Transferring the Title
October 20, 2013
Every fighter knows that the battle begins long before entering the octagon. They also know that one of the toughest parts of any fight is the pre-fight weigh in – often just hours before the fight. Fighters work tirelessly to trim the fat and sculpt themselves to make weight.
In this message, Pastor Ed Young helps families with their own pre-fight weigh in. He takes a look at the plan God has set in place and gives us a training regimen to help us cut the fat and make weight so we are ready when it’s time to enter the family octagon!
Welcome to Fellowship Church. We’re one church in many locations. Columbia, South Carolina, Midtown Miami, South Miami, Downtown Dallas, Plano, right here in Grapevine, Keller/Southlake, Fort Worth, and also www.fellowshiplive.com.
We’ve been in a series called Family Octagon. We’ve talked about a wide range of topics that we all deal with in the family. Because every single person hearing my voice is a member of a family. And if you’ve missed any of these installments go to www.fellowshipchurch.com and you can scroll through and watch them. Because each session builds on the next. The Family Octagon is so real and so relevant and so pertinent about all of our lives, due to the fact that once we are born we’re in this octagon and really we never leave the octagon. Especially today, as I talk about this subject, I’m talking about adult children, relating to adult parents and in-laws and adult relatives. That’s a very hot topic and it’s like you step into the octagon and you’re hit from all sides. How do you negotiate this situation? How do you win? Because God wants every family to win. Well, today that’s what we’re gonna talk about as we tackle the Family Octagon. So during this last session I’m gonna sort of open up a can that is highly controversial, highly complex, and multifaceted. I’m gonna talk to you about how adult children relate to adult relatives. Specifically, how do we as adult children relate to our parents and also how do we relate to the in-laws as well. Because that is a very, very difficult subject. Yet it’s also (and God wants it to be) highly dynamic.
I will never forget back when Lisa and I bought our first house. We were in another city. This house we bought was an older home and it had these gorgeous trees. And with trees, you know what happens. Leaves. That’s right, we had a multitude of leaves all over our yard. So one Saturday morning we got up and we raked and raked and raked. We filled, and I counted this, 50 trash bags full of leaves. Fifty! I mean that’s a lot of leaves, 50 trash bags full of leaves. And then after we had done it we stacked all the bags up and we took a step back and looked at everything and thought, man, this is cool. However, our neighbors, their yard always looked bad. I called them the Junksters. Jim and Jan Junkster. Of course that wasn’t their name but they had all of this crapola, all of this junk everywhere in their yard. They had toys and the leaves were stacked up about a foot, it seemed like, and they never mowed the grass. After Lisa and I were looking at our 50 bags of leaves, we looked over at our neighbor’s yard, we looked at their property, and Lisa goes, “Hey, honey…” See, we’re old enough to call each other honey. Now the cool word is ‘babe.’ “What’s up, babe? Yeah, babe, anyway babe.” She said, “Honey…” How many people still call your spouse ‘honey?’ How many babes are out there. Hey, babe. Yeah, that’s what I thought.
She said, “Honey, what if we raked all the leaves in their yard? What if we stacked all the toys neatly? What if you even went over there and cut the grass, because there’s not that much grass, took care of the weeds? What if we did that?” I said,
“Lisa, there’s no way we can do that.” First of all, I didn’t’ want to do it. I was tired. But secondly, I said, “That’s their property. This is our lot, our tract of land. That’s theirs. What they do is their responsibility, what we do is our responsibility.” That’s precisely what I want you to think about as we talk about this issue. I want you to think about your personal tract of land. Your personal property. Your boundaries. Because once we become adults we have to take title to our tract of land. And I would argue that parenting is a slow transfer of title. In my writings and lecturing about parenting, and specifically in the book “Kid CEO,” I define parenting as teaching (Deuteronomy 6) and training (Proverbs 22) your children to leave (Genesis 2:24). Say that with me. Parenting is teaching and training your kids to leave.
Here’s what’s interesting about that last part, the leave part. We talk about leaving, we kind of brush over it. We sort of hydroplane over it but we don’t really drill down and talk about it. Leaving is large. Leaving is a major, major aspect of life, of family, yet we never really discuss it. You go to a wedding and the pastor always quotes Genesis 2:24, “For this reason as I just said a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.” And we always concentrate on cleaving, becoming one flesh, we talk about becoming one flesh relationally and spiritually and sexually and all those things. I would argue, though, we can’t cleave, we can’t become one flesh as man and woman until first of all we leave. We leave, then we cleave.
