I wouldn’t consider myself to have been an exceptionally inquisitive child, but I was known to occasionall ask my Mom the age old question all children love to ask: Why?
Why do I have to clean my room? Why study a subject I’ll never use in life? Why make my bed every day? Why do I have to memorize John 1? Many times, the answer was “because I said so.” Or because “the teacher said so.” Granted, for a while, these were sufficient answers. The fear of Mom’s wrath or a poor grade (which ignited Mom’s wrath) was enough to make me obey. But then I (physically) grew up, and I wanted to know “why” in relation to much bigger questions. And as you can imagine, “because Mom said so” eventually didn’t suffice. My intellect and spiritual immaturity wanted to know more. I wanted to know the reason behind the rule, not just the rule.
The “I said so” method is at times necessary with younger kids who simply need to learn to obey pronto, even if they don’t understand why (although I would advocate for trying to explain it anyway). A mother needs to be able to yell “Stop!” when an oncoming car is coming, and she needs the confidence that her child will obey immediately. So practicing quick obedience without lengthy explanations can be good. But as a child ages, unless some well thought out answers are offered beforehand, and unless God softens their hearts, obedience is not going to be the response to barked orders. Older kids probably won’t run out in front of cars, but they will certainly challenge the new rules that parents inevitably need to enforce as a child morphs into a young adult.
Of course, it’s important to know why our own rules are what they are. Why does Suzie have to clean her room? Is it because dirt and sloth bothers our OCD housekeeping practices? Does our anger at Suzie’s sloppy habits stem from a righteous anger, or does it stem from a selfish anger that surfaces because Suzie’s sloth has inconvenienced, irritated, and perhaps embarrassed us in front of some friends we’ve been trying to impress?
When our child disobeys, are we concerned for their spiritual wellbeing and God’s glory, or are we concerned about a fleshly desire of our own?
The rules we set for our children need to have a Biblical reason behind them, and we need to train our minds to know and our mouths to articulate those reasons. With most legitimate rules in life, we as Moms are simply messengers. Yes, we are enforcers. But my point is that we don’t make up rules for the sake of making up rules. God makes the rules, and we take those rules, attempt to flesh them out, and teach our children to flesh them out. If we’ve laid out a rule that we can’t back up with Scriptural principles, perhaps the wise thing to do is nix that rule. And if we are enforcing a rule that can be backed up with Scripture, but we are angry about it being broken because of our own sinful desires rather than God’s desire for righteousness and glory, then perhaps the rule needs to be nixed until we can get our own focus corrected. Because if our focus is wrong, we cannot help our child get his or her focus right.
Back in the Garden, when Satan tempted Eve, the first question he asked her was “Did God really say?” He placed doubt in Eve’s mind as to whether God ever said anything, and the enemy is still doing that today. Why one must have a clean room is very often a deeper question of why being neat and tidy matters, or why anyone is required to work. Why one must not be lazy is a question of why everything isn’t free. Why we can’t sleep in on Sundays and skip church is a question of why we should redeem the time and model our life after God who rested on the seventh day. And so, with Bible open, we show them what God said – that if man does not work, man shall not eat (2 Thess. 3:10). That we are to be like the ant, not the sluggard (Prov. 6:6). That we are to be good stewards of what God has so graciously placed in our care (I Cor. 6:20). That we should do things decently and in order (I Cor. 14:40). That children are to obey their parents (Eph. 6:1). That keeping the Sabbath is good for body and soul (Ex. 20:8). Because God said so. Every child needs to know that his or her disobedience is against parents, yes. But ultimately against God.
So Moms, next time your child asks why, know that he or she is ultimately questioning God, and use the opportunity to point him or her to the Savior. That looks and sounds vastly different when dealing with a two year old than with a sixteen year old. So as the child grows, so should methods and articulation. But in a day and age where children are asking questions that center around gender identity, whether God has indeed said that he is a he or she is a she, we need to come to terms with the fact that society is reeling against God and His ways, making it easier still for children to drift into eternity thinking God didn’t really say anything. And if He did, He didn’t mean it, which was Satan’s second argument to Eve. The enemy, as God said, really does prowl around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (I Pet. 5:8). And children – our children – are easy bait for that tough predator if they are not properly armed with truth. We must teach what God said. We must teach that God meant what He said. We must model what God has said. And last but not least … we must pray.
We can talk all day and night with our kids about the Lord, and we can model truth, but unless the Lord turn their hearts of stone to hearts of flesh, they will reject Him. There’s no excuse for not practicing Deut. 6:7, but no amount of swell parenting can change a child’s heart. Only God can perform such a miracle. And while I know that those who are saved were chosen before the foundations of the earth (Rom. 8:29), I also know that I am to pray my heart out for my kids’ salvation and spiritual growth.
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Prov. 22:6). That’s the principle, yes. But the promise is that the effectual, fervent prayers of a righteous man (or Mom) availeth much.
And this is where I bow out and allow the reader and God to determine how much time is to be spent on a principle versus a promise. Godspeed in teaching your children what God has said. I’ll be praying for the children of everyone who reads this today (God knows your names).