Sunday, October 19, 2014

Parenting And Theology


Correcting behavior is an ongoing aspect of parenting. I want my children to be safe and well behaved, able to function in civil society. This involves frequent restrictions and verbal reminders of certain important guidelines.

“Don’t touch the stove”
“Stop hitting your brother”
“Don’t run into the street”

I want my sons to know that I always love them, even when I am disciplining or correcting them. Not long after we first brought Isaiah home I changed how I worded my corrections. I wanted to make sure Isaiah knew that I loved him first, so I said that first followed by the correction.

“Isaiah, I love you, but listen to your mama.”
“Isaiah, I love you, but it’s time for bed.”
“Isaiah, I love you, but eat your dinner.”

Several months ago, I realized that this too was insufficient in regards to how I want to parent my children. 
‘But’ is a conjunction, joining the two thoughts or sentences together.  It doesn’t join them seamlessly. It sets one apart from the other.  It conveys the idea of:
On the contrary.
With reservations.

I think words matter. I think parenting matters. I think theology matters.
I think the words I use while parenting will, in some ways, shape my son’s theology.  The way I parent will shape his “God Concept”.
And I realized several months ago that, not only was I parenting my sons to think my love had conditions, I was forming a concept, in their souls, of a conditional God.
I was practicing ‘But Parenting’.
I was preparing my children for ‘But Theology’.

Now when I correct or discipline my boys I practice ‘And Parenting’, to hopefully lay the groundwork for ‘And Theology’.

“Enoch, I love you, and stop destroying the house.”
“Isaiah, I love you, and you need to turn off the movie now.”
“Enoch, I love you, and give Isaiah back his book.”

And Theology

And Theology is secure and affirming. And Theology is freedom and growth.

And Theology allows for the fact that God loves his creation and has a specific design in mind. The love of God for his children is set, and he has hopes and dreams for them.

“I love you, and sell all you have and give to the poor.”
“I love you, and feed my sheep.”
“I love you, and follow me.”

No one likes ‘But Parenting’ or ‘But Theology’, however it seems that this is what many American Evangelicals practice. We set up our walls and qualify our love. We tell people to get all cleaned up before they try to approach the thrown of grace. 
‘But Theology’ is safe. ‘But Theologians’ don’t have to spend much time with anyone they disagree with. They’ve put up barriers to entry, barriers to community, barriers to fellowship.

‘And Theology’ is scary. ‘And Theologians welcome you in and say, “let’s work on this” or “let us help you with this”. It might be hard, and we’re going to do it together.

Christians may disagree somewhat on exactly what God has designed us for and exactly how he what have us grow, but if we could just settle on the fact that his love is certain and never changing, that his love is not conditional, maybe we could work together on everything else.

My sons don't always enjoy restrictions, correction, or boundaries. ‘And Theology’ might be difficult for the world to accept; people are resistant to change, children are resistant to being disciplined.

The important point is that they always know that I love them first and foremost. 

The important point is that ‘And Theology’ first accepts the world, and then seeks to redeem it.

(photo credit: Michael Matti)

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