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How Do You Love Your Children?

Titus 2:2-5 says “Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”

I recently re-evaluated whether I should continue writing to young mothers. I don’t want God’s Word to be dishonored. What struck me in those verses was the phrase, "teach young women to love their children."

How do you love your children?
Joey wondered about that. “I thought moms automatically loved their children.”
I laughed. "Are you kidding?" Every day one of my children give me a good reason why I find it hard to love them.

I’m not a loving person. I don’t like people.
My husband recently wanted me to take a survey to see what state we should live in. By his selections, he ended up in Alaska. My survey took me to Vermont. He made me do it again with another survey. I ended up with him in Alaska.
My husband tells me that he can’t wait to spend all his time with me when he’s no longer working.
I tell him, “I’ll get a job.” (He thinks I’m kidding.)
That’s my response with someone I’m suppose to love unconditionally and who is nice to me.
How am I suppose to love my children, when they're not nice to me?
I do not talk baby talk.
(I have read that babies respond better to that high pitch, sing-song tone, but I don’t do that.)
I do not like baby-slop.
My husband likes to watch little children eat, crunching loudly, with mouths open, enjoying their food. I try to ignore it and hope their manners come soon.
When my babies slobbered, I wiped it up and moved on. It was not a job I liked.
I get sick when I clean up after sick children. My boys learn to hold the bucket close, so I didn’t use it too.
I don’t like disobedience. If a child can’t listen, he won’t be good for anyone.

I don't remember which mother it was, maybe Charles and John Wesley's, but a reporter asked her which child she loved the most. (What a stupid question.) Her response told of her wisdom. She loved the child that was now sick, or needed extra attention, or who was wayward. Her thoughts were for that child to bring him to where he was well, obedient and back in fellowship with God. She loved the one who needed her the most at that time. Didn't Jesus do the same? John, His disciple, referred to himself as the the disciple whom Jesus loved. Why? He needed that extra bit of love. Jesus gave it to him.

What is love?
Love is not ooey-gooey feeling that smoothers another, although as we discussed in the five languages, it can take the form of physical touch.
Love is not deserved…ungrateful children are hard to love.
Love is not rewarded. Look at our response to God’s love—we crucified His Only Son.
Love is not giving the child everything he wants.

So how do you learn to love your child?
It starts with discipline.

Proverbs tells what discipline will do for a child. “He will die for lack of instruction.” Proverbs 5:23

Parents have told us they “allow their children to decide their spiritual interests when they’re old enough to choose.” They don't teach them what to believe when they are small. They wait and see what their children will choose when they are old enough.
Do we do that with what our children eat? Here, eat chips, candy, and kool-aid and later you can choose vegetables? Too Late!
Instruct when they are young, because you love them and don’t want them to be toothless when they are old. Same with God’s word. You don’t want them on the wrong road.
When they are old, it’s too late to instill instruction. They are already dead and hardened to God’s promptings.
Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

There is a point when discipline does not help.
“Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death.” Proverbs 19:18
Do I know when there is no hope? No. I just keep at it.
“He is on the path of life who heeds instruction. But he who ignores reproof goes astray.” Proverbs 10:17

Without discipline, there can’t be love.
Jesus said, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.” Revelation 3:19
“He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” Proverbs 13:25 (Love is linked to discipline and diligence.)

What if there’s no progress?
Here’s what God says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15
“Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. You shall strike him with the rod and rescue his soul from Sheol (Hell).” Proverbs 23:13-14
“Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; he will also delight your soul.” Proverbs 29:17

Discipline is not easy.
“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.” Hebrews 12:11-13
There is healing in obedience.

Do you have a grown child who has forsaken your instruction?
Do you have a teenager who spurs your correction?
Do you have a child who tells you she hates you?

God did. Here’s what He said:
“There is hope for your future,’ declares the Lord, ‘And your children will return to their own territory. I have surely heard Ephraim grieving, ‘You have chastised me and I was chastised, like an untrained calf. Bring me back that I may be restored. For You are the Lord my God. For after I turned back, I repented; and after I was instructed I smote on my thigh; I was ashamed and also humiliated because I bore the reproach of my youth.’
‘Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a delightful child? Indeed, as often as I have spoken against him, I certainly still remember him; therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him,’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 31:17-20

God waits for His children to turn back to Him.
God made two perfect people, put them in a perfect environment, gave perfect instructions, yet they still disobeyed.
God didn’t second guess His instructions; He did what was right.
They still choose wrong. They rebelled.
They lost fellowship with Him.
But in His great love, He made a way for them to come back into fellowship.