Parenting is always in a state of flux. It’s always process-driven. It’s a slow transfer of title. We’re giving our kids individuality, we’re giving them autonomy, we’re helping them individuate, and that is the responsibility of you and me. Yet, once a parent, always a parent. We never stop being a parent. Also, once a son, always a son. Once a daughter, always a daughter. But I’ve got to ask you something, parents. I’ve got to ask you something, adult children. Have you established your own tract of land? Have you? I mean, that’s something that we really need to think about. Because until we establish our own tract of land we’re not gonna really understand the beauty and the dynamics of what God wants us to be.
In Matthew 28:18, Jesus said this: “All authority (it sounds like he’s establishing personal property lines, doesn’t it?), all authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to me.” And in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child I talked like a child, thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man I put childish ways behind me.” I’ve got to establish personal property lines but also, not only do I do that, I’ve got to put up “No Trespassing” signs. So I establish this property, then I put up “No Trespassing” signs. There are only certain issues, certain things, that my family and I deal with. Even though I love my mother and father to death, even though Lisa loves her family to death, there are certain areas that cannot be crossed.
There are certain things that are sacred, that are holy, that are not to be shared with family members. And I believe many of us are tempted, manipulated, coerced, to share too much with our parents. And so often parents, we can share too much with our kids. We don’t share with each other what’s going on in our sex lives. We don’t share with one another maybe specific financial issues. Some of those things should only be shared to a great and with a great Christian therapist. So make sure that you establish those “No Trespassing” signs.
Another suggestion would be just to take responsibility for your property. Look at your belly button. Not now! Look at your naval. This is the only time it’s good to be a naval-gazer. Don’t do it now, when you go home. You’re not connected any more to your mother. And a lot of us need to look in the mirror and go, “I’m an adult.” Just look in the mirror and say, “I am an adult.” I sound like some motivational speaker, don’t I? But we need to articulate that to ourselves, verbalize that to ourselves, speak that to ourselves, and – watch this – articulate that to adult relatives as well. So, the parents, the in-laws and out-laws and everything, have to begin to understand this. And then we have to treat them like adults and they treat us like adults. When you’re a child it’s sort of like a one-down relationship. When you mature and become an adult it’s a one-to-one relationship. Then as you mature, as the parents get older, it becomes a one-up relationship. Because there’s not a lot of difference between diapers and bedpans. It’s stunning how these things roll and how these things change and how these things develop.
I remember several years ago when our kids were younger I found a kite in our garage. We were cleaning it out and found this really cool kite. So I said, “Hey guys, you wanna fly a kite?” So we all, in our little neighborhood, houses all around us, we all got out there and it was a super windy day. I’m sure it was March or whatever. So I began to run down the street and the kids were kind of running with me, and the wind caught the kite, the kite caught the wind, however that happens. And the kite just <helicopter sound effect> went up. I’m talking about up, up, up! We were holding the ball of string and it was, like, smoking! So it kept going higher and higher and higher. And the kids are like,
“Dad, will an airplane run into it?” and I go,
“No, no, it’s not gonna get that high.” And the string kept burning and burning and burning. And I remember allowing each child to hold the ball of string. Well, as it got higher and higher I had to let our oldest and strongest (at the time) Lee Beth, who is now 27, hold it. And then I thought, wow. Ed, you’re just illustrating, you’re just watching what parenting is all about. We give our kids a little bit of string and the kite flies up a little bit. And then as the wind catches it, as the kite catches it, it goes higher and higher, and we give them more and more and more string, more and more responsibilities, more and more. And finally the kite got to the end of the string and the only thing that was holding it was the knot. That’s parenting. Are you letting your kids soar or are you trying to manipulate them and control them?
Parents, it’s tempting to for us to manipulate them and to control them. How do we do that? By being a banker. Having those financial strings. And I’m not saying we don’t help our kids out when they need to be helped, but you feel me. We also have to let them fail. But the banker thing will control them. Trust me, it will.
Other times we just play the role of the lecturer. We’re always lecturing them. I’m talking about adult kids. Just lecture, lecture, lecture. “Let me tell you this, son. No, I would not buy that car. I would buy this car. And let me tell you about that…” As opposed to just talking to them on a one-to-one situation we will want to keep that one-down type situation going. And that’s a mistake that we can make.
