Sunday, February 12, 2012

#6 Ephesians 6:4 "God: My Dear Old Dad"

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the LORD."

Okay....if you take this verse in its most literal sense, we women (and any non-parents) would be tempted to say, "Well....I'm not a father, so this verse doesn't apply to me. I'll just read it to my husband and tell him to apply it to his life!"

Yes, you can say that. But, truth be told, we'd all be missing out on one of God's gems of truth.
So why should a non-father (much less a non-parent) listen to this verse and discover its application to our lives? What does Eph. 6:4 have to say to us non-dads?

Well, I can honestly say, that since becoming a mom in 1987, I have learned in greater depth and understanding, just how God loves and cares for us as a parent. I have been learning (and continue to learn) what it means to BE loved by my Heavenly Father, and how I am to feel and respond in return.

As we all know, God never gives a command or word of encouragement that is not consistent with His character and being. God gives instruction to fathers primarily because He Himself is a father. Moreover, He gives instruction that reflects His parenting style.

Parenting style? God has a parenting style? You bet.

In studying what the field of developmental psychology says about styles of parenting, I found that there are 4 basic types.*

1. Authoritarian parenting. This is when children are expected to follow a strict set of rules laid down by their parents. Failure to comply results in punishment. Orders must be followed without question or explanation.

2. Authoritative. Rules and expectations must still be followed by the children, but this kind of parent allows and encourages dialogue and questions with their offspring. When children fail to obey, although they are still corrected, they are met with more grace and forgiveness, rather than just punishing.

3. Permissive. Here, leniency is key. Few demands are made, children are allowed considerable self-regulation and parents avoid confrontation.

4. Uninvolved parenting. While basic physical needs of the children may be met, these parents are generally detached from their children's lives.

Even without much discussion, it is easy to see where I'm going with this. God is too often seen by others as being either the first, third or fourth style of Father, or perhaps a combination of them. Those with very strict, rule-oriented backgrounds will fear that God is parent #1. Those who believe that "God loves us and wants us to be happy, so I'm allowed to do what I want" worships God as parent #3. Still others see God as the uninvolved parent #4, who cares little for the day-to-day worries of lowly mankind. He's too busy running the universe...or something like that.

Happily, I have known God as parent #2. Yes, the Word of God makes clear to us what God considers a righteous life. He encourages us and instructs us in living a life pleasing to Him. But doesn't He also allow His children to question Him, to discuss our concerns and worries with Him? Isn't our failure to be perfect usually met with grace, forgiveness and the assurance of His continued love?

The fathers mentioned in Eph. 6 are said to be exasperating. Their children are tired, discouraged and always failing to meet unreasonable expectations. Their sense of self-worth is low and are probably at a high risk of leaving the family.

Oh man....does this sound familiar?

This hits me right in my heart.

First of all, how have I been viewing God? Am I obedience-oriented to the point that I feel like a failure every time I am confronted with my own imperfection? Do I beat myself up every time I let an opportunity to share God's love pass by because I was too busy or too self-involved, for instance? Do I fear God will not forgive me because I did [fill in the blank of whatever moral imperfection you have]? Do I, deep down inside, find it hard to really believe that God has forgiven my sins? Do I expect punishment rather than grace? Admit it, we all have had moments like this. Some of us more than others.

And secondly, how do I view and interact with others? Do I, in my own way, exasperate others with an endless list of expectations? Do I remind them, usually quite indirectly of course, of the times they failed to do the best thing possible? Do I extend grace or mete out "punishment" when my fellow Christians (and yes, non-Christians!) hurt me or display behaviors that seem ungodly? Ouch.

Yes, God told earthly fathers not be exasperating fathers because He is not one Himself. God is authoritative without being authoritarian. There isn't anything He won't do for our well-being. He even went so far as to send His Son to die on the cross for us. He could have punished us all, but He isn't that sort of Dad.

Oh, and according to the same source on developmental psychology, children of parent#2 tend to be happy, capable and successful.* Isn't that what God intends for His children as well?

Wow...with such a wonderful Father, we have reason to rejoice. We have every reason to feel loved and encouraged. Every day is Father's Day.


1 comment:

  1. This is a very creative and marvelous post.

    As I said before, you must share this item, as well as many of your past entries, on a more public basis, such as your local church or Northwestern Conference level newsletter, blog, or website.

    I don't know when you have time to compose this quality work, but thank you for finding time to do it.

    Dana Shioji