It’s Not Supposed To Be Easy

“These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons……” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7a)

Being a book-lover, I like www.christianbooksummaries.com a lot. Every week they post the summary of a Christian book, and I essentially get to read the gist of one book per week in less than one hour.

This week the summarized book is Family Driven Faith by Pastor Voddie Baucham. While reading that book summary, I was reminded that being a Christian father really is not supposed to be easy. No, I did not start out expecting it to be easy, but more and more I started to realize I’m not just responsible for my kid physically, but increasingly more so spiritually.

The book Family Driven Faith suggests that there are three phases in raising godly children: (1) discipline (getting kids to do what they’re told, when they’re told, and with the right attitude); (2) catechism (teach and motivate kids to know God and allow them to ask questions); and (3) discipleship (help kids to live out their faith and understanding). But just the first phase of discipline already scares me. How can I get Chase to have obedience and respect?

More and more Chase is growing independent and autonomous. He’s also showing us that it’s so much easier to learn to rebel than to obey. When I attempt to model being good and nice, he seems to be ignoring it, but when I slip and say bad things or do bad deeds, he picks those things up and copies them perfectly. When you tell him to go east, he might go west, and when you try to tell him he can’t do something, he might react by grumping or even hitting back.

The book also uses Deuteronomy 6 to say that parents should bear the primary responsibility to raise godly children. I completely agree with that. I’m not one to look for school districts when I look for a house, and I’m not one to look for children/youth programs when I look for a church. Churches and schools have their place in a child’s education and growth, but I’ve always believed that parents should not rely on other people to shape a child. But it’s easier said than done. It really takes a lot of hard work.

When Chase was a baby, I was reading different kinds of parenting books from different parenting philosophies. After reading many books, I can say there are two broad categories of parenting philosophies. The first category is aimed at parenting methodologies that provide quick results. For example, one book says that letting babies cry it all when they sleep is the best because it achieves the results the quickest way. And how could you argue with them when they say their method allows parents to sleep better so they can parent better the next day? I’ve heard from other parents who agree with this method, telling me that yes, it would be sad for the kid to cry so much, but they’re so small and they’ll forget about all that stuff in just a couple years.

The second category is not about methodologies, about relationships. They also believe that kids know more than we give them credit for. When an infant cries, he/she is communicating, and if that need to communicate is not met, it chips away at the trust and the relationship between the child and the parent. I read books on discipline not as a method but as a relationship, and mealtimes not so much a nutritional feeding time but a time of communication and family ritual.

One thing I observe about Jesus is that he doesn’t have a clear method when leading his disciples. In fact, he would be a lousy leader by worldly standards. But clearly he emphasizes his relationship with Father God, and the disciples cling to Jesus because of their relationships. I want to learn to be that kind of leader of my family. So I clearly favor the parenting by relationships and not by methodologies. I feel sad when I see parents rely on sending kids to numerous activities or buying material things for the kids to try to appease them, while lacking in actually spending time helping them grow to be a godly person. But I also have to admit that I slip into this mode from time to time due to my busyness.

However, establishing relationships is hard and it takes a lot of time and energy. But I have to believe that it’s worth it in the long run. I remember reading a story in a book by Gary Thomas about the reward of suffering. As a highschooler, he once was running a race against students from smaller schools. He surpassed the other athletes quickly and proceeded to slow down for the remainder of the race and won easily. Though he won the award, he didn’t feel that ecstatic over it. But another time he raced against really good runners, and he ran and ran with all his might, and he even felt like he wanted to collapse in the middle of the race and still kept running, and after winning by a nose, he got sick for 3 days afterwards. But it was the most treasured award he won. In the same way, suffering gives meaning to victory. And I must be convinced that, after all the hard work Wendy and I put in to this family, and even feeling like we want to give up along the way, when years later we look back on today, we’ll feel this is a race well run and well worth it.

In closing, I’d like to quote a word of encouragement from the book Family Driven Faith: “We can turn our homes into sanctuaries for the worship of Almighty God… Our lives can be fully engulfed with the presence and priority of God. That will go a long way toward establishing family driven faith.”

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One thought on “It’s Not Supposed To Be Easy

  1. Thank you for posting this. I think it is good to know someone has raised an important issue Christian families need to understand: the mandate of theological eduation in the family according to Deuteronomy 6:7. 

    Modern Christian families have often assumed that churches would teach children on their behalf and so the parents would not need to know the Bible or doctrines (an example would be the confessional statements in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, the Shema) that well. In fact, some may actually come to believe that teachers and programs in churches would teach better than they do, and therefore it is OK for them to know less about the Bible or even satisfy in being a Bible illiterate. George Barna has already identified this as a serious problem among the Evangelicals. Since Baucham seems to be aware of Reformed heritage among the Baptists (e.g. Spurgeon, Piper, etc., and that his book is published by Crossway), he understands the importance of catechizing the children. Catechizing of the children is something the Church has done systematically for centuries until very recently. Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other Reformers had written catechisms for children. 17th century Christians have written the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechism, and also the Heidelberg Catechism. Catechism can be called “Christian’s ABC” and it should be part of any parenting curriculum. However, since we are afraid of being accused of “indoctrinating” our children and also of various misconceptions about catechizing the children, it has received less and less emphasis in the life of the Church today. This is a pity. Few in the pew today would know that one purpose of pastoral visitation used to be catechizing the children.

    I would have one minor quib about your post. It is true that catechism is to “teach and motivate kids to know God” but it is more than “allow[ing] them to ask questions.” (though I have now way to judge by just reading the Summaries) Instead, catechisms are really good doctrines traditionally written in a question-and-answer format so that by memorizing both the questions and the answers, children would know a good summary of key teachings in the Bible and be able to answer challenges to their faith in a concise manner. Catechisms help us to articulate good teachings in the Bible. Today, without a catechism, it is difficult even for an average Christian to give a concise answer for a question like “What is God?” The Church has labored to write catechisms even today [a sample catechism for children] because it guards our mind against weird (and, probably also, heretical) reading of the Scripture. We are teaching our younger one (5) one of the Children Catechisms out there as Tenth Presbyterian Church uses it. I will ask my older one (9) to memorize the Westminster Shorter Catechism soon. If you are interested in exploring this further, check out not just Crossway’s books, but also books on catechisms by P&R Publishing, it is a conservative evangelical publisher.

    This is an area that much more can be said but I feel that I have said too much already. I hope you would find delight in teaching Chase and may the Lord bless you.

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