We don’t often have a good handle on context. When we read stories, we forget where we have been and facts start to blend into a meaningless background. We spout off with some kind of uber-inappropriate word or phrase because we’ve lost our sense of the company we’re in. We lose sleep over a bill, a supervisor’s word or an upcoming presentation because our apprehension of time has slipped from us.
We live in relationships often without context; in the middle of bonafide trouble, we don’t ask the questions that would make a difficult or tense or uncertain situation bearable. We live in the weeds of life and we see nothing but weeds.
We certainly parent without context. A bowl of spilled milk, a muddy track through the carpet, a dog eating a box of egg noodles – God forbid! More significantly, a teacher’s troubling report, a neighbor’s testimony of a broken window, a persistent rebelliousness – how fast do these things wreck our days?
I was telling some friends the other day about the Sears Tower (is it still called that?). It seemed that no matter what part of Chicago you’re in, you can see that thing. From Wheaton to the Wisconsin border to the smelly side of Chicago, that monument towers above all else. It was always possible to get an orientation from that landmark. Is it possible that this is a valid symbol, useful for us in our daily, weedy lives? Yes.
Parents out there: “Weedy Life” is a good descriptor of the daily in’s and out’s of life as a parent, isn’t it? There are wonderful blessings and grueling trials – all before 9:00 a.m. – meals, laundry, bill-paying, dirty rooms, smelly breath, stain removal, soccer practice, piano lessons, murmuring and the constant question-asking. Oh my is it easy to consider each of these things as nails in the coffin where your joy is kept!
There are weightier matters which, of course, you know. Foremost and specifically, what will my child say when he has to give a report of his life to God Almighty, will he try to lay out his list of achievements, people he “friends” on Facebook or the amount of money he gives to charity? Maybe he will. What will keep him from thinking those are sufficient answers? (Since they aren’t.) Parents living with context.
When the weeds seem to rise around us: the rancor and disagreements increase the volume level in the house and you just want to poke yourself in the ear drums, we have to remember what one author calls the “day of small pains.” The Day of Small Pains is our Weedy Life at home with our little (or not so little) cherubs. If you were to look around with the eyes of faith you would see the Cross towers above all the weeds. Like the Sears Tower for all who look for it, the Cross of Jesus Christ reminds us that there will be another Day; potentially a Terrible Day for our children. Though our days might be filled with troubling childhood behavior, there will be a day when our children will be out from underneath the cover of our homes. If we neglect to have some context like this, and it results in our deficient or lazy parenting, then the Days of Small Pains for them will transition into Days of Personal Agony. This same author says:
If we don’t discipline our children, God will. Either we will use the rod on our children, as God commands, or someday God might use our children’s miseries (divorce, bankruptcy, inability to hold down a job) as a rod to discipline them and even us for our failure to take him seriously. (William Farley, Gospel Powered Parenting, 171)
What will keep this from happening? Parents living with context. What is that context? The Bible tells us in the New Testament book of Hebrews (12:11):
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later is yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Our day-in and day-out attention to the details of our children’s hearts, our faithfulness in using the rods of correction upon their sinfulness, our prayers that they would “get it” and start to act like it is our work of keeping context. We must always be looking around for the Cross to remind ourselves that though this is a hard season, there may be a much harder one for us and for our children. You may think it base to parent with this kind of fear present in your heart, but think again. The prospect of suffering teenage and adult children simply because we were either too stubborn or too lazy to do the spade work in their hearts when they were young should frighten you.
The Days of Small Pains are a blessing to us. Take advantage of them while they persist around your homes. Pray that in them and by your diligence God would save their souls, teach them how to live and commission them on the road to bringing Him honor. Of course unspeakable joy is found here, too.