thatmom

real encouragement for real homeschooling moms

exhorting our children as they discover their callings ~ grace in parenting part five

“Exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:13

Being a mom is sort of like being all the people who crowd into a basketball arena all at once. Sometimes we are the players, the ones who are responsible for everything that is going on and our presence is front and center. Sometimes we are the coaches, giving comfort and encouragement, instructing with a clipboard in hand. Other times we are the referees, no striped shirts required but whistles are a must to break up the disputes when the game isn’t played as per the rules. Still other times we are the fans, cheering wildly from the stands, shouting from a distance but not from the floor. And then there are the days when we are the cheerleaders, the ones who scream “Yeah, you can do it.”

When we think of exhortation, probably all of these characteristics come to mind. How important it is for mom to set the tone, give the orders, cheering both up close and from a distance, and to keep things running as per the rules. It is interesting that the word exhort in the Biblical sense embodies all of these tasks and I believe it is one of the most important acts that a mom must do on a daily basis, especially as we prepare our children for the future.

The Greek word for exhort is “parakaleo” and is found 16 times in the New Testament, the only word translated as such. It comes from two root words, “para” and “kaleo.” “Para” means close proximity, joined, alongside of and suggests encouraging both by strengthening and comforting. “Kaleo” which means “to call” is the same word used by Christ to call certain ones to be his disciples and also to invite people by the preaching of the Gospel. The word given to the Holy Spirit, “paraclete” means one who consoles, one who intercedes on our behalf, a comforter or an advocate (an attorney) and comes from the same root words.

As I have been thinking about the application of obeying the one anothering commands with our children, knowing that they are our own brothers and sister in Christ, I have thought of several ways we can exhort our children, coming alongside them and comforting and encouraging them. Here are a few of them:

1. We need to exhort our children, helping them understand that there is no such thing as a secular calling. All callings from the Lord are sacred, no matter what field of study or work they do. I love the story Os Guiness tells about his great great grandmother. Widowed at a young age and overwhelmed with her responsibilities of caring for little ones, she decided she was going to jump off of a bridge into the fast moving current of the river below. As she stood at the railing’s edge, she looked up and happened to see a farm boy plowing his field into meticulous rows, each one in perfect parallel to the one before. As she watched him, mesmerized by his work, it occurred to her that if this young man could take such care and pride in such a simple task, she could certainly do the same in the important job of raising her children. She left the bridge and eventually remarried a man who would later become the great great grandfather of Os Guiness. Though the farmer never knew it, his work was, indeed, a sacred act.

2. As parents, we are the first to recognize the natural gifts and abilities that the Lord has given to our children and our encouragement of those gifts can grow into a lifelong pursuit of study and learning. When our daughter was quite young, she became fascinated with the piano in my parent’s home. She would often make a beeline for the piano at church and pulled herself up on the piano bench to play. When she was old enough for piano lessons we bought a piano and from the very first days never had to remind her to practice. As her pieces became more difficult to learn, she would sometimes have weeks of discouragement when challenging passages challenged her to tears. My husband always seemed to recognize those times and would stop at a music store after work to bring home a new CD that he knew she would enjoy. Without fail, his small gesture of encouragement made all the difference to her and communicated in a very tangible way that he believed in her gifts.

3. We can exhort our children best when we learn their love languages and use them to comfort and inspire them. Coming alongside our children and spending lots of time with them, we learn to know which ways we can best express our love to them. The same is true when it comes to exhorting our children. Gary Chapman, in his famous Love Language books, describes the 5 ways we can communicate love to our kids: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. When we see an area of life where our children are struggling, discussing it with them and working through it alongside of them can be accompanied by their love language, making the impact of our efforts much more effective. Perhaps your son is struggling with the desire to be involved in sports but is also at an awkward stage of physical development. If his love language is receiving gifts, maybe a DVD the shows the special techniques used by his favorite professional athlete would encourage him. If he responds to physical touch, giving him a back rub as he shares his struggles with you conveys to him your comfort and care of him.

