Keeping the home fires burning or sacrificing to the idol of family???

May I take a moment to say one thing?  OUCH. 

Molly and 6kidlets touched on this yesterday and I, too, had a bit of a hard time separating the first two factors in my writing (and in my mind.)  As I have been chewing on this some (and to be honest, I haven’t just attacked it in my pondering – it’s only had a corner of my mind, albeit a cluttered corner, a corner none the less) I was able to differentiate the idolatry of family from the idea of Self-centered dreams…a little bit.

“Preoccupation with results can turn the family into a measurement of success.”
 “…family becomes a badge of honor or trophy to be admired by others or God.” 
“When we allow the success of our family to determine our security or sense of well being we are seeking from it something God intends us to receive from Him.”

Those are tough words.  They are tough to process and they are tougher to implement.  I know them only too well.  I grew up in a family that was VERY concerned with how we looked to others.  My grandparents more so than anyone else.  I remember very clearly being cornered by an uncle who told me I was shaming the family by not completing college.  He told me that I was a disappointment to my grandparents and a cause for embarrassment to them in their public circles because of my choice to quit school and get married.  Being the gentle submissive child I was (OH BOY) I asked him if it would make them happier for me to continue in college, obtain a degree that I had no intention of using, spending money to gain that degree, only to remain home raising my family. He told me that once I got the degree, I would be smart enough to know better than to stay home with my children. By some miracle I remained silent.  (Something that happened even less then, than it does now, if you can imagine.)

“And we know we have made our family an idol when we put our hope and trust in it more than in God – we look to IT rather than to God for our identity and significance. And we know we look to our family for our significance when it has the most power to lift us up or to demoralize us.  It is most obvious in a public setting when we either glory in our children or become enraged when they embarrass us. Our children are either the source of our pride or our disappointment, depending on whether or not they help us achieve our image of a strong family.”

In addition to the familial influence…and that would include my Great Grandpa and Grandma Gardener  (You know – Gpa Adam and Gma Eve??) – I personally find this part of the discussion to be VERY hard.  I do not want to make excuses for the idols in my heart, for I fear they are many, BUT I do want to understand the issue of honor and it’s place – or lack thereof – here.  Biblically, we’re called to honor one another.  We’re called to consider others more important than ourselves.  Where is the line between idolatry and honor?

There is no doubt that anyone with more than 3 children undergoes a greater measure of censure and scrutiny while out in public.  We have seen that.  We have experienced that. It is very easy to see a child from a large family be an annoyance to someone just because they’re breathing. How do we encourage our children to consider others more important than themselves, while in ANY setting – public or not – and yet allow them to be children…be REAL?  Does it involve only my heart response?!!

Please, Molly and 6, help me with this one. I have been the tyrant mother who doesn’t allow their children to step one toe out of line.  I have been the ranting lunatic in the car, once we started driving, condemning the behavior of my children in whatever public setting we were in.  I do not do that any more.  I do not WANT to do that anymore.  But, on the same token, I do not want children who are rude and dishonoring to those around them.  Where is that line? 

For example, (this may be TMI) we just came off a weekend and a few days of “revival,” for lack of a better term. Due to recent changes in our church involvement, my children are unaccustomed to the “normal” church setting.  During worship, I had 2 children get up and go to the restroom.  Once the sermon started I had 4 others who were in and out, also going to the restroom.  Then one of the original two needed to go again, so up she got, which prompted a sibling to think she needed to take her to the bathroom, so there go 2 more children off to the restroom again.  I was standing at the back of the sanctuary with General Grumpus, rocking with her, so part way through, a few of the children decided they should come stand by me. Out of the row they climbed.  During the closing prayer, 2 more of our children decided that they were going to come join me at the back of the sanctuary, as well. 

We had people, with children, who were trying to listen and pay attention sitting behind us.  I freely admit, I was frustrated.  I was frustrated because my children never once considered those around them.  I didn’t (and still don’t) care what the woman, who was heaving sighs, was thinking of ME.  I care that my children caused her children to stumble. (and they did – it made her children ask about going to the bathroom over and over.)  I care that my children did not think of any one else.  Is this idolatry? How do we walk the line between calling our children to honor others by their behavior, without allowing it to slip into idolatry?

I need to stop here for right now.  That’s NOT all folks!  When I come back, we can talk about the “promise” of Scripture to have perfect children.

(PLEASE feel free to address my sin in the aforementioned example…or any other.  I want to be transparent as we process this together.  There’s no point in not doing so.  Besides, I might be able to hide my sin from you for a little while, but before long it would reveal itself in full array, no doubt.)

Side note: If you have come to read, but not join in the discussion, know that you are MOST welcome, but DON’T skip the comments!!  There you are able to read the wisdom of my Sisters and Brothers (HT:otto802) and not be left with just the thoughts dripping out of my fingers!!  Also, if you missed the original article – it is a MUST read and can be found here. It was written by Reb Bradley.  

