone designed and instituted the family, and He alone has the wisdom to sustain it. Saturating our parenting with God’s Words and God’s ways will find “sure success (Joshua 1:8).”
~ Only God can change a sinner’s heart. Again, this helps me fight my controlling impulses. Realizing that lasting change is the work of the Holy Spirit within my child (Titus 3:3-7) just as it was within myself, I know that my work is primarily one of prayer. I must be engaged in the spiritual battle of supplication (Ephesians 6:12-19) consistently on behalf of my children.
~ Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth (Hebrews 12:5-11). God’s discipline, though painful and strenuous, works to bring me into fellowship and Christlikeness. Likewise, my own discipling of my sons and daughter must include pain when they have chosen the wrong way. Only then will they turn back toward their physical parents, who they can see – and one day their spiritual Father, who is still unseen but ever watches over them.
~ The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God (James 1:20). This is such a hard lesson of self-control for me to learn, but one of the most important in my parenting. I may never allow anger, frustration, bitterness, or impatience cloud the discipleship of my children. Symptoms of this sin problem in my life are my raised voice, my curt or sarcastic comment, my overly strict demand, my unfeeling heart, my unyielding schedule, my untempered discipline. There is no excuse for my wrath, but there is forgiveness from the Lord and my family. Each time I fall, I must go to both wronged parties to confess and restore fellowship. I have learned valuable and humiliating lessons from this habit of repentance over the past dozen years of parenting.
~ Love beareth all things, believeth all things, trusteth all things, endureth all things (I Corinthians 13:7). This is the perfect, unconditional love the Lord has toward me. I must ever strive to mirror that same type of love toward my own children, no matter the difficulties, disagreements, trials, or tantrums.
These are just a few of the many principles from God’s Word that are a comfort to me as I seek for peace in the midst of the child rearing storms. Praise God, if we continue to cling to them, so, too, will our descendents after us (Proverbs 22:6).