They say parenting is one of those things that doesn't come with an instruction manual. While this is true, what we do come to this monumental task with is the example our own parents were to us. Speaking personally, there were a great number of things that both my husband and I appreciated and respected about our parents - especially the older we grew - and greatly desired to emulate in our own roles as the Mama and the Papa.
Our parents ingrained within us certain values - that of hard work, respect for your elders, looking out for those less fortunate than yourself, looking the other person in the eye when you're talking, hold high standards but leave room for flexibility, and a sense of humor is gold. Concerning our own worth we knew we were special to someone, we could make a difference, we were capable, we had gifts and talents and weaknesses, and throughout all of that we were deeply loved. We have always desired to impart these practices and understandings to our own children.
Ultimately, however, we take the examples we were given and venture out beyond them, making our own mistakes and stretching ourselves in ways unfamiliar. Today's sermon was on Amos 8 and as Pastor Giorgio led us into a delving of its depths, a familiar parental refrain rang in my mind. "Because I said so." My parents were the kind who would respond to our countless questions and queries of "Why?" with this ambiguous and enigmatic sentence. I have not been. I come from a later generation who believe deeply in investing the time to explain so that our children might fully understand the reasons behind why we do what we do and expect them to as well. Perhaps latent frustration remains from childhood years of running into that stonewall sentence, serving to fuel the compulsion to give an explanation to our children's every, "how come?"
The funny thing is, the longer I am a parent, the more I see the practicality of, "Because I said so." This is not to say that I believe in abandoning the years of unfolding and diagramming with our kids. In order that our children might grasp that there is consideration and thoughtfulness behind our directions and orders, it is a gift we give both to them and ourselves. But after a time, enough of a foundation is laid so that we can begin to expect more of them. The trust we have sought to establish within our relationship is tested. "Because I said so," is an invitation for them to do the thinking through on their own now. Will they obey in response to all we have striven to show them? Will they respond to our faith in them with a reciprocal faith in us? Will they simply trust and obey?
With today's sermon (which I invite you to listen to) a further validity has been added. There is a God who offers numerous elucidations as to why He expects us to live as He calls us to, countless re-visitations to the blackboard of illustration for our consideration, diverse and sundry occasions for us to grapple with and own our responsibilities and opportunities. When we pause and pull away with our children to gently chronicle the whys and wherefores of wise decision making, we are modeling His grace - which He lovingly bestows upon us all. But when we are brief and offer only a clear-cut choice of obedience or not, we are modeling who He also is to us, the God of justice. And it is no less loving for us to make certain our children have practice in this realization as well.