This morning, Paula and I loaded up the kids in the car and headed over to a couple’s house who are in our small group. We spent the morning helping them finish packing for a cross country move. They are using one of those pods that get dropped off in your driveway and you fill it up. Two other families from our small group came and helped. We all loaded up the pod with everything that they had packed in less time than expected. We finished well before lunch, and we got the joy of being a blessing to some dear friends one more time before they move away.
My mind was awash with so many things. I had to compartmentalize so much of what was going on in my head in hopes of gaining better focus on the task at hand. Since Paula and I have moved at least 13 times in our nearly 16 years of marriage, we’ve gotten pretty good at moving over the years. I was reflecting about the events of the day when I realized something about how the way the day went in respect to the kids.
They were quite well behaved today, and we often receive praise for their good behavior. A trait that I pray continues for years to come. But the thing I noticed while reflecting on the day was how I watch them. I’m like a hawk, even with my compartmentalized thinking on the task at hand, I am watching to make sure they are performing up to snuff. If they get out of line, I pounce on them verbally to make sure they notice what is going on and shift their behavior to fit the occasion. “How is what you are doing helping with what we are currently doing?” “Are you being helpful right now?” With so much work to do, and with their young capable bodies, I wanted to make sure they were assisting. Even my youngest helped holding doors open and shuffling boxes from the garage to the loading area and into the pod.
They all did a great job, but as I look back I have a few things I need to critique, and they have nothing to do with my kids and everything to do with me.
Why is it that I watch them like a hawk? My quickest response is that as their father, I am responsible for helping mold and guide them to send them out in life. Pointing out their faults is important to help them learn and grow from their mistakes and errors. No one would argue with this answer. It is a good answer. If I’m honest, this is only half of the truth, and it may just be the attractive facade of the truth.
The ugly core of the truth is that I take their behavior, good and bad, to be a reflection of my identity. If they are behaving well, then I get to look good. If they are not behaving well, then I look bad.
The reality is that heir behavior is not an overflow of my heart, it is an overflow of their own hearts, and I can’t control what is going on in their hearts. God is the creator of their hearts, and knows their inmost being better than I do. (Psalm 139:13-16) Their heart motives are between themselves and God. My role as their parent is to help point them to Christ in everything, behavior included. The problem is that so much of the time, however, I do it because I don’t want them to make me look bad. This reality then, casts light on the true condition of my own heart. I’m an idolator, and the idol on the throne of my heart, when I do things with this motive, is a graven image of Jonathan Davis. I want to look good, and I’m using my kids to make that happen.
I need to be pointing myself to Christ in these situations. I need my heart changing to be more like Christ’s, and continually becoming a new creation. (2 Corinthians 3:18) The Gospel of Jesus gives me freedom to find my identity in what He did on the cross, saving me from my sin and putting his righteousness upon me. In this gracious freedom, I don’t have to be a slave to finding my identity in how my kids are behaving at any given moment.
Once the log is out of my own eye (Matthew 7:3-5) and I’ve got my identity right, then I can help show them the amazing grace of what Jesus did for their sins too.