Instruction Manual for Kids
Jackie and I were in church this morning with our four year old grandson Stephen. As it was his first visit to our church, we had opted to let him sit with us during the service rather than put him in child care.
Ten minutes in and he was fidgeting in his seat. Five minutes later he had to go to the “potty.” Thirty minutes in and he was wondering when we were going back to the lake. At forty-five minutes he was complaining that we had been there “for a really long time.” I could only shake my head in frustration and agree with him; the service with him there felt like an eternity!
With all of the distractions I was having a hard time focusing on the message of the day, which was about the attributes of God as our Father. A fitting topic, as today is Father’s Day. I was taking notes, but my mind kept drifting back to one particular Sunday when I was a child. My younger brother Ronnie and I had really been misbehaving in church, and afterwards my Dad put a belt on both of us!
Which led to thoughts about the Sunday that I did that very same thing with my two sons, Brian and Christian. I still think about that Sunday from time to time. I think, looking back on that day, that they probably got a little more than they deserved. Oh, I didn’t draw blood or anything, but I left a few welts on their rear ends. I’ve always been a firm believer in “spare the rod and spoil the child”. It’s the way that Mom and Dad raised me, and I guess I turned out okay…
It wasn’t necessarily their behavior in church that Sunday that resulted in their “whipping”, as much as it was their overall behavior leading up to that Sunday. They had been pushing the envelope for weeks, pushing me for weeks, seeing just how much they could get away with. That, coupled with the fact that I was a young man in a difficult marriage with a lot of financial responsibility, certainly didn’t help matters much.
Where’s the book?
I've always been puzzled by the fact kids don’t come with an owner’s manual! It would make life so much easier. Maybe yours came with an instruction book, but mine didn’t…
I remember the first time that I kept Brian by myself at home for a couple of hours. At one point his whimpering became crying, then sobbing, then screaming! And that’s when panic set in (for me!); “What’s wrong? Is he sick? Hungry? Wet? Why won’t he stop crying? What am I doing wrong?” I just wasn’t sure of what to do next….
It never got any easier…parenthood, that is. Rewarding, yes. Easy, no.
As an infant, your child can’t tell you what’s wrong. As a toddler, they can tell you that they don’t feel good, but only in general terms. Through the pre-teen years, they can be very specific about what is wrong with them, and what you can do to make them feel better. As teens and young adults, they can be very specific about what is wrong with you, and the only thing that will make them feel better is for you to go away!
Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit, but you know what I mean.
Here’s what was the most frustrating part for me…I tried to instill right and wrong, fair play, morality, character, and all the other qualities I thought my sons would need in life. I tried to impart to both of them the best advice I could give them, all the while knowing that it was only advice. I always tried to steer them in the right direction. I guess that what I’m trying to say here is that I did the best I could at being a father, or at least what I thought a father should be. I’d never been a father, didn’t have the latest edition of “You Too Can Be a Good Father!” (If there is such a thing), and was too proud to ask for help. Typical man, right?
There is a book…
Years later I come to find out that there is a book, and it is full of fatherly advice to pass along to our children. Contained in this book are suggestions for all the qualities that I tried to instill…right and wrong, fair play, morality, character, love, and all those other “good things” that should be present in our lives. There are also references to things we should be aware of, things that would harm us.
It is a book that has been around for years and years, for ages, but I have only recently become aware of its importance. It is an absolute guideline for living a life filled with abundance and happiness. I wonder how I made it this far in life without what is written on its pages.
It is a gift from my Father, through His Son, and my only regret is that it didn’t play a larger part in my role as a father to sons Brian and Christian.
It is, of course the Bible. The owner’s manual for raising children. The instruction manual for improving yourself. The “how-to” for life. Our Father’s gift to all of us.
Read it. Study it. Live it.
See you next week!