Life is full of opportunities to learn spiritual lessons. As a parent, I try to use life's lessons to offer spiritual lessons to my children. They are usually more effective because they are relevant to where they are at the moment and real enough to make sense. But honestly, sometimes I feel like the kid because so very often my kids end up being the ones teaching me.
~~It's surprising what you can learn about yourself by observing your kids.
We mostly sit in the same chairs at the table when we eat, so every chair has a name, Mom's chair, Dad's share, etc. Occasionally we end up sitting somewhere other than "our chair" and when we do, my kids get the biggest hoot out of pretending to be the person that normally would be sitting there. When one of my kids sits in my chair, I get a good presentation of what I sound like to the rest of my family.
For instance, yesterday my oldest son was sitting in my chair and he looked at his older sister who was sitting in his chair and said, "Bubby, stop talking and eat---NOW!" Ouch, I thought, do I really sound like that? It made me stop and think about how I am perceived as a mother by my children, hmmmmmm maybe I should work on that.~~
~~When my kids were toddlers, I devised a game called "the manners game" to try to make learning proper table manners fun. I would put a small votive candle holder at each place and put a hand full of Skittles, M&M's, or nuts inside. During dinner any improper manners resulted in having one removed from the holder, but good manners resulted in one being placed into the holder. Whatever was in their holder at the end of the meal was theirs to eat. My kids loved this game and still, even as teenagers ask to play. (mostly because their Dad always loses! He only plays games on his own terms so he is behind immediately because he sometimes wears his ball cap at the table. )
I have noticed something though. The only time their manners are good are when we are playing the game. When we're not, they revert back to their usual plethora of animal noises, bodily noises, reaching across the table, sneaking anything they don't want to eat under the table to the dog, best burp contests, grossest teeth contests, and wiping their mouths on their shirts instead of a napkin----a napkin?????? What's that???
It so reminds me that we, as Christians need to keep our eyes on the rewards of doing things God's way--of playing by God's rules. It's the only way that we can be assured that we will win in the end and receive the crown of righteousness (way better than skittles), on the judgement day. I hear so many people preach and teach that there is no need to live by a set of rules and regulations, but if they are God's rules and regulations, then yes, we do need to live by them, or we will be disqualified and lose our reward!
I've been criticized as a parent because I have used the reward system for many things, but isn't that what God does?? Doesn't He say "if you will do this, then I will do this?" Doesn't the Word tell us that "if" we obey His commands, we will inherit eternal life? Doesn't God lay down rules of the game for us to follow and if we don't we lose and are disqualified? Aren't we all pressing towards the "prize" of the high calling of Jesus Christ?~~
~~My oldest son was the cutest little punkin head you ever saw. But as he grew in his toddler years, I noticed that he was excessively selfish. What in the world was this, I thought? My first tendency was to worry, then to be mad--after all, he was closing in on all of 3 years of age and he should know better!
But one afternoon as I was expressing my extreme displeasure to the Lord, the Lord asked me a question. Why do you think he acts that way? And then my own attitudes and behaviors flashed before me like a 3-D movie! "Oh," I said. And as I began to adjust my attitudes and behaviors, I noticed that the kids just kind of fell in line and I never had to talk to them about their stinking behavior, I just had to adjust my own!
Honestly, I think God gives us kids because they force us to grow up!
~~I think the greatest spiritual lesson I ever learned was from my oldest daughter when she was not very old. We were youth pastors in a country town and drove nearly 60 miles a day to and from work. At one point we were out nearly 4-5 nights a week doing church activities. Our daughter was around 3-4 at the time. We took her everywhere we went. The youth loved her (she was awful cute), and she loved being with them too. But after a few months of the schedule, I noticed that she was having some physical trouble. (I won't say that she got extremely constipated because I wouldn't want to embarrass her!). So I started having my husband drop us home before taking all the youth home so that I could get her to bed a little earlier because we had to be up, fed and on the road by 7am every morning.
One evening, I had a terrible headache. Upon arriving home, I sent her in to get her jammies on and go to the bathroom before going to bed. She was extremely tired and crying a lot, which was not helping my head. I lost it, yelled at her and swatted her on the rear. I then put her in bed, still crying. As I lay there in the dark, all I could hear was the best thing that had ever happened to me laying in bed sniffling. I then realized that she was tired and probably felt as bad as I did. She really hadn't done anything wrong and I had reacted in a totally unchristian and unmotherly manner. I climbed out of bed, went in to her room, took her in my arms and apologized to her, telling her that I was wrong and that I should not have reacted the way that I did. I told her I was sorry that I had hurt her and that I loved her. By the time I was done, I was sniffling more than she was. She just laid there, unmoving, not speaking--just sniffling. All the sudden, she turned over, put both her arms around my neck, pressed every square inch of her body up next to mine and said, "It's okay Mommy, I forgive you". And then she kissed me on the cheek.
It was right then that I realized the forgiveness and the love that God has for us. We were much worse than anything that she had done. We deserved punishment. But when we go to Him and say we're sorry, His response is the same as hers. He reaches out, takes us in His arms and says "it's okay, I forgive you." I have never forgotten that night, but I pray that she has. I have never forgotten how the Holy Spirit used that night to speak to me about His forgiveness, how it is complete and how every wrong is fully forgotten and how God can be angry with us one minute and holding us in His arms pouring all of His love on us the next. Such Love!~~