Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Discipline and Holy Fear

Parenting is an enormous responsibility and challenge.

On a friend’s Facebook page, she has expressed the frightening experience of having her child hide from her at bath time.  The little boy determined to go outside and hide rather than to join with his little sister for their bath.

Mommy is indeed acting rationally concerning her fear in this regard.  Such disobedience in a child is a frightening thing.  Without a child’s unwavering obedience, no parent is able to provide protection for one’s child.  Obedience is absolutely necessary in the parent and child relationship.  This obedience must be instilled in the child through careful discipline or discipling.  This requires the parent to act very sternly and powerfully, actions that are emotionally difficult to govern with consistency.   But parents are not the child’s peer, nor even buddy.  Parents are the overlords of their children, appointed so by the Father of all, for the good of all.

In the case of my friend, I fear that she may have done as many mommies do.  She very likely has played hide and seek with her young child.  This is a very dangerous game for a parent to play, a game that teaches the child not to obey the voice of the parent when the parent calls.  As fun and innocent as this game and many others may seem, they are not proper for parents in which to engage with their children.  Parenting is an all encompassing responsibility, one which requires the parent to assume the overlord authority at all times, even in play times.

My father understood this, and was often criticized for his wise fatherly actions.  He was not without fault, but he did understand the role of fatherhood and overall was a very good and effective as well as loving father.

I am the firstborn, so my parents were learning much with my arrival under their care.  Two experiences are very powerfully ingrained in my memory.

One is when I was very young, I determined that I would visit Grandpa and Grandma Siems, who lived a quarter mile through the woods.  So off I went, without a thought of my mother’s frantic response.  I climbed onto my little tricycle with its 12 inch drive wheel and 4 inch rear wheels and began to make my way through the sugar sand and palmettos and briars and rattlesnakes to my grandparents’ house.  I do not remember how many hours this took me.

When Mom finally arrived she was frantic.  I do not know whether they called her or even how long I was gone.  Mom was both frantic and furious, as I remember.  But I had not yet been disciplined in the way of informing my mom and asking permission for such ventures.  I remember Grandma coming to my defense till Mom calmed down.  For I had not been deliberately disobedient.  I simply had not yet been properly discipled.  This was a learning experience for us all, and I am sure that I received intense instruction after this, though I don’t really remember that part.

What I do know for certain is that the 4th Commandment, “Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother that it may be well with thee and thou mayest live long on the earth.” is deep seated in my personhood.  I also know that this was not driven into me, but was born in me so that it fills me as it flows from the first three commandments.  True fear, love, and trust in God is the beginning of all right understanding for life.  True honor of parents cannot be taught apart from this.  The mechanics of the Fourth Commandment can be effected without fear, love, and trust in God, but not the natural flow of true and genuine honor of parents.

The other experience that I remember, not so much from my own remembrance, but because it was told to me several times, is the time that I encountered a nine foot diamond back rattlesnake as a toddler.  This huge viper was slithering after a covey of quail in the front yard when I saw it and began toddling toward it saying “Pretty snake.  Pretty snake.”

Grandpa and Grandma Heumann, Aunt Esther, and Mom were all yelling “No Paul.  Stop!  Come back!”  When Dad heard the commotion, he came running, and flying out the front door he yelled, “Paul!  HOT!”  Upon hearing this I immediately turned and came back to the safety of my loving overlords.

Some time previously, Dad had astonished the rest of the family by teaching me to fear the electric stove.  He placed his hand on the burner, turned the knob to warm and waited for it to become uncomfortable, took my little hand and placed it on the burner crying, “HOT!”  The others thought this to be terrible, but he wanted his little boy to be safe.  He wanted his little boy to stay away from anything that was declared to be HOT.

I share this to demonstrate that true love does not always bear the outward appearance that people expect.  True love sometimes appears hard and harsh and intolerant.  True parenting requires wisdom in knowing what true love demands.

The best way for parents to learn this is to observe the one who Himself is Love, the Father of all.  He has provided for us a written accounting of His interaction with His children.  He has given us this so that we may know Him as our loving Father, and so that we may learn from Him the form that true love takes.

