After Brett’s first day at Belmont North Primary School last week, he came home so excited about all of his new experiences including wearing a uniform and having lunch with the entire school (only 140 students). Kids were friendly, teachers were kind, and he felt welcomed right away. It seems his outgoing and confident American personality will carry on here in Australia.
The news of the day was that math is quite easy and lunch involved learning to play footy with the other boys. To me, however, the most interesting facts were that the kids cuss a lot and they play all the violent video games. He told his newfound friends that he isn’t allowed to play those or talk like that. Although I’m proud of him for standing up for himself and not feeling uncomfortable that there might be some differences in the way our home operates to theirs, it caused me to think.
As parents, we want our kids to move from obedience out of requirement to obedience out of desire. Brett, although not perfect by any means, aims to please his parents and authority figures most of the time. He knows right from wrong. However, the majority of the issues we all face involve areas that aren’t black and white. No one is going to hell for playing a video wrought with cartoon violence. And if our curse words eliminated us from heaven, I would have been disqualified a long time ago!
Brett’s first day of school opened a door for us to talk about the scripture that says what is lawful isn’t necessarily profitable (1 Cor 6:12). Some people think being a Christian is about a list of do’s and don’ts. The exact opposite is actually true. Living for God brings complete freedom. Check out the Message version of the same scripture: “Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I’d be a slave to my whims.”
When we live for ourselves, we are actually in bondage. Slaves to over-spending, sexual pleasure, gluttony, worry, fear, addiction. The list is endless. Only when we surrender ourselves to our Creator can we be completely free. The shift comes when we say we no longer obey just because just because God says (or mum says), but we make wise choices based on a desire to walk perfectly in God’s will for our lives.
As Brett grows up, our prayer is that he will mature and seek wisdom in every decision. Many choices are ok and wouldn’t even be classified as a sin, but that doesn’t mean they are wise. Andy Stanley wrote a whole book on this very topic called, “The Best Question Ever.”
The good news for us as parents is that it’s the work of the Holy Spirit who actually enables our kids to mature to this level. I know people who parent with an iron fist. The teenagers might obey in front of the parents but as soon as they have some freedom, rebellion ensues. When we wholeheartedly trust the Lord with our children, we no longer have to worry so much. Paul writes a similar thought to the Church at Philippi: “Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important”… Here’s the part that frees me from worry: “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:12,13).
As our kids grow up, we will steer them while keeping our convictions despite what the rest of the crowd might say. Our loving environment is open for discussion every night before bed; it’s a safe place they can fall along the way. And Greg and I will spend time on our knees, asking God to give our kids the desire to do what pleases him. The Holy Spirit will be faithful to do just this and maybe we can take a little credit someday too!