Friday, September 21, 2012

Maybe It's Easier to Solve a Problem Like Maria

On the general principle that publicans are closer to the kingdom than Pharisees are...

I agree it's a bad idea for pastors to use their children as examples, and I don't from the pulpit, and the ones I'm going to talk about aren't going to read this so I reckon it's alright to break that rule here and now.

The issue is this:  the bright, attractive, accomplished, compliant, self-reliant Pharisee child.  Know the type?  We have one of those here.  We do not, as of yet (and I pray we won't) have a prodigal --the child that may or may not be lovable, but that breaks your heart.  We do have a very high-maintenance child who tends to get into trouble a lot, mostly out of boundless energy and curiosity.  The effort of discipline tends to be mostly directed at him, because mostly he calls for it.

Which brings me to the "problem" child.  The problem is, she is anything but a problem!  She usually does nothing wrong.  She's conscientious, bright and motivated, and a lot of people (teachers included) tend to tell her how great she is.  This is not good.  I love her, but I fear for her --the worst thing I can do for her is to stoke the fires of pride and self-centeredness.  If I do that, she will be unbearable to live with, and pity the man that marries her.  At the same time, I do not want to dampen her enthusiasm, or fail to praise her when she excels (which, let's face it, she often does).

The heart of the problem is, as always, the problem of the heart.  I can love her and pray for her, and when I hear that Pharisee croak his ugly voice out of her cute little mouth, if she cuts down others, if she complains and critiques her mother, if she is snotty or bratty or throws a fit because she doesn't get her way, I can address her heart on the level of the gospel.  I am more and more convinced that we need to focus more and more on what Paul said to Peter at Antioch --you aren't behaving in accord with the gospel.  I have to find a way to say that in eight year old language.  We don't treat people or think of people that way, because it is not Christlike.

The worst thing I can do, as a parent struggling to do my job Christianly, is to make her my princess, the apple of my eye, the one I hold up as an example to my other kids, the one to whom they will never measure up (I'm not saying they don't measure up --they do).  I need to get her to see herself in light of this truth --God be merciful to me, a sinner.

How do you handle a child like this, if you have one?  I am starting to think that all parents need to watch the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory before they have kids to learn what not to do.

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