We have the complication of our sinfulness that interferes with this understanding and blurs our perspective.  Thus we always must hold our actions to the accounting of the Commandments, by which we see where we fall short and need to have our ways amended.  But even the Commandments fall short in that they only show us what should be, as they show us how God is as the one who is truly holy and righteous.  The Commandments cannot be taken as stand alone directives.  They must be understood in the light of the Gospel, which shows how God gives the Commandments for our instruction, but also shows that He is the one who fulfills all righteousness for us.  He does not demand that we make ourselves righteous through striving to obey the Commandments.  Rather, He makes us righteous as He joins us to the merits of Jesus, who has fulfilled all righteousness on our behalf.  He applies this to us through Baptism and the Holy Supper.  There we encounter His righteousness and are made to be partakers of Him and His righteousness.

This is what parents need to realize about the responsibilities that God has given to them.  They are to do similarly to their loving Father.  They are to live the sanctified life of their baptism so that their children receive this as their own.  As the parents fear, love, and trust in God and live lives that flow from this, so their children do also.  They learn God’s love through the loving actions and lordship of their parents.

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Unknown said...

Dear Paul,

Your post draws attention to the reflection our blessed Creator made parenting to be with His Word spoken on the sixth day of creation, "Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth." Satan's deceitful word, "You'll be like God, knowing good and evil," taken hold of by Adam and Eve as a better word, removed from them the blessed, reflective image in which God had created them, male and female, to be perfect parents, leaving them self-absorbed, each personally destructive to one's self, and just as destructive to one another and to the children granted them the One who alone makes and sustains all things, seen or unseen.

YAHWEH's Word spoke life in the hearing of Adam and Eve, in the ruin into which they had brought themselves, existing apart from God. Indeed, He spoke life into each, "I will put enmity between you, Satan, and the woman; and between her Descendant and yours. He will crush your head, though you will strike His heel."

YAHWEH's Holy Word throughout its pages makes very clear that He truly did restore the first parents to life, and maintained them in that life of faith, even as in this world, like all of us, earthly death remained and remains the constant lesson, a hot stove lesson, clearly warning all men of danger; not just the danger of physical death at the end of this temporary life, but of the lasting danger of lastingly existing apart from His loving, purposeful, Fatherly care.

Jesus, God's Christ, removed the legal liability which Adam's rebellion against God has place on each and everyone of their descendants. The eternal Son of God, incarnate of the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, assumed personally, as God's own Ambassador, the personal obligations attendant upon us all. With every thought He had, with every Word He spoke, with everything He did, He lived in perfect harmony with the will of His heavenly Father, even would have Adam, had he not turned to embrace the devil's lie. Jesus also willingly embraced sin's wages, death, laying down His life as the unblemished Substitute Whose sacrifice is sufficient for each and every man and woman helplessly staggering toward death, drawn to that unending separation from God.

Jesus' merits, as you powerfully note in your post, as my previous paragraph outlines, are life - life for parents, life for children, the true life of the family. The Father lovingly promises to credit Jesus' life, death, and resurrection from death to each whom God the Spirit has turned from death to life in Christ.

(continues in next post)

Unknown said...

(continued from previous post)

How clearly He speaks, when He entitles the Spirit's work with that Word of promise together with water, "a washing of regeneration, and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been legally established as innocent, we might become heirs, having the hope of everlasting life. This is a faithful Saying" (Titus 3). The Spirit's action of turning an infant, a child, or an adult in the waters of His Separating Baptism, daily drowns Adam's rebellious image with which each person is born; He drowns it unto death by creating and maintaining a broken and contrite heart which turns to God's mercy in Christ. At the same time, He created in those waters and maintains a new, clean life, bearing the very image of Christ. Such a one lives through faith in Christ in everlasting justification, innocence and blessedness. Daily that life is also fed by Jesus Himself, coming to unite Himself with he who eats of His Body which He gives with simple bread, and cleansing with His own Blood, given with simple wine, into remission from sins, continuing life, and everlasting salvation, for all who believe His life giving, life sustaining Word, "My Body, given on your behalf; My Blood pouring out to you into remission from sins. This do, as often as you eat and drink these, into My remembrance."

