"Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for,
my joy and crown,
so stand fast in the Lord,
my dearly beloved...
Rejoice in the Lord alway:
and again I say, Rejoice.
Let your moderation be known unto all men.
The Lord is at hand.
Be careful for nothing;
but in every thing
by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known unto God.
And the peace of God,
which passeth all understanding,
shall keep your hearts and minds
through Christ Jesus.
are of good report;
there be any virtue,
there be any praise,
think on these things.
which ye have both learned,
and seen in me,
and the God of peace shall be with you."
Phil 4.1, 4-9
One of my kiddos came to me recently, giggling and dying to tell me a joke. We'd just arrived at the pool and said child was refusing to get in until I listened - so I pulled up a chair, patted the seat and the child sat down to begin the telling...
However, just a few sentences into the joke, I had to stop my precious one. The joke had rapidly turned crude and I felt the Holy Spirit clearly say, "You can't listen to this... you can't encourage ******** in the repetition of these types of jokes." The recounter quickly assured me that this was the only bad part and the ending was so funny that it was worth it. That is dangerous ground... a slippery slope...
And I felt totally caught between a rock and a hard place... with more questions than answers and definitely having no clue how to proceed. This was not one of those things I'd learned in Parenting 101...
- Who had told my child a joke like this? (I'd like to give that one a piece of my mind!)
- Hadn't we done a better job of parenting? (Or could this one be innocent and not recognize the implications and innuendo of what had just been said? Umm... I didn't really think so.)
- Why in the world would my kid think this sort of thing was funny - when it was obviously crude? (And why in the world is this child telling this sort of joke to Mom?)
- How in the world do I gently and firmly correct without crushing spirit and damaging relationship? (I need to let this dear one know that I could never approve of such a joke... and neither could the Savior s/he professes to follow - but I also don't want to dam up communication. In some senses, I'm honored to be trusted well enough to have one of my kids share a "risky" joke.)
- How do I let the Holy Spirit be the teacher... because I don't even have any ideas this time?
- What if my child doesn't listen to the Spirit and continues to tell or repeat this sort of vulgarity?
- How do I teach graciously and gently stopping... leaving the scene when one of their buddies begins to do or say something... and the Holy Spirit quietly whispers, "This is not pleasing to me... it should not be pleasing or entertaining to you..."?
- How do I model every day... help teach them to internalize and live every day the words of Philippians 4 scribed above?
It was obvious that feelings were hurt and that my child felt a bit betrayed when I would not listen... but by God's grace, we continued talking. I shared how not listening to the Holy Spirt when He speaks sears our conscience... it hardens us for the next time making it more difficult to respond the way God wants. I re-iterated several times that for me to continue to listen to that joke would be sinful, for me. I shared about how hard it is a) to say no, b) to gently ask someone to stop, or c) to graciously and quietly leave the scene when they won't stop or when asking is inappropriate - especially when someone you want to please or impress is involved... be it peers, an older siblings' friends, extended family, folks from school who don't know Jesus, parents, grandparents, etc.
I also shared how this was the very first time, sitting by the pool with my own child, that I myself was courageous enough to obey- stopping someone from sharing something that would have been sin for me to hear. In the past, if I've done anything, I've simply ducked out of the situation, sometimes deceptively. I had never tried to gently, lovingly and graciously confront. I had never before said to someone engaging in unwholesome communication to please stop, because I was Holy Spirit convicted, found it offensive and didn't want to hear the rest. I had never had the courage until right then, that very moment, with my own child. Would I have the same courage if it was Daddy? or an older friend, an older relative? someone with whom I work? I haven't... yet, but through God's empowerment, I pray that will begin to change.
I think... I hope... it was comforting to know that even for Mom as an adult, self-extraction from a situation that compromises our integrity before our God is scary, hard, sometimes painful and may result in consequences that continue... and continue to hurt. I'm also relieved that even though this was one of the harder parenting conversations I've ever had, the child respondedly sweetly... teachably... to God be the glory!
I'm sure this won't be the last time this kind of discussion takes place. Psalm 1 says, "Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly... nor standeth in the way of sinners... nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful." I want my children to have this blessing. I want this blessing. Thus, I must work on this very thing. I cannot change the fact that people I respect, seek to honor, love and trust, and whom I believe seek to follow Jesus are still sinners. Their conversation and actions can be, at times, ungodly, and if I listen, if I participate... I sin, I encourage others in their sin and I lose that blessing spoken of in Psalm 1. And only God knows the power of this sort of gentle testimony before those who don't yet know Him.
This is so important to me, as a mama, that maybe... with the Lord's help... if I begin to model this response before my children... they'll "catch" a biblical behavior that I have no idea how to teach, they'll learn an obedience I'm not quite sure how to do myself.
...Not to mention that I keep thinking back to the theme of one of yesterday's posts: "Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not do what I say?"
How do you handle this sort of situation in your life,
in your family, with your children?
How do you disciple (or plan to disciple)
your children (or children with whom you work)
as they face this very sort of thing?
How do you encourage others around you
to follow those quiet, but difficult promptings of the Holy Spirit?