A Wise Woman Builds

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

A leading reason people need marital counseling is difficulty with in-laws.  Sometimes a wife compares everything her husband does to what her father did and is quick to express disappointment and criticism when her husband does not meet expectations. Sometimes a husband is more loyal to his mother than he is to his wife.

Ever seen one of those difficult marital situations where the husband has never cut the apron strings from his mother? Ever witnessed the pain resulting from a wife idolizing her hero-daddy to the neglect of her husband? Both situations spell trouble. How can this be prevented, especially when the parents in these situations are often emotionally and spiritually needy to the point where they are dependent on the unhealthy attachment to their married son or daughter? Let me share a story with you.

I have a godly friend named Flo who is the mother of four boys. All four of her sons are Christians. All four are married to Christians. All four couples are raising their children in church faith-communities. Flo has devoted her life to her family, having been a full-time, stay-at-home Mom during her child-raising years. She was involved with each of her boys and supportive of their various activities and areas of involvement. As her boys grew older, she developed healthy adult friendships with them.

Flo once shared with me some advice she shared with each of her sons before they married. Her words went something like this: “Son, you have to love her more than you love me. You have to choose her over me. If you are not ready to do that, you are not ready to be married. She has to come first.”  Even though Flo loved her boys and had a good relationship with them, she knew that her boys needed to “leave father and mother” so that they could be united with their wives.

These words of wisdom helped shape her sons’ devotion to their wives. In situations when she felt like interfering, she would remind herself of that advice she had shared with her sons. And so these words also helped prevent Flo from speaking words that might have been hurtful to her sons’ marriages.

In an age of helicopter parents who hover over and interfere in their children’s lives, even if they are married adults, I appreciate the wisdom Flo shared with her sons. In an age where mothers and fathers are so emotionally and spiritually needy they cannot bear to “cut the apron strings,” I admire a woman who is emotionally and spiritually healthy enough to release her sons so they may be fully devoted to their wives.

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (Proverbs 14:1).

What are we telling the kids?

“O God, we have heard it with our own ears—our ancestors have told us of all you did in their day, in days long ago: You drove out the pagan nations by your power and gave all the land to our ancestors. You crushed their enemies and set our ancestors free. They did not conquer the land with their swords; it was not their own strong arm that gave them victory. It was your right hand and strong arm and the blinding light from your face that helped them, for you loved them” (Psalm 44:1-3  NLT).

The psalmists had heard it. All the people had heard it. They had heard it with their own ears. They had heard it all their lives. They had heard it from their ancestors. It had been passed down from generation to generation.

This really connects with us, right? We really need to tell it to the kids. We need to pass it down. We need to make sure future generations know it.

It.

It?

So what exactly is it?

For many of us today the it we have heard from our ancestors is very different from the it passed down to the psalmist.

For many of us today the it we want to pass down to our children is very different from the it the psalmists would tell their children.

For many of us…
The it we tell our children is what we have done.
The it we tell our children is how we have done what we have done.
The it we tell our children is that they should do what we have done the way way we have done what we have done.

But for the psalmists…
The it they heard from their ancestors was about what God had done.
The it they heard from their ancestors was about how God had done what God had done.
The it they would tell their children was that God could be trusted.

Are we telling it to the kids?

What is it we are telling the kids?

I often hear people talk about the kids have rejected God. Before we reach that conclusion, we better take a long hard look at what they have rejected. Could it be that what they have rejected has more to do with us and our ways and less to do with God and God’s ways? And could it be that what is sorely needed right now is a generation that will tell the kids not about themselves and their ways, but about God and God’s ways.

What are we telling the kids?

Daddy-Daughter Date Night

Some of my best memories are of Daddy-Daughter date nights with my daughter, Laura. I remember a night at the Circus, Sesame Street on Ice, concerts, and one dinner-date at Olive Garden that neither of us will ever forget. Both of us love the garlic bread at Olive Garden, so we decided to ask the waiter if we could have “extra, extra garlic” on our bread. Let me tell you, we got exactly what we asked for! We smelled like garlic for a week! Nearly 15 years later, we are still laughing about that experience.