In this way, God's Image remains as His perfect reflection seen from His people, in what they think and say in the presence of God, what they say and do in the presence of other people. It is in this context that the blessed reflection which the vocations of father and mother are to be receive and express the fullness of God's blessings in this life.

Gary Cepek

Canadian Atheist said...

I find it sad that sticking a kids hand on a hot stove and being a kids overlord is thought to be good parenting advice to some in the religious community.

Not Alone +++ PAS said...

Dear Canadian (Mike),

My friend, I am saddened by the display of such deep prejudices that produce such unjust judgmental remarks. I shared about a tender and loving action of my father and praised his fatherly wisdom, which kept his toddling son safe from the many hazards of the kitchen and eventually allowed him to save his toddling son from a gruesome death by rattlesnake poisoning, and the response is one of mocking judgment. That truly is sad.

Moreover, the prejudice has blinded you from reality, for all parents are by default the overlords of their children, from the time that the father sires the child which is conceived in the mother’s womb. From that moment, they are definitively the child’s overlords, with the power of life and death over the child. Sadly, today it is counted as acceptable for them to choose the later and to subject their child to brutal murder while still in the womb, and some are even promoting what they are calling “after-birth abortion.”

Regardless, parents do have this power. I count it entirely appropriate to give thanks that my parents used all of their faculties to serve me as loving overlords. And that is the key to understanding this issue: LOVE.

In love, a loving overlord rules as one who counts oneself as a slave in the service of those who are ruled. The parent is not the slave of the child, but for the child’s good.

Parenthood is a position of lordship over the child. This is especially obvious for the newborn infant, who is not even able to turn itself over or to move from its own excrement. The parents are absolute in their lordship over the child. Every decision is made by the parents unilaterally for the child. Loving parents are loving overlords, even sacrificing themselves for the child over whom they serve as lords.

It truly saddens me that you have demonstrated such prejudice that would not allow you to receive this language that is clearly used in my post. But this is the language of the Bible, which you have rejected for your own reasons. But for people who receive this as from their LORD of Love, it guides and leads us in our lives, teaching us and moving us to view ourselves as servants under our LORD, servants who look in love toward all.

You have rejected this LORD. You refuse to acknowledge Him as the God who is Love. How then could you possibly understand my perspective, my life? How could you possibly relate to the honor that I hold for my parents? I do not presume to know how you view your parents, since you have never told me. But you have demonstrated that you are unable or unwilling even to allow that my love and honor of my parents is valid and honorable. You have judged both them and me, as well as anyone sharing our views, with harsh judgment.

On my part, every time that I think of my father, I stand in awe of the wisdom that the LORD gave to him and that he practiced in love toward me. Every day I utilize the things that I learned from my father. I am amazed as I recount the great patience that he demonstrated in his fatherly care, as well as the amount of freedom that he permitted me and my brother and sister.

Not Alone +++ PAS said...

Thus I appeal to you to set aside your prejudice and allow my admiration for my father and his loving lordship over me to stand as I have declared it. I appeal to you to join me in reflecting upon the fact that his care for me spared me much grief and trauma in my childhood. It seems to me that in your judgment of this that you would do well to note that my recollection of the account of the hand on the stove, which was merely uncomfortable and not at all harmful, is as an act of love and sacrifice by my father as my loving overlord. He took a lesson that I would surely someday learn by mistake at possibly great physical cost, and carefully controlled it to teach the lesson without any possible harm to his son. Also profitable would be to know that his acts of mercy have taught me to show mercy to many others, as well.

