"If you cannot train your children to do as they ought it is far better to lower your standards and enjoy them as they are than to allow your looks of displeasure to become the norm. A kid may grow up to be undisciplined and self-willed, but there is no reason to add to it a feeling of being unloved and unable to please."
These words arrested my attention earlier this week as I grazed through an article entitled: "Six Ways Parents Destroy Their Children Without Trying." * They fell under point #3: Expressing displeasure regularly. Ah yes, familiar theme. I stand guilty as charged. This has been a hard lesson for me to learn. My children bear its marks.
Loving our kids, we naturally want them to be good. When they are not, we frown. They try harder, we expect great things. They prove to be human, flawed, and they fall short. If we are still frowning and goading them on mercilessly, relationship suffers and eventually the ones not cut out to be goody-goodies give up trying, feeling like failures themselves and steeling themselves to further condemnation as best they can. Loving fellowship of parent and child is lost. What has gone wrong?
The paragraph goes on to remind that: "…child training is causing the child to want to please you and be like you. They will want to please you only when they find pleasure in your presence." This rings true to me, and I commend to you the rest of the article if you are yet rearing young under your roof, but I'm considering another angle, namely how our parenting flaws reflect our own misunderstandings of God's favor toward us.
How do we see God as parenting us? If we perceive Him as having a frowning countenance toward us, his children, exasperated at our constant need to be reminded of house rules, disappointed by our ineptness, tired of waiting for us to act more mature….then what? How fast will we be to run to Him when we need Him most, to treasure time alone with Him, to be eager to do whatever He says? Do we view God as regularly displeased or never quite satisfied with our conduct, whether it be things we do or things we have failed to do? Are we forever 'falling short' in our own estimations and concluding this is how God sees us too? Or do we see Him as a Father who loves us so extravagantly that there's nothing we can do (or not do) to alter His favor toward us and His enjoyment of us as His dearly loved children!
Is favor with God something we must earn/covet/work up a great desperation for? Is He really holding us at arms' length until we 'get it right', become better witnesses, do more, love better, live more consistently victorious lives, or just plain get desperate enough? And what does God really want from us?
If these are not myths you've labored under or questions you've had, be thankful! You need read no further. But if like me you struggle to believe that all the favor you could ever have is already yours in Christ, then read on and with me be glad it's never too late to be transformed by the extraordinary reality of God's favor.
As I read Scripture I see that while we were yet His enemies God extended a peace offering (Rom.5:10), not contingent on our doing anything but saying 'Yes' to Him. "Yes", I need You. I need mercy. I need grace. I need the sacrifice of Your Son who took my guilt and died to pay for it, so that the righteous requirements of the Law could at last be fully met in me!” (Rom.8:4) On the basis of His Son I am henceforth (and yes, I love those old words!) looked on with favor, exceedingly great favor, the favor with which God looks at Jesus! It is incredible, imaginable only in fairy tales perhaps, but nonetheless true. We have found favor with God; no striving needed. No kicking ourselves into greater service, greater devotion, greater passion. He cannot love us more. We can not earn, finagle, or wrest greater favor from Him than we already have in Christ.
Really, think about it, if there was nothing we could do to bring ourselves into relationship with God in the first place except to respond to His overtures, then why do we think that somehow now we must become high-achievers if we are to keep that favor? It's not based on our efforts; it never was. How could there be any greater favor to work for than that which we have because of Jesus?
And yet, I like the idea of 'being good', of meriting favor and I look for examples…How about Mary? The angel came to her and said 'you have found favor with God' (Lk.1:30) What had she done? We have no record. What did she have to do next? Nothing; just believe and wait for the Spirit to impregnate her to carry out her Father's bidding… Favor is God's prerogative, not ours.
And I think of Noah, a righteous man in his generation. He found favor in the eyes of the Lord. How's that? Well, the text says He walked with God. (Gen. 6:8) What does that mean? It brings to mind the verse: "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" Amos 3:3 Or as Jim is known to say: “Friends agree". And I think this is the answer to that other question, What then does God want of us? He wants us to agree with Him, about everything. This is faith. This is the root of repentance. This is what He wants of us, to walk with Him, enjoying His favor, hanging on His wisdom and saying, 'Yes, you're right.' He just wants relationship with us. He's done all the footwork. He's pleased.
For this reason there was that grand announcement 2000+ years ago:
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased" or alternately, "peace to men on whom his favor rests." (NIV) Luke 2:14 Well the News was for the joy of 'all the people' because at last the promised Savior had been born to them. But God's favor rests secure only for those who welcome this News. It is secured by faith.
Which brings me back to that thought on child training: "…child training is causing the child to want to please you and be like you. They will want to please you only when they find pleasure in your presence."
Am I finding pleasure in God's presence day-by-day-- living, breathing, meditating on His Word? Is walking with Him in obedience duty or delight? Am I eager to see His face? The answer to these questions has everything to do with my perception of His extraordinary favor. And the proof of comprehension will be in the reflection of His smiling face in my own!
“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Ps.16:11
“He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8
"For what the law could not do, in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did, sending His own son in the likeness of sinful man, and so He condemned sin in sinful man, that the righteous requirements of the Law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit." Rom.8:3,4
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Eph.5:1,2
"…the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you" Numbers 6:25
*Michael Pearl, No Greater Joy, Jan-Feb.2013, p.23. (Though I don’t agree with every opinion in this article, there are many pearls of wisdom! –LS)