I have been blessed to be the father of 4 very unique (and sometimes rowdy) young children. My oldest, and only girl, is five. I also have a 4 year old son, 20 month old son, and 5 month old little guy. It is a wonderful and most rewarding thing being a father. However, after 5 years of this gig I have come to a realization. This realization is that my children are used, more than anyone or anything else, as a tool for my sanctification. That is, the Lord uses them to shape me and mold me (and my wife as well) into the image of Christ through learning patience, love, sacrifice, time management, discipline, faith, hope, trust, and a myriad of other Christ like features. I am blessed to be called a father; though I do not always recognize the blessing in the middle of frustrating times of teaching, molding, (and dare a say, spanking) my children. Here are three ways the Lord uses my children as a lightning rod for my sanctification.
When they obey:
One of the greatest joys in my life is to see my children obey their mother and I out of love and respect for us. I believe this is also true of the Lord when we trust and obey him in our life. Scripture tells us in I Samuel 15:22b “. . . Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.” The Lord loves an obedient child. I cannot help to think that is part of the reason that we see Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father in Acts 7, when Stephen is being stoned, because of His love for his obedient children. It is easy to love someone when they are obedient, but often before a person obeys it takes a period of training. This is where the real sanctifying work begins. Obedience is really an Ebenezer stone for sanctification. It is evidence that work has been done. This is when a person can sit back and see what progressive sanctification really looks like. That is what brings me ultimate joy. It is not the one time act of obedience (as great as that is) that has brought us as parents to a higher level of sanctification, but the continued act of obedience on our part to help our children get there. While we are still working on this ourselves, it is very rewarding (and sanctifying) to see them obey.
When they disobey:
Obedience is wonderful, but what I believe is more sanctifying is our children’s disobedience. I am continually amazed as I look at scripture at the long-suffering of the Lord with His children. The Lord waited some 700 years to finally scatter the nations of Israel into exile for their disobedience to Him. Something He promised he would do in Deuteronomy 28:64. I must admit, it is hard for me to wait 8.2 seconds at times to intact discipline on my children when they are blatantly disobedient, especially toward their mother. However, when I sit back and think about how patient the Lord is with me in my disobedience (me being a child of God, and my children still being unregenerate) it humbles me. I believe the Lord uses my children’s depravity to sharpen and mold me so that I can in turn be more Christ-like to them. It is not easy when my oldest son puts his foot in the ground and decides he is not moving to remember that this is a sanctification test, but as I think of myself doing this to the Lord, even now, it helps me to remember the importance of long-suffering and having a Christ-like attitude (still working on this one) towards him. Yes, we are to train them and teach them to obey, but even during their disobedience the Lord is training us.
When we discipline:
This is my least favorite part of parenting. However, since I love my children, it must be done. Proverbs is riddled with verses like the one in Proverbs 13:24, “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” I am so grateful for the Lord’s discipline in my own life. While we do not like it in the middle of the process, after we look back on His loving hand we can see His purpose and be appreciative for it. As any loving father, I never want to see my children hurt, but some temporary discomfort is better than a lifetime of heartache. I really do believe it hurts the parent more than it does the child when disciplining them. However, the parent knows that it is best and does it out of love. The Lord is no different. When He corrects us, it is not to hurt us, but to mold us into the likeness of Christ. We as parents need to always be consistent in our discipline or else we risk the sin of “frustrating our children” by requiring obedience at one time, and then not enforcing it another time. The Lord is consistent with us, thus we need to be consistent with our children. Herein lays the process of sanctification.
I love my children second only to my wife. They bring me much laughter, smiles, tears, and every other emotion possible. I now see why those older in their faith are so far along in their sanctification . . . they have already raised their children. Gray hair is a sign of wisdom…it seems it is also a sign of raising children (or I am just getting this parenting thing all wrong). We need to teach our children to obey, but in their disobedience we need to remember that the Lord is teaching us something as well. The Lord knows what He is doing. Children are not born good (Romans 3:10, Psalm 51:5). He has given parents a great responsibility to train their kids up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. The beautiful thing about it is that at the same time, He is training us up in the fear and admonition of Himself through them. What an amazing God He is.
Soli Deo Gloria
Adam B. Burrell