Daddy-Daughter date nights were so special to both of us. When Laura served as a youth ministry intern in Abilene she organized a Daddy-Daughter date night that was a huge success. The daughters of the church were blessed by their fathers and grandfathers. The last such night I enjoyed with Laura was this summer when I went down to visit her in Houston. We enjoyed visiting an art museum and took in a performance of Spamalot. We had an awesome time just being together.

Daddy-Daughter date nights were pretty easy to arrange and were often inexpensive when Laura was living at home. But now she’s gone and guess what? Your daughter (or grand-daughter) will be gone from home sooner than you think. If you have a daughter or granddaughter, I want to encourage you to have a Daddy-Daughter date night.

If you are looking for a good event to which you can take your daughter on a Daddy-Daughter date night, may I suggest the Disney on Ice production that is running at the Fed-Ex Forum September 6-9. Here’s a description –

“Believing is just the beginning when Princess Wishes comes to FedExForum September 6-9. Witness the magic when Ariel, Cinderella, Belle, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Jasmine and Mulan all make their wishes come true in this collection of celebrated tales wonderfully told through artistic skating and acrobatics. With the help of the magical pixie Tinker Belle, the Disney Princesses’ embark on an adventure to find their heart’s fondest wish.”

For more information, click the link — http://www.fedexforum.com/displayEvent.aspx?id=371

From Peanut Butter and Jelly to Idolatry

Once when our children were young Lourene and I were getting ready to go on a church field trip especially for parents with young children. The children were supposed to have a sack lunch with them so they could eat a picnic lunch at a park.

There was one particular family that was going with us that was going through a trying time. The parents were straining to get done everything they needed to accomplish within the confines of a 24 hour day. They were burning the candle at both ends, as the old saying goes.

Most of the children were going to take peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in their sack lunch. Knowing how stressed this one family was, Lourene offered to make their son a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. When she made the offer to the stressed mother, her proud response was memorable: “Oh, no thank you, Billy only eats sandwiches I make. He says that mine are the best and he doesn’t want any made by anyone else.”

20 years later, I still remember this response. I think it was burned in my memory because it was clear at the time and became even clearer in subsequent years that this mother’s identity was totally wrapped up in her children thinking that she was it. The kids couldn’t eat food prepared by others. They couldn’t be left with a babysitter. They couldn’t go to the nursery at church.

Now I’m all for parents being devoted to their children. And I’m all for children loving their parents. But there is real danger when a mother gets her full sense of identity and fulfillment from her children. And there is real danger when children are not allowed to interact with and learn to trust people other than their parents. Put another way, there is danger when Mom tries to be God to her child. And there is danger when Mom becomes addicted to her child’s worshipping her as God. What looks like being a good mother (or father) can cross the line to idolatry.

O God, help us view our parental roles as that of stewards. May we realize that our children really belong to You and that You have entrusted them to our care for a time. And may we be content to be Your servants, giving You all praise and glory.

Kid CEO

In his helpful book, Kid CEO {How To Keep Your Children From Running Your Life}, Ed Young explores the challenges of marriage after children enter the family arena. Young is especially concerned about children becoming the center of the family universe. He colorfully describes the situation as children becoming “Kid CEO” while their parents becoming “the support staff.” The results, say Young, are devastating.

I want to share a couple of extended quotes from this book which might be thought provoking.

“What is happening in these homes is a crisis of leadership. The truth of the matter is that leaders aren’t leading. Parents in many families today aren’t stepping up and paving a path of purpose. In fact, what is happening is a role reversal. In other words, kids are running the asylum. They are leading, and the parents are following. As a result, the home has become a lop-sided landslide of mayhem – it has become kid driven rather than parent driven” (page 5).

“The tug of war begins the moment the ob-gyn slaps a baby on the rear end and says, ‘It’s a boy’ or ‘It’s a girl.’ Immediately, an organizational shift occurs. With the entrance of a child into the family system, a dual resignation takes place. The wife resigns from her primary role, that of being the wife, and she becomes a mother. She immerses herself in the lives of her children, their every need, want, and desire. In essence, she marries
them. . . . Likewise, the husband resigns from his primary role, that of being a husband, and becomes a father” (pages 5-6).

