If first period class was the depravity of the human heart, then second period was Sola Gratia (grace alone). In the previous two posts there are two things that should be apparent: 1. My own inability to adequately parent due to me being finite as well as possessing a sin nature; and 2. My boys have the very same issue I do – depravity. It’s essentially the blind leading the blind.
Much to my dismay, my children did not come equipped with child raising software. There was no “Daddy-ing for Dummies” at my doorstep when we returned home from the hospital. And to add insult to injury, I quickly found out that even had there been it would not have helped; for the things I knew to do from God’s Word I failed to implement. I quickly realized that I can not be the father God requires me to be. If my kids are the result of my parenting then they are doomed!
Then there’s the second problem – my kid’s depravity. Not only are they being raised by a man who constantly fails and is anything but the father he should be, but they are just as sinful! Talk about a hopeless plight! It’s like one leper trying to apply balm on the flesh of another leper – futile! All that happens is my dead flesh rubs off on them.
Hopeless? NO! Why? GRACE! God showing me the predicament of me and my boys is a blessing, for in truly seeing it as it is causes me to see Him as He is all the more and my need for Him. I know that if God doesn’t grant grace in changing my boys hearts, and if He doesn’t graciously keep me stayed on Him, then all is lost. I need Him! If my boys are to become men of God then it will be 100% by the grace of God.
So… lesson #3 concerning my three sons? Sola Gratia – Grace Alone!
There’s another challenge I have in raising my boys, and that stems from the fact that they are my sons – they got daddy’s sin nature. Dealing with depravity is not an easy task. I see me in them, and it can be infuriating, discouraging, deflating, and more. And to make matters more convoluted, they each seem to have mastered a different facet of my sin nature. So while one takes pleasure in agitating his little brother to the point of inciting him to cry out in desperation, or likes to flaunt that he has something the other doesn’t; my second born has mastered manipulating others through emotions. He can appear innocent when he was the one throwing punches while the adult’s back was turned. Then there’s the baby – yes! Even him!! He can pitch a fit to get his way. Whether he legitimately needs something or just plain wants it, he cares nothing for anyone save himself.
Understanding the total depravity of man has helped me grasp the goal of disciplining children. (Now, granted, I don’t always operate under what I’m about to say because I myself still have a sin nature; but by God’s grace I strive to implement what I’m about to share.) The better I understand what Scripture teaches about man’s depravity, the more I was able to discipline with grace. Before I understood these things, I would get so angry at my children for doing the bad things they did. Not realizing that part of what made me so irate was that I saw myself in their sin, I was angry as I knew they knew better than to do it. I also knew there were others, people who thought I couldn’t do a good job and we looking for that “I told you so” moment, who were watching me, and my children’s sin was embarrassing me. Then God showed me my own depravity, and His grace became all the more magnificent! Not too long after, my theology began to affect my practice in child training. Their sin was not made to be a trifle, instead it was made all the more grave; yet the outrage at their wickedness was not the same. Their transgression was not against me, but God, so I need not take it personal. And they are doing what is natural to them; so instead of disciplining them out of shock that they would do such things, I knew their heart condition and could deal with it more appropriately. I know that when my children sin they are acting according to their heart’s desire. My goal of discipline is no longer behavior modification, for that is simply hanging pretty fruit on a dead tree. My goal is heart orientation. Their heart is the problem. So the times they exhibit their depravity need not embarrass me as I know they are bound in sin. Instead, it saddens me due to their bondage in sin.
Dealing with depravity should cause us to deal with compassion. I realize this issue is much deeper, I am not attempting to expound on the subject. I simply wish to emphasize one aspect of learning biblical truth – that dealing with depravity has forced me to deal with the heart, and to do so in a more loving way. Not that I mitigate the judgment given as a result of their offense; rather that judgment is dealt to them in grace – as a parent should discipline his/her child.
Having three boys is wonderful! Not that I think having daughters is somehow inferior, but I only experience the situations God places me in, and He has chosen to bless me with three boys thus far – maybe a daughter will come later. I love my boys! I figure “why not write a post about two of the things I love?” – my sons and theology.
If you think about it, the two topics are really inseparable. My theology directly affects how I relate to my children. How and what I teach them, both in word and deed. The pressure comes on me because the three boys I am responsible for are placed in my care to be raised as godly men. I’m learning there are many challenges to this, yet in each area I am seeing that my theology has an enormous amount of influence.
One area that maturing theologically has spurred maturation in fatherhood is in my understanding of eschatology. Yeah, that’s right! The study of last things. Crazy, huh?! Let me explain, hopefully you won’t think me crazy for long. There is an instance that stands out in my mind in full color. You know some memories take on a black&white feel and other are in living color… this one is one of those that I think will never fade as I don’t think God will let me forget it. Micaiah was a few months old. I was a full time college student, as well as working 2nd shift full time – sleep was precious to me. There was a particular night where he would not stop screaming. The only way to get him to clam down was to stand up and walk with him. As soon as I would lay him down he would instantly begin to scream. This went on for a while. Finally it dawned on me that this little booger was doing this on purpose. He just didn’t want me to sleep! I help him up, face to face, and from one man to another explained to him how irrational and selfish his actions were. How important it was for me to sleep so I could adequately fulfill the obligations for the following day. And would you believe he had the audacity to act as if he couldn’t understand me! He just cried louder to drown me out! Then my wife explained to me that Micaiah is just a baby and he doesn’t think like that. I tried to correct her misconception, but she stood by it. Exhausted, I went to school and work the next day while she took him to the doctor. The doc said that my little conspirator actually had two ear infections. Talk about feeling like an Equus africanus asinus!
So why tell you this? Because I see it as a practical example of failing to maintain the “already/not yet” tension that Scripture requires us to hold eschatologically. You see, Jesus came proclaiminig the kingdom of God. He told the Jews that it was right under their noses, that they were looking at it in the face! We are taught that Jesus is the firstborn of the new creation; yet all things have not been re-created, nor has the kingdom of God come in it’s fullness – we’re told to look for it’s fulfillment and we long for it to come in it’s fullness. There is an already/not yet tension that we are living in. To over emphasize either one to the exclusion of the other is fatal. If we push all of it to the future then we deny much of what Christ taught about Himself and His work as well as deny the status He has among the renewed order and His present work in this world. If we emphasize the “already” then we become full preterists in that we claim there is nothing left to look forward to, maybe even to the extent of saying Jesus has already returned. Both extremes are fatal!
Still don’t see what I’m trying, albeit poorly, to say? Something I have learned is that I must hold this same tension in teaching my boys. Micaiah is a man, yet constantly in the state of becoming one. Today, Micaiah is as much a man as he’s ever been; but God willing, not the most of a man he will ever be. If I treat him as if he were a mature man then I will ruin him for sure. At the same time, if I treat him as only a child then he will never grow up, and I will have stunted his development. I must hold both in tension. I must be cautions to not emphasize one to the exclusion of the other. I try to instill in him a philosophy that he can employ at his age now, yet adapt as he continues in his manhood. Even my calling him “little man” is purposeful as I remind him, as well as myself, of our responsibility and aim.
Theological application #1 of fathering 3 boys:
The Already/Not Yet.