4. We must be careful to never superimpose our own desires and preferences for their callings in life on our children, instead trusting that the Lord has a very special plan for each child and that it doesn’t have to reflect or be the same as ours. One of the most insidious teachings that is coming out of the patriocentric movement within homeschooling circles today is Doug Phillips’ and Geoff Botkin’s 200 year plan. Rather than encouraging young people to seek the Lord and to fulfill God’s calling in their lives, young people are taught that they are created to fulfill their fathers’ callings, ones that are predetermined for them, presumably the very ones Geoff Botkin has outlined for them. In contrast to this, while I agree that God does call out and work through families, each of us is accountable before the Lord for fulfilling the callings God gives to us as individuals. Luke 12:48 exhorts us that “unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” Those of us who have been given the awesome responsibility of parenthood would do well to remember that much will be required of us as it will be of our children to whom this verse is also written.

5. We should exhort our children by word and deed that their callings are not for their own profit but are both for the good of their neighbor and for the glory of God. It is so tempting to glory in the successes of our homeschooled children. There are typically many in which to be proud and our children need to know that we ARE proud of them. But more importantly, they need to understand that God does not give them abilities and gifts nor does He call them into His service in order to benefit them personally. Their callings are to bring God alone glory and they are to bless others so that the testimonies of the Lord may be known. In his book The Call, Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life, Os Guiness asks these questions: “Do you want the best and most wonderful gifts God has given you to decay, spent on your own self? Or do you want them to be set free to come into their own as you link your profoundest abilities with your neighbor’s need and the glory of God?” As parents, we should be asking those questions and coming alongside our children as they seek to answer them by God’s grace.

6. The sense of personal calling on the lives of our children will keep them going during those times of discouragement and difficulty that are certain to come to them and we would do well to prepare them for those times and to come alongside them during them. Early on our children must embrace the truth that God has no plan B for their lives, only a plan A, and that He is bringing that plan to pass in spite of our best efforts or worst mistakes. Sometimes our children sin miserably and, lost in our own grief and disappointment, we forget this truth ourselves. But it is during these very times that we need to fulfill the calling God gave to us as parents to comfort, exhort, admonish, strengthen, and encourage our children, affirming God’s forgiveness and watch care. I love reading the story of Jonah, of his refusal to obey the Lord, his recognition that he was in the belly of the fish, the biggest mess of his life, because of his disobedience and that it was God who placed him there. In the second chapter he cries out to the Lord for mercy and deliverance and then makes this profound statement: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” How well Jonah summed up the loss experienced by following other life plans than the one God has for each believer. If our children fail and try to run away from the Lord by sinning against God through disobedience, especially by following a call He has not placed on their lives, they need to know that God may use amazing and painful ways to bring them back to him. They need to understand that God is also a merciful and gracious God who is swift to forgive. We should do likewise.

“Oh Lord, being an exhorter of children is hard work and it is sometimes painful. It always requires diligence and perseverance. Mostly it requires Your grace. Today, please pour it out on me, in full measure. Amen.”

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3 Comments»

  Jerzy wrote @

Karen,

What a lovely and practical article. I just finished reading this morning in “Assumptions that Affect our Lives” by Christian Overman that the influence of Plato and Aristotle in Christian thought has been so pervasive that it is now almost impossible to separate it out. The idea that there are secular callings and spiritual callings is completely foreign to Hebrew thought. What kind of disservice has this done to so many?

  thatmom wrote @

Jersy, I can’t tell you how many times I have watched young people struggle with the thought that being a disciple of Jesus meant that they had to be in “full time Christian service” and the result was men who were not at all cut out for the ministry. I can remember one older man who had served as a deacon in his church for decades lamenting the fact that there were so many pastors who really were tremendously gifted in other fields but who had terrible people skills and study skills.

Our kids need to understand that God gives them incredible gifts that are to be used in His service, all to the glory of God. You would probably really enjoy Os Guinness’ book the Call. You can chew on a few paragraphs for a while and still think about what you read months later!

  Hillary wrote @

As always, excellent article! Number 4 is especially poignant.


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