The prodigal son shows the father waiting for his son’s return.
He didn’t change his standard and accept his son as he lived his riotous life, but he waited at home for his son’s repentance.
The father was hurt by the son’s departure. His pain was greater than the son’s pain. Why? Because he knew the sorrow the son would experience long before the son felt it.

But love let him go.
That love grew by looking for his son’s return.
Is there a limit to how much a person can hurt?
Instead of repenting and coming home, that son committed greater sins.
That caused more pain to his father.
How did the father react?
Did he build a wall?
After all, hurt is painful. And the father didn’t cause the pain.
Did he grow angry?
“Who did that son think he was, making him hurt?” “He deserved what he got.”
What about the mom, who poured all her love into her son?
She gave her entire life for his happiness. And he rewards her with this?
But that wall comes, not only between the mother and the son, but between the mother and her God.
She doubts God’s holiness, God’s goodness, God’s truth, God’s timing.
She doubts whether that law was essential. It’s not written in stone, or was it?
She doubts goodness with so much pain.
She doubts whether truth is worth it.
She doubts whether the son will come back.

Or she looks to her Father, Who made everything for her, yet she rewarded Him by crucifying His Only Son.
She is held secure by the very holiness, goodness, truth, and timing she wants to question.
How did her Father respond to the pain His creatures gave to Him?
In self-pity at how man had wasted His gift of love?
No, by waiting … in love.
But the pain was not yet complete.
The prodigal son, not only squandered his inheritance, but ignored his spiritual training.
Hadn’t the mother instructed him of how to have the goodness of life?
He disdained instruction.
He hit bottom before he looks up.
That means the mother must know more pain too.
And so must his God.
But the son returns repenting.

Love holds him accountable to God’s standard.
Love lets him go.
Love waits, when he continues to choose wrong.
But then, love forgives when he repents.

A wall makes forgiveness harder. You see your pain. You don’t remember his.
Notice the father’s reception when the son returns, he didn’t say, “I told you not to do that … You ruined my reputation at the temple.”
He forgave the repentant son and said, “Let’s celebrate. Let’s tell everyone.”
How do you continue to the love without building the wall of hurt feelings?
You take your pain, caused by the son you bore and raised, and give it to the One Who can hold both the pain and the love.
Is it a one-time offering?
Absolutely not.
It’s a moment by moment as your pain is given back to God.
Remind the Father; Who hasn’t forgotten, but is waiting, like you, to see the son return.

But it takes a long time…
God is not bound by time. He sees yesterday as today and even tomorrow.
The wrong of yesterday brings discipline today, until the final hope of reconciliation tomorrow.
I don’t like time.
I want it now.
Maybe I’m too much like my son, who wanted his pleasure now.
I want discipline and restoration now.
But God in His plan holds time in His Hand. (Just like the pain and the love, remember?)
I must rest in His standard of what is good and the hope He promised for those who seek Him.

In this time of waiting, God works with my son.
But He also works with me.

I see God’s holiness by the rules He shares.
I see God’s justice by the discipline He gives to offenders.
I see God’s love by the forgiveness He offers those rebelling against His rules.
I see God’s plan through time to conform me to His image, no matter what it takes, or how long.

He wants my fellowship.
How does He get that fellowship?
Through His love.
How does He show His love?
By bringing pain.

If I don’t hurt, I forget Him.
So He makes it hurt; the mom, as well as, the son.
I lift my son before the throne of His Father.
He hears my petition.
But more than that.
He welcomes my presence.
I learn what it means, not to know His rules to avoid discipline and the required forgiveness,
but to know Him.
I find peace in His presence, even in the midst of pain.
I spend time with Him.
After the time with Him, I see the brokenness of others, because His rules are ignored.
I can show love through the pain.
And I lose track of time.

Can I teach you how to love your children?
I’m sorry, but I can’t.
I don’t like baby-talk and baby-slop. And disciplining for me is very wearisome.
But I can point you to the One Who can show you how to love your child with discipline, with hope, and with time.
And He might even teach you how to love all people like He does.



Loving isn't easy. What helps you?

 

 

Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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