Our granddaughter, my oldest daughter's oldest daughter, is a deep thinker. She's extremely smart, very curious, and always wants to understand how things work and why things are the way they are. On a recent occasion my oldest daughter needed someone to watch our two granddaughters for a couple of hours. I was out of town, so my husband volunteered. At one point while they were under his care, Papa corrected the older of the two girls about something and told her that she needed to obey. As seriously as she could, she asked him, "Why? Mama and Daddy say that I have to obey, too, but I really just don't understand why?" In conveying to me this incident, my husband explained that her attitude wasn't rebellious or sassy, but seemed to him to be a question asked from a sincere desire to understand just why obedience was so dog gone important!
When our children ask us why, it's at that point that many of us, including yours truly, have answered that question with the standard answer of, "because I said so!" I actually think that response can be an appropriate one, but only after the child is old enough to really understand why obedience is necessary. I remember trying to explain why obedience to mom and dad was important when my own daughters were small. I think I said something about God wanting them to learn to listen to and obey mom and dad when they were young so they would know how to listen to and obey God as they got older. I think that is true, but it may be a bit incomplete. Maybe to build better understanding the best answer to my daughters was a few good questions. "Do you know that mama and daddy love you?" "Do you know that we want what is best for you?" "Do you know that we want to keep you safe?" "Do you understand why we want to teach you to respect others and how to treat them?" Hopefully, they would answer those questions in the affirmative. If so, I would follow up with, "because all of those things are true, you can trust Mama and Daddy that when we are asking you to obey it's for your well being, even if you might not think so, even if you might not understand."
In one of my favorite books, "Intimate Friendship with God", author Joy Dawson explains that God promises intimate friendship with Himself to those who reverentially fear Him. She goes on to write that reverential fear of God is evidenced by how quickly we obey Him and if we do so wholeheartedly. I agree, but I rarely see this level of obedience in anyone who isn't unshakably confident in God's love for them, in His desire to do what is ultimately for their best, and in His trustworthiness. When we are confident of God's good leadership in our lives, our swift, wholehearted obedience follows.
When it comes to parenting, no matter how hard we try, our leadership is not perfect. That's another time when the best response to the situation just may be a good question. "I'm sorry. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?" We can go on and use that as a teachable moment to admit to our children that even human parents who love their children wholeheartedly, who sincerely want what is best for them, will at times blow it. However, God is a perfect Father who can be trusted to always do the right thing. Even though we don't parent perfectly, training our children to obey us swiftly and with a good attitude is entry level discipleship as we are teaching them obedience to Father God. If we've communicated clearly our loving motives behind our expectation of obedience when they are little, they should have a clear enough understanding of the answer to the question of "Why should I obey?" that the statement response, "because I said so!" is a four word sentence that they know really means:
- because I love you
- because I want what is best for you
- because I want to keep you safe
- because I want you to respect and treat others appropriately
- because I want you to learn to obey God swiftly and whole heartedly
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