I know…I know…asserting oneself as the Master and Commander of one’s home doesn’t sound particularly Christian – certainly not meek and mild. No, you are right, it doesn’t. And that is because I do not believe that God was, is, or ever will be, a push over. As a matter of fact when one reads the Old Testament one gets the idea that God was hardly easy-going. And Jesus, for all His, “Love as I loved”…loved hard…to the death, in fact. He was not a weak or wimpy kind of God. He was, and is, One with God the Father…Creator of the Universe, Master and Commander of…Everything.
In our homes we are given a certain little kingdom to rule, granted to us by the benevolence of the Ruler of all kingdoms and He has certain expectations….remember the story about the talents…and the one about being grateful….and the one about the barren fig tree (OH…I’d hate to be that fig tree!) We have not been granted homes and families for our pleasure and benefit only…hardly so. If we are blessed with children they have been given to us for a reason - in the hopes and expectation that we (Parental figures that we are) will help to make our little darlings ready to become citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. They are our responsibility and that generally means a whole lot of work - not an opportunity to play with God’s newest model of fast moving “toys”. Becoming open to life is a wonderful, fearsome, incredible honor and challenge – certainly not for the faint hearted or weak willed. It has greater challenges and consequences than joining the army, the navy, the marines, or even becoming a Super-Hero.
What I see all too often when encountering families in all the usual sorts of places like stores, dentist offices, and doctors’ waiting-rooms is a parental surrender, an exhausted…”I give up the ship..do what ever you want..tear apart the room - just keep off my back for a few minutes!” Not an inspiring image to be sure; a full grown adult slayed by a three year old or a pack of toddlers.
I wonder, “If they are like that here…what can the home life be like?” And though the emphasis is obviously on the victim parent…”Look what they’ve done to me!” I find myself thinking…look what you’ve done to you. I have heard conversations go something like this:
Mommy: Tommy, don’t touch that. (Tommy doesn’t care or is the doctor’s office for a hearing check-up for he obviously doesn’t even begin to register the words or the intended direction). Then a repeated direction (as mother or father or both continue to look at a magazine or watch one of the “zone boxes” so nicely provided by professional practitioners these days to sooth our sense of complete inadequacy to keep our children in line…or are they installed in the hopes that the kid actually prefers a re-run to taking a new room apart?) The parental figure repeats the request a couple more hopeless times either more and more quietly or more and more loudly but with about equal results. Eventually, when Tommy pulls something apart, off a shelf, gets hurt and screams, or kicks the nearest old lady in the shins, the parental figure gets up and pulls the kid’s arm roughly, shaking them and saying something to the effect “Why don’t you ever listen to me?” In which case the kid screams a couple decibels louder than anyone’s ears are comfortable with. But we all sit rigidly pretending the scene isn’t really happening because…well…we are all rather helpless against a two year old in tantrum…aren’t we?
I’ve watched in strange horror as a parent follows a child with a full diaper about pleading; “Do you want you diaper changed now? Honey, do you want your diaper changed?” Children are very literal…and if you fling your intelligence out the proverbial window and ask a small child to take control of the world…they will. Who knows best if a diaper needs to be changed? Who did God give the intelligence, age, wisdom, and means to change a diaper? Tommy doesn’t particularly care of his diaper stinks or spills or creates a terrible rash…because Tommy is a baby! Mommy needs to stop asking if he is ready to eat, if he wants to be good, if he feels like a diaper change and she should think….”Well, lunch is ready – time to eat!” If the child is not being good Mommy needs to decide what she wants from her little darling and tell him…and then train him to be good. It takes some time and patience but it can be done. And when a diaper is full…no questions are necessary.
In this culture today we are in love with the idea that no one can tell us what to do. But that fantasy that is pure fiction. People tell us what to do all the time. We stop at stops signs because we have been told to…unless you really want a reality check in the form of a ticket and/or a court date. Our bodies tell us when we are hungry and must be fed. Our cars tell us when they need an oil change or they will break down in a very inconvenient location. Frankly, we are always being told what to do. And we usually do what we have to do in order to get along. But when it comes to our kids we get all slumped over and afraid we might hurt their feelings. Not exactly preparing them for this world...or the world to come.
We can let them take over our homes, and we can hate them for exhausting us, and we can dream of the day when we are free of their tyranny…but when the day comes for accounting and the Master and Commander of the Universe asks us: “What did you do with the gifts I gave you?” I think we will find that we had plenty of authority at our disposal to do a great job… we were just reluctant to use it. And we will find that in the end we are neither Master of our homes nor Commander of our fate. We gave our gifts away.