Recently I have started an on-going dialog that sounds very schizophrenic in nature but truly is just a healthy dose of brain-storming (or so we tell myself) about how to train my dragons, a.k.a, my loving children. With all of the child-focused parenting books coming out in both Christian and secular literature, I find myself wanting to hide away in my reclusive mind that screams, “What was so wrong with the 50’s? They seemed to raise children pretty well….right?” They didn’t wear helmets, and didn’t have car-seat wars, bottle competitions, sleeping routine relay races, formula v. breast feeding wrestling matches (may the breast one win), or spend hours a day deciding how to discipline and whether spanking would permanently damage their child’s deep inner spirit. I mean, if you ran away when you were a child, wait for it…..wait for it……they DIDN’T come to find you!
The mothers of old were wise enough to watch their eight-year-olds pack up luggage for life and walk out the door in an angry huff. Then they calmly turned around and started making dinner. These mothers knew in their infinite wisdom that dinner would call the child home like a pied piper. Herein lies the crux of the matter (the one that can either keep you up at night biting your fingernails down to the bone or just scare you into a complete frozen state of paralysis): They raised children well……but those children still ended up running around buck naked and painting their faces with flowers and whatnots all for the sake of “love and peace.” Fruitcakes. They raised a bunch of fruitcakes. Great, so what went wrong? How am I supposed to train my dragon?
The first hurdle I want to tackle, because I believe it affects several areas in the training arena for our little dragons, is the over-emphasis and the over-indulgence our society has placed on Identity. Identity has become an altar of worship in our culture which we build to our own little peanut-butter covered, juice-cup flinging in the minivan, tantrum throwing, loving little children. We should build them up based on truth. We should as parents instill a sense of healthy pride in our children. They are wonderfully and miraculously made. They are image bearers to the most High God! They are amazing gifts and amazing creations who have been created to serve the Lord with their whole hearts. This is truth, but we seem to start with this truth and then push it so far that it becomes a self-serving lie, just like most everything in our culture. Want a little bit of butter on your pancake? Yes? But wouldn’t the entire stick be even better? Yes? Need a new pair of shoes? Yes? But wouldn’t the entire fall catalog be even better? Yes? Need a new bumper on your car? How about a whole new car, or a new kitchen or a new bathroom or a new face because the old one is all road-kill looking from raising your little dragons? We start with truth and then we keep on pushing and giving and slathering and dunking and pouring it on until we have created self-serving, egocentric, demanding, ungracious little dragons who eat their young (just watch one episode of MTV Teen Mom) and believe social manners are outdated (again, have you seen the food court at the mall?).
How do we combat this type of parenting? How do we raise a family unit instead of focusing so much on individual children? How do we raise servants instead of masters when we are living in a master-focused culture? This morning I am focusing on Mark 10: 43-44.
But whoever would be great among you must be your servant and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
I think it starts with a good foundational question that we must allow to ruminate in our minds until it saturates our spirits. How do I raise a Christ-like servant who is willing to serve at the Lord’s table all of his life? Maybe we start here. Maybe we teach our children to bow to the King before they stand up for themselves. Maybe we teach them to serve with their talents before we build an altar to their talents. Maybe we teach them that to sacrifice everything is better than to gain the whole world? Maybe if we train our little dragons to be children of God first, then the other things will fall where they should……right into the hands of their Creator.