Pat Answers

I didn’t think a thing about it. She asked, I answered. My tone and my demeanor were kind. The words were what I felt were truth – so why did the Lord put His finger on my lips?!!

It was such a simple little thing – she asked if we could buy some new art supplies. I responded with, “Nope, Sweetie, not right now. We can’t afford them…maybe another time.”

See? My words were gentle, they were true, they were…what I thought wise. But, shortly after speaking them, I felt the Holy Spirit tapping me and saying, “That isn’t right. You didn’t speak Truth to your daughter.” “HUH?!! What’s not true? We can’t afford to buy new stuff – especially when we already have plenty – so what is not true about what I said?”

“Your words implied to your daughter that the issue surrounding the purchase or lack there of, of art supplies revolved around whether or not you could “afford” them. I could provide the money right now and you could afford them. Would you buy them, then? Is the affording them the REAL issue or are you teaching your daughter things about purchases that simply aren’t true?”

I pondered on this for a while and suddenly I had a new understanding of how I use that phrase, “We can’t afford that.” I use it as a catch-all. When I say that, I then remove the need to stop and train my daughter/children about purchasing things. I don’t take the time to stop and ask “Is this something we feel the Lord would have us buy? Is this something that we need? Why do we want this? Is it to impress others? Is it to appease our bored souls? Is this something that He would have us get and give away?” There are simply too many dynamics at play here that I was ignoring (neglecting) when I gave her that pat answer.

It certainly causes me to stop and ponder – are there other pat answers I give my children? Are there other times I simply offer others words…just gray empty words, when in fact, I have a rainbow of answers available, all that would direct their eyes toward the Lord?! (I know, even as I ask this that the answer is yes. Yes, yes a thousand times yes!)

Oh Lord, make me attentive to my pat answers. I want to make certain that my children see You in all the questions, all the answers that they have. Keep me from being lazy in my responses, but rather ever listening to You – learning how better to answer the questions they bring. Don’t let me miss the moments.

(Ladies, please understand, I’m not saying that there isn’t a time/place for “pat answers” I’m simply sharing a new way of understanding/looking at one that I have been giving the kids all the time.)

6 Responses to “Pat Answers”
  1. winkies6 says:

    I totally understand this concept. The worst feeling I have gotten was when I have said we couldn’t afford something, but there is enough money for a mocha from the buck of stars. Nothing like ruining a good cup o’ caffeine!

  2. javadawn says:

    Agreed- that IS a bad feeling – but this is more than just that – it’s the idea that I have allowed my children to believe our decisions are made based only on what the budget dictates.

    In other words, by saying, “We can’t afford that.” I’m teaching, by implication, that if we could afford that, we’d get it. That might be the case or it might not. In the case of the art supplies, it would not have been the case. We don’t need new supplies, as we have sufficient for this season. Yet, rather than addressing her heart attitude -her desire for MORE when it wasn’t needed – I blew off the opportunity to teach her about seeking Father – by giving her this pat answer of “We can’t afford new art supplies.”

    AND there have been other times that we didn’t have the money in our budget for things that the Lord has CLEARLY told us to spend money on. (Generally, these have been gifts for other people, but not always.)

    You know, I understand that Scripture spends a lot of time talking about money, but I have to wonder if it has a whole lot more to do with the state of our submitted hearts and a whole lot more to do with our relationship with people than it actually has to do with money, itself. (Does that make ANY sense?!!!)

  3. Patricia says:

    Makes perfect sense! One of my favorite picture books from the library that I read to my children when they were little was a story about a boy who visited his grandfather at the beach over the summer. On a trip to town, his grandfather manages to give money or groceries (I can’t remember the exact scenario) to an elderly woman without her knowing it, and when his grandson questions why he did that, the grandfather tells him that people are always more important than things. But, of course, the other point that you are making is that we often miss teachable moments with our children when we offer pat answers in our response to their questions. Excellent insights, Dawn.

  4. winkies6 says:

    Totally made sense! I have said to my kids many a time, we can’t afford that, it’s too much money…. AND even if we could afford that, I wouldn’t buy it because we have XYZ already… And that’s when my oldest usually looks thoughtful and says, “true.” and shrugs it off. 🙂
    I am in no way implying that I am perfect at this, but I have said this to my kids before. 🙂

  5. javadawn says:

    Oh Winkies, well done!

    I have had times when I’ve thought to give a response to other pat answer questions, I don’t know why this one has been so elusive for me. 😕 I think because it hasn’t occured to me to take the time to ask the Lord about something that seems so obvious to me – the money isn’t there, what’s the debate?

    I think too, this has something to do with where we’re going with our businesses – there are going to be times when we simply must ask Father about each cent, rather than assuming we know how best to spend our money.

    Patricia ~ I’d love to know the name of the book you’re talking about. Sounds like a good read aloud for my crew!

    Thanks for the encouragement re: making sense, it’s always good to know I’m getting it across. 🙂

  6. Margie says:

    Thanks for posting this, Dawn. I have been pondering your thoughts since reading them yesterday.

    I am guilty of giving that same pat answer to my girls with entirely too much frequency. Mikayla keeps saying “we are so poor.” That bothers me, because while we do have to watch our spending, we are so blessed! I kept wondering how she got the idea that we are “so poor” until I read your blog. My pat answer is “I don’t have ANY money.”

    Our study in the book of Daniel points out that the mentality of Babylon was one of over-indulgence, gluttony, etc…. That is no different from the mentality of our culture. My girls are bombarded with materialism continually. I am missing the lesson if I jump to the pat answer rather than take the time to teach the Lord’s lesson.

    God tells us that His yoke is light, but it is still work. If we are willing to take the time to really teach our children God’s ways, then we are freeing them and ourselves from the much heavier yoke of materialism. But, it takes time and energy to teach. 🙂

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