I love it when the LORD speaks to my heart, seemingly out of the blue. Well, I don’t actually love it, but I do in the sense that it reminds me that He is real, and that He knows me and cares about me, and that He hasn’t forgotten to continue making good on His promise to keep on conforming me more and more to look like His Son, Jesus.
Here’s a little background: During our family’s morning devotions we have been reading through 1 Kings. The other day, we read about Jeroboam. If you aren’t familiar with the story, let me summarize it. King Solomon had died and his son, Rehoboam took over. But God planned to bring judgment on Solomon’s throne because he had turned away from Him, so he sent a prophet to Jeroboam and told him that He would give the kingdom to him (Isn’t that crazy?), but that he would leave 2 tribes with Rehoboam. And that’s exactly what happened. Jeroboam didn’t have to do a thing. It was all God’s plan. Next thing Jeroboam knows, he is leader of Israel.
Now here is where it gets interesting for me. Jeroboam takes his 10 tribes and goes home. And then the story goes that he became nervous about the people having to travel back into Jerusalem to worship God at the temple, so he made two (not one, but two!) golden calves (sound familiar?) for the people to worship. Hmmmm . . . You see, he didn’t want the people to go into Jerusalem and be wooed back by Rehoboam. He felt he needed to work hard at keeping what he never worked for in the first place. God had given him the kingdom. God had made him king. God would keep him king, if that was His plan. All Jeroboam needed to do was to faithfully lead the people of Israel in following after God. This story has always fascinated me.
Then God gently told me that I was guilty of the very same sin. Working hard to keep what I had freely and graciously been given.
When our children were young, Earl and I had no problem telling them “No” and setting tight boundaries in light of what we felt was best for them. We set the schedules, decided on social interactions, and worked hard not to have what some have termed a “child-centered home”. We tried to make all the important decisions as wisely as we knew how and we endured the frequent tantrums and the scowls in the beginning. We weren’t fazed by the folded arms and declarations of “I’m not happy!” Yes, there were times when it actually was “cute” and we smiled inside. But we remained strong and determined (Oh, how glad I was that Earl and I were a team – I told him over and over that I could never do this parenting thing without him!) and we are now have more “happy” days than “sad” days. We laugh a lot, we enjoy being together, we are learning to work well together, and it doesn’t seem as “hard” in the way it did when the kids were younger. I know that I know that I know that this did not come about apart from God’s abundant grace . . .but it sure feels like “good parenting in . . . and good children out”.
I wrestle with that.
Did Jeroboam wrestle with that? Did he begin to think in his heart that God chose him because he was such a mighty warrior, and because he had such “kingly qualities”? Did he begin to take pride in his decisions as king and therefore along the way come to fear making the wrong decision and then losing his kingdom? My worldview says that God equipped Jeroboam to best fit into His plan of what He wanted to do with Israel and Judah. Jeroboam didn’t equip himself hand it certainly wasn’t Jeroboam’s plans that were being accomplished . . . at any time.
I wrestle with that.
I’m a product of this culture . .. to a large degree. I have been raised to believe that an honest day’s work deserves an honest day’s wage. If I work really hard at something, it should produce the desired fruit. But that is not how it is with God’s economy. His economy isn’t based on works . . . but purely on grace.
By faith, I know this is true. But on a practical level . . . I’m still wrestling with that.
Part 2 coming as soon as I can articulate the rest of what is swimming around in my heart regarding this. I’m working hard to wrap my head around these truths that I pray will transform my view of my role in parenting and will free me up to love my children better (and my husband!).
But I know where I am headed: Jeroboam sinned in trying to “keep” what he had never “earned” in the first place. I too am tempted to sin when I think that I have to “work at” keeping the hearts of my children when God has graciously granted them to me (and Earl) apart from our works.
My thoughts have been spurred on from reading Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick & Jessica Thompson.