8 Responses to “Keeping the home fires burning or sacrificing to the idol of family???”
  1. javadawn says:

    Hey 6 – TMI- Did ya see it, huh? huh??? ; )
    Posted 8/2/2006 at 8:29 AM by javadawn –

  2. javadawn says:

    yay for you dawn!! i smiled :). i only have a minute before the kidlets arise to bless my day with their freshly scrubbed faces, not one hair out of place, not a grudge or attitude among the cheery lot. are you done barfing yet??

    i know what it’s like to have kids in a church service who have never even BEEN in a church service. check us out the last 4 sundays!! i’ve got a few thoughts rambling in the ole’ bean, but i also have a few (thousand) items to clean up before the angels descend from their places of rest. let me mull this b/c i have the same questions. maybe from the other extreme? when our kids were sitting in church last sunday, they were either looking at books (ok, keep in mind the kids’ ages here -19mos, 3, 5, 7. the 4yr old was in children’s church and the 13yo was listening), playign with a magna doodle, coloring, or looking in a little mirror. dad had the baby on his lap. this kid has been in a church building all of 4 times in her life. but, he was working with her to not talk. a few times he had to discipline her but tried to do it discretely. so this older couple is sitting next to us and the guy is STARING at daniel and the magna doodle. just smiling away at his little industriousness. the kids did great, minimal noise, minimal movement, etc. after the service, the people sitting behind us make comments like, “your kids are so well behaved, they were so quiet”. so i smile and say thank you and feel a bit awkward. i usually want to make some comment about giving them drugs or how effective duct tape is. i DON’T want people to think our kids are angels. i DO want people to see that our kids are real and loving and kind and goofy. is it idolatry to be proud of my kids? i guess it is if when they disobey, i’m more concerned with how those around us think than the heart status of the little one disobeying.

    now, am i saying that when we go out our kids never do wrong things? HAH !! as anyone with lots of littles knows, you can only press with your thumb so far before they squish out the sides. but both dh and i tend to err on the side of controlling for the sake of appearances. we have to constantly be on the lookout for this pharissee-ism. my kids certainly see my heart and attitude at home. is it different in public? am i nicer to them when out than when at home? one of my kids once made a comment that she hoped we were having company come over because i was nicer to them in front of company. O.U.C.H.

    ok, so much for mulling this over :). now it’s 1/2 hour later and i REALLY have to get my munchkins out of bed. we’ve got company coming and i have to get my smile painted on before they arrive!!!

    i enjoy talking about this. i’m always open to share what new dumb things i’m doing as a parent that need corrected. humility is a GOOD thing, right? RIGHT??

    Posted 8/2/2006 at 9:05 AM by sixkidlets

  3. javadawn says:

    I have a million comments I want to make, but I don’t even know where to start, or how to go about organizing my thoughts on this.

    I will comment on the going to the bathroom thing. We went to a formal violin recital this spring, and my oldest went to the bathroom twice during the performance. He was sitting in a different row (we were in the short row section) and I wasn’t able to speak to him or stop him. He says that he didn’t know that wasn’t allowed (they even had the doors closed), but if he had been listening, he would have heard it announced in the beginning. Sure, I was a little embarassed–mostly because of his age–but I was primarily embarassed at the fact that we were being rude and possibly disturbing the performance and the enjoyment of the people around us. I personally think that’s a perfect reason to have a good talk with our kids. I don’t think that has anything to do with unrealistic expectations. FOR THEIR OWN SAKES they need to know what is appropriate behavior in any type of society. We are doing them a favor to educate and train them in this way and I don’t think that is pride or hypocrisy or whatever on our part. When we go to church, unless I feel like it is a genuine emergency, we do not use the restroom unless there is a break in service.

    My kids also get squirrely in church–overall they’re good, but the two year old isn’t there yet. He likes to sing “Amen” at the top of his voice, loudly announce that he has to go pee, loudly comment on any bird he sees flying by the windows, loudly ask to go play in the nursery, etc. I don’t feel that he is actually being “bad,” and if I think that we are being too disturbing, I just take him out. I do worry about hindering the worship experience of the other people there, so I really try to be careful about that, but I also realize that many people there have no idea what it is like to parent an active 2yo boy, or quietely supervise 5 children by myself. That’s just a fact, and I can’t go around apologizing or trying to explain or offering excuses. With regards to parenting, we all just have to make the decisions that seem right to our family in the light of God’s word, our parenting style, our list of what’s important and what works for us, and stop worrying for one second what anyone else thinks. Besides, only time ever shows the true results.

    It all seems to come down to the inevitable (and sometimes subconscious) comparison making that we humans seem to be programmed to (My big topic of thought right now). Bottom line: the more we find our identity and wholeness in Christ, the less we will care about the opinions of those around us, and the more we will be able to parent out of true love and concern for our children’s needs, with pure motives.

    How’s all that for disjointed, opinionated rambling?

    Posted 8/2/2006 at 10:44 AM by appleprocess

  4. javadawn says:

    Pretty coherent, if you’re asking me. : ) Add to that that delivery is imminent for you and I’m down right impressed.

