When you’re at a restaurant and the only thing you can hear is the screaming child in the booth next to you, what do you think? Do you find yourself annoyed and wondering what the parents are going to do to quiet their child? Do you want them to just remove the child from the restaurant so you can have some peace? Are you hoping that the child is punished for their behavior? Or do you find yourself wishing the parents would just give the kid whatever they want so the screaming will stop?
We’ve all been in situations where kids are acting-out. Whether it be our kids or not, it’s uncomfortable to be around. I’ve been dealing with a lot of tantrums lately. My little toddler is becoming quite vocal about his desires and doesn’t have a whole lot of control over his emotions. It’s tough but I know I’m not the only one. When we go to the park, I often witness tantrums and other “acting-out” behavior. What I find most interesting, is the variation of parental responses.
One time in particular, I began to realize the deep implications of parental response. I heard a story about a little boy who did not want to eat all of the things offered to him for dinner. There was chicken, rice and carrots. He wanted to eat the chicken but refused to eat the others. His parents insisted that he must eat at least one bite of each item. Still, he refused.
I’m not going to go into further detail as to how the parents responded because that doesn’t matter. How would you respond? Would you do whatever you could to obtain obedience? Is that what matters most? That our children are respectful and obedient? Or is it most important for parents to avoid conflict and comply immediately?
If our answer is “yes” to any of those questions, I think we need to seriously consider the implications. How do our expectations of children serve as a metaphor of our expectations for ourselves as children of God? Do we assume that those are God’s expectations of us?
Do we think that God cares most about our obedience? Do we think that God cares most about us being content?
The truth is, it seems that God cares most about having relationship with us. He doesn’t want our blind obedience and He doesn’t want to just make things easy for us all of the time. When we pray, we come to Him with thanksgiving, praise, and repentance. We come to Him with those things because they flow from a love that was birthed out of relationship. Our hearts belong to Him. We respect Him and admire Him because of the love He has shown us.
God is not punitive but He is not permissive. He is the perfect Father. He provides loving discipline through guidance and allows natural consequences. We don’t need to worry about being “good little boys and girls” to receive His love because it isn’t contingent upon our behavior.
Have you really let that sink in? God loves you, even when you act-out. He wants you to bring all of your baggage to Him and let Him love you in the midst of it. This seems like a simple and obvious thing to grasp but I wonder if our view of children might reveal whether or not we have really grasped it. If we have a difficult time showing grace to children, people who haven’t even achieved full brain development yet, how good are we at accepting grace for ourselves as full-grown adults? It’s something to think about.
This post was originally written for RockHarbor Orange. To visit the RHO blog, click here.