Throughout the book Young explores ways in which to keep this from happening. I think young couples especially would find some of the material very helpful, including his thoughts on maintaining sexual intimacy after children are born, discipline, and raising well-rounded children (he has some very strong words about limiting your child’s extra-curricular activities).

My wife and I have always thought one of the keys to successful parenting is to parent with the end in mind. Throughout our years of raising kids we frequently asked, “Where will this ultimately take us?” Or, put another way, “If we start down this road with our children, where will it lead us and them?” We had a specific goal in mind for our children, we wanted them to be able to turn them loose and let them function as Christian young adults. As a result of these long-held beliefs, I really enjoyed the closing section of Young’s book on embracing the ultimate goal of parenting.

“No other job is as rewarding, fulfilling, or difficult as that of being a parent. But just like our professional careers, parenting does have a beginning and an end. Some may say that once we have kids, we are parents for the rest of our lives. That is true, in a sense. But in very hands-on terms, it is a finished responsibility when our kids leave home. After that, our relationship with our kids morphs into one of counselor and friend. We might even say that, as parents, we are actually working ourselves out of a job” (page 214).

Here’s one more quote taken from the book’s concluding thoughts.
“When it comes right down to it, parenting is a celebration of the uniqueness and individuality of children. And when your kids do finally leave home, you will be rejoicing, not because you you’re glad to see them go, but because you have done what God wanted you to do. That’s what it’s all about – coming to the end of the adolescent road and seeing your children blossom into loving, caring adults with all of the character qualities, skills, and confidence they need to make it on their own” (page 227).

If I were to summarize what I think is one of the keys to successful parenting it would go something like this: if you want to be ready to confidently send your kids out into the world prepared to run their own lives, don’t let them run the family while they are growing up. That’s very close to what Young is saying in this helpful book.

Daddy-Daughter Date Night

Since my daughter was just a little girl she and I have regularly shared Daddy-Daughter Date Nights. We have done all kinds of things together — from Sesame Street on Ice to concerts to travelling Broadway productions. One of the most vivid memories of a Daddy-Daughter Date Night was the time when Laura was still in elementary school and we went to an Olive Garden for dinner. Laura decided to ask for “extra-extra garlic” on our breadsticks. I think she was somewhat surprised when the waiter said, “Sure.” We both smelled of garlic for nearly a week after we ate it. To this day we still talk about that being the best bread we have ever eaten.

Well Laura is not a little girl anymore, but we still enjoy an occasional Daddy-Daughter Date Night. Tomorrow I am going to make a quick trip to Houston so we can see the production of Spamalot together. I am so excited to have this time with her. I don’t know where we will eat dinner before or after Spamalot, but I bet one of us will joke about ordering “extra-extra garlic.”

God is so good.

Parenting As Self-Worship

Back in graduate school I read a book by Larry Crabb out of necessity. A professor assigned it as required reading for a counseling course I was taking. Some assigned books you read and once you have taken the test you never think of them again. Not so with Crabb’s work. In fact, through the years I have read just about every book Crabb has written. I have enjoyed watching his spiritual journey through the years. Whenever I finish reading his latest release I begin looking forward to his next book.

This morning I have been reminded of an especially memorable passage from SoulTalk, published in 2003, in which Crabb shares what he believes was his biggest mistake as a parent. Through the years I have tried to express this same thought to parents, particularly young parents just beginning their task as stewards, but I have never been able to state it as clearly as Crabb does.

“My biggest mistake as a parent was to love our two sons too much. When each was born, I immediately added him to my list of first things. I didn’t see it; the mists of self-deception formed a thick dark cloud in front of my eyes, and what I thought was godly love for them was really narcissistic love for me. I was caved in on myself as I went to their ball games, coached them in tennis, disciplined them firmly, and taught them Scriptures.

“Seeing them turn out well—a legitimate second-thing desire—became a key piece of the good life I was convinced I needed in order to know joy. My religious journey as a parent was an exercise in self-worship dressed up to look like godly fathering. I was a fool” (Larry Crabb in SoulTalk, p. 207).

While I could quibble with some of the language used in this passage, I strongly agree with Crabb’s point. Sometimes parenting is an exercise in self-worship.

Having a child is an amazing gift from God. And the greatest gift we can give to that child is to have God as our first love, loving Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.