That mercy, by the way, includes people dying from the complications of AIDS, whose hands I have held and whom I have embraced with hugs and even kisses. But the freedom to embrace them in this way followed hearing their confessions to which I supplied the LORD’s absolution. Yes, the freedom for them to receive my embrace came with their acceptance of me as an undershepherd of Christ, as their overlord under the LORD. Because of this, they were free to believe my authority to remit their sins and grant them their hearts’ desires and to embrace them as their brother in the LORD.

Since this, too, can be misunderstood, I will briefly explain. I did and do not press my understanding of God and His Word upon anyone. However, to those who desired to hear from me what the LORD declares, both Law and Gospel, I did and do share. For those who like you outrightly reject this, I leave alone. Yet I also continue with a heart of compassion toward you and to all. This is what my LORD works in me. As He desires good for all, so I am moved as well.

As for my experiences as a child, I had a very happy childhood. I was mostly an obedient child, who thereby enjoyed the benefits of the efforts of his loving overlords. On my part, I give thanks to God and to them and for them.

For you, my friend, I pray a heart that judges honestly both what is right and what is not, and that you may know true peace in your life.

Canadian Atheist said...

Dear Paul,

I have posted a response on my blog, which clearly outlines what I think of my parents.

However, it is not an unreasonable judgment. I know that you find it to be a loving act, and your religion supposedly backs this position up. If that were reported to the authorities, your father would probably have been arrested for child abuse. That's judgment. Judgment of the law.

I do empathize with how you feel and am able to reflect on what it must be like to be blinded by mythological faith. However, I too was once a Christian. I know how it feels. I know how deeply it can set its mythological claws into you.

I do not reject your God, any more than I reject Zeus or Allah. I merely see no evidence of this God, and find the god claims of Christians just as unbelievable, contradictory and full of mythology as every other god claim I've run across.

Not Alone +++ PAS said...

To all:

Parenting is truly an enormous responsibility. It is made especially daunting for those who did not receive a healthy example from their parents during their childhood.

During my lifetime, both before and especially after being ordained as a pastor, I have encountered many people suffering from abuse. All are children, of various ages. Especially as adults who have suffered abuse in their childhood of various kinds, much confusion regarding one’s own person is suffered. Some even experience suicidal thinking.

All parents struggle to know how to be truly good, loving parents who rightly discipline their children for their good.

Sometimes also, I have ministered to families who struggle with the ongoing pain of various abuses in later years. The needed healing does not occur merely with the passing of time. The abusive parents struggle to know how to beg forgiveness. The abused children struggle to deal with their emotions, especially when hatred and revenge surface, and they find themselves unable to move past these to forgive. Often the adult children who were abused in their childhood struggle to move past following the same example in their lives as they deal with their children.

I have been privileged to administer the LORD’s healing in all of these situations. I have stood in awe of His power to effect that which otherwise is impossible. I have seen generations of abuse turned to love and forgiveness.

I also have been privileged to give instruction from the Holy Scriptures regarding healthy, loving, gracious, and holy parenting through which peace and harmony are propagated in families. The results of God’s grace are truly wonderful.

The power of God’s grace is real. For those who receive it in faith, they receive what they need and desire.

Canadian Atheist said...

To all:

Parenting is indeed a big responsibility. Your children have rights and no parent is an overlord. There is no reason in the world to equate fear with love. Your children do not need to fear you, and sticking your child's hand on a hot stove to supposedly teach them a lesson is not good parenting. In fact, you can be charged for child abuse for doing such a thing.

Not all parents struggle to be truly good. Most parents are good, although they may make mistakes like any human being. Most parents care for their children and try to do the right thing. There is no reason to believe a book of ancient mythology. The people who wrote it knew far less than we know today. There were no studies, children aid workers or many resources for parents to turn to back then. There are now. Make use of them. Don't take the word of men who wrote those texts in a time when the wheelbarrow was considered emerging technology. Your children are worth more than that.

If this bloggers idea of a 'healthy, loving, gracious, and holy parenting', includes putting a child's hand on a hot stove or acting as if you're their overlord and using fear to get your children to obey, then I urge you to look at the alternatives. Millions of parents every year raise healthy, well adjusted children without doing any of those things.