    Now, if I could only just be more like you…… ; ) ; ) ; ) (Sorry, that was just BEGGING to be said!!) : D

    Posted 8/2/2006 at 10:50 AM by javadawn

  5. javadawn says:

    I’m kind of like Apple, in that I sit there by myself. Jeff is up front doing music (and leaves very early Sunday ams to prepare the building, etc), and so attending a service on Sunday is something I do with the children alone.

    At first it was doable…one girl, then two girls…even then, though, keeping a toddler quiet was work. I used to work with her each day for about 15 minutes, having a Quiet Time reading next to Mommy on the couch…so we could make it halfway through the church service without too much of a problem…though it got tricky if I was nursing the new baby she got it in her head to hop up and go visit the folks one pew over. At least, back then, I THOUGHT that was tricky. (HAHA)…

    So now three little boys are included in the pack, and it’s nuts. I call it good if I can make it through half the singing before I head downstairs with them. The two older girls are awesome, the oldest (7) actually staying in the whole service of her own accord. Honestly, even the oldest boy (4) is pretty amazingly good… It’s the baby and the toddler, as usual! :o) And, since my life has been one baby after another, it seems there is ALWAYS a baby and a toddler.

    So basically…I just quit caring.

    I *could* work with them all week so that they would sit still on Sundays so that *I* could do my grown-up thing, but for what? What good does all that work really accomplish? So I can sing 3 more songs? So that they can sit quietly for 10 more minutes than they already do? So I can look good to other people? (I’m too tired to care right now). As if sitting for 10 extra minutes is going to make them all grow up to be good Christians?

    So, we sit in the back, and we make it as long as we can make it, and then I head downstairs with them and let them play in the Nursery with me.

    I used to go to a service for what I could get out of it. Well, that’s a sure path to disappointment. So now I go for what I can give. And it seems like it’s a lot sweeter on a child’s soul to give them a smile than it is to be constantly griping at them for not sitting still. And even more importantly, I have a funny feeling that a two year old’s ability to sit still is not directly tied to his future spiritual outcome.

    I am all for children obeying, btw, and being able to sit when their mother tells them to. I’m just not up for making Sunday mornings any more stressful then they already are. I decided when #4 was born (and I got greeted that first Sunday am with disapproving looks from teh Sunday School spinstress for being late—–I like to see HER get a 4, 2, 1, and 2-week-old out the door! lol) that I didn’t care anymore—-that we were going to have FUN on Sundays, if anything.

    Sorry if I sound bitter or like I don’t care anymore. I’m not bitter…but it is true: I don’t care anymore. :o)

    The “we sit quietly in the church service” teaching, that says it is so important to sit as a family and for everyone to be silent, probably made me struggle through a couple extra years of stress before I finally quit caring. I wish I hadn’t bought into it. It only served to make me view Sunday mornings as the worst day of the week.

    Your very honest friend,


    Posted 8/2/2006 at 12:36 PM by mollyfromchoosinghome

  6. javadawn says:

    Thinking more on being able to parent out of true love and concern for our children’s needs:

    “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently,” I Peter 1:22.

    unfeigned: not as an actor with a mask, not with hypocrisy.

    pure: pure from unholy desires or inordinate affection.

    fervently: signifying intense strain, strong and tender affection.

    As I reflect on this verse, I also see a picture for parenting. Our love to our children is to be unfeigned–we are not to wear a mask or be hypocrites regardless of whether we are home or away. Our love is to be pure–free from unholy desires (our unrealistic expectations, our desire for them to consistently meet our standards, our desire for them to reflect positively on us.) Our love is also to be free of inordinate affection–we cannot put our children/family on a pedestal and have all of life, our hopes and dreams, and our identity rise and fall with the state of our family. I experienced the “overloving” parent as a child.

    As we are able to have an unfeigned, pure love, we must do this with fervency. None of this takes away from the fact that we must remain wholehearted, intense, continual, earnest, eager, constant, and overflowing in our parenting love–but that can only be done properly with the right kind of love as we OBEY THE TRUTH THROUGH THE SPIRIT.

    Posted 8/2/2006 at 12:38 PM by appleprocess

  7. javadawn says:

    It’s really all about where our heart’s at, I think. I mean I can be doing the same exact thing, let’s say training Levi to be quiet in church, and it can be right or wrong based just on why I’m doing it. Am I trying to impress others? Am I so determined to have him be perfect because that’s my goal – perfect kids? Do I not want to be embarrassed? Or am I trying to teach him to be quiet as a means to focus on worship and not disturb others? This is what makes walking with HIm so interesting (and so hard!). He’s not only worried about what we do – He’s much more concerned with why we do it.
    Posted 8/2/2006 at 11:13 PM by javafriend –

  8. javadawn says:

    You know, JF, I am continually amazed at how EVERYTHING He does is focused on my (our) hearts. AMAZED!!! Grateful, but amazed.
    Posted 8/3/2006 at 7:30 AM by javadawn

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