Let me relay a humbling story to you. My family and I were on a little weekend trip to visit some sister churches in another town, in another state. A six hour drive included about four hours of our three year old singing 20 letters of the alphabet along with his own song made up of four words, “Imma see a birdie” again and again and again. This six hour drive also included a crying one year old. So far, no biggie. Just a minor headache.
We get to the hotel and the crying one year old decided to pick up the same refrain throughout the night. Sleep, where art thou!? Our plan was to attend two churches on the Lord’s Day, one at 8:30am and the second at 11:00am. Sure, why not? Without sleep, I am sure the children are up for it.
First, we had a wonderful continental breakfast where our three year old continued to sing his songs and our daughter refused to eat by slapping the spoon away filling the floor around her highchair with various types of food. She has rather good reflexes and aim, I might add.
Headaches, no sleep, and hungry babies…we pile in to the van.
Did I mention that our son is at this whining phase of his life? Everything is a grating whine that scrapes the inside of your head like a melon baller and pierces your ear like a syringe. You know the kind I am talking about.
On the way to our first service for the day our son began to whine. I, in turn, took my fatherly authority lifted it above my head and clubbed him with it, verbally. I berated him. I was loud. He quieted down. He didn’t deserve it.
Then, I hear behind me, “Calm down, dad.”
Let me take this moment to humbly confess my sin, I will be right back…and now let me draw attention to a teaching moment, first for me and then maybe for you.
Why did I yell at my son? Because he was not doing what I wanted. Simple. Right? It is true that my son was disobeying the Lord by complaining as he was (Philippians 2:14), but that, unfortunately, was not what drove me to verbal discipline. No, this was pure selfishness. I wanted my son to obey, to do what I wanted. I wanted him to obey me, not the Lord.
I forced his obedience. Sometimes forcing obedience is necessary like when your child is about to step into a busy street. You force his obedience by scooping him up. However, I wanted my son to be quiet because my head hurt and I was tired, and this was sinful on my part. As a father, I should be like the Father, who desires all people to obey Jesus. When my son begins to whine and complain, he needs to understand that he is sinning against Jesus, no matter how I feel about it, or how much sleep I had.
Forcing obedience is much different than training our children to love the Lord.