Another way we control our kids is being a <helicopter sound effect> helicopter parent. <helicopter again> Hovering over them, looking over their shoulder, always up in their grill, always in their business. Again, let me draw you back to those three things. Establish your own property lines, put up the No Trespassing signs and you’ve got to enforce those No Trespassing signs very, very early. You’ve got to present a unified front when you’re enforcing those, and you’re gonna take responsibility for your property.
All right. We’ve set some ground rules. Parenting is a slow transfer of the title. We understand that we’re family. We understand that we each have a tract of land. We understand that we each have a title through the tract of land. We’ve got to live out those specifications and those areas. Someone told me earlier about fences. Great fences make great neighbors. Well, great fences make great families as well. I’m telling you that as a fact.
But let me talk to you adult children. I want to give you five fantastic things you can do right now to help you in this relationship. Now, let me say it again. I don’t pretend to give you every single thing about this highly complex and volatile and, might I add, valuable connection. There are different scenarios, different issues that all of us deal with. However, due to talking to scores and scores of families, young marrieds, those who are dealing with so many different things with their aging parents, etc. I really believe, through research, that I have an interesting take on this. So let me just share some principles from the scripture, and also just some practical things that I have observed. Because obviously God has given us a mind and he wants us to use it.
Adult children, five things. #1 – Honor your parents with appropriate boundaries. Let me say it again. I’m gonna talk about boundaries. You can read Dr. Henry Cloud’s great book on boundaries and you can think about personal property lines. The word honor – honor your mother and father – is mentioned numerous times in Scripture. It’s the 5th commandment. And when you think about the 5th commandment, the 5th commandment is a transitional commandment. The first four would be our relationship to God and the last six are our relationship to our fellow man. And God talks about honoring, honoring our parents. Why does God say this repeatedly? Honor?
Now one of the things we do in our culture is we use the word respect and honor synonymously and it’s not. Respect is almost getting there. Honor, though, is holding your parents in high esteem with your attitude and your actions. I have got to be a man of honor. My children, I should teach them and model that, to honor their parents and they in turn live a life of honor. So honor your parents with appropriate boundaries. You have those No Trespassing signs. You rake your leaves the way you want those leaves raked. You put them in the trash bag the way you want them there. You can’t go over to your child’s yard, your adult child’s yard, and start raking and rearranging the toys. And I will talk about that in a second but I want you to think about that. So honor your parents with appropriate boundaries.
#2 – Be respectful of traditions, but create your own. “Ed, are you saying what I think you’re saying? Well, see, my family growing up, we always do this on Thanksgiving and that on Christmas and we’re like expected to be there. I mean, if we don’t show up… You know, we have a new family, a couple little kids, if we don’t show up at that exact time that mom has given us, man there’s gonna be a snowstorm!” You feel me, don’t ya? I mean, a major snowstorm. Frosty feelings and ice-cold innuendos, and the silent treatment. We have to respect and honor those traditions. However, start your own tradition. Listen to me, those of you who are thinking about marriage. Listen to me, students. Listen to me, newlyweds. Listen to me, those with little babies. You celebrate and start your own traditions. For example, Thanksgiving, birthdays, Christmas, and then you say, “Hey, if you want to visit you come to our house.” I don’t think there’s any problem the next day going to your family’s house or driving here or there for Thanksgiving, you know the next day. But I would encourage you, I would challenge you please, to establish your own traditions. It’s a situation and a decision that Lisa and I made years ago and I’m so, so, so glad that we did. It solidifies your family. It gives you a great foundation. So don’t be manipulated or pressured into doing that. And I know some people in their 40’s and 50’s and 60’s who are still in that one-down situation when it comes to the holidays. It’s nuts! It’s nuts. So we respect them but we start our own tradition.
#3 – Know Wiki-leaks. You have these No Trespassing signs and you have these boundaries, you have these great fences that cause great families. There are certain things that you do not share. If you, for example, share with your mom, “Ed and I had a fight. We had this arguments.” Well, Lisa and I will make up and have lovey-dovey time but her mom… no. And that’s never happened, I’m just using that as an example but you feel me, don’t you. You can’t do that. “Oh, I can’t believe she’s treating me this way!” you can’t. There are certain things that are sacred and holy. If you want to share those things, contact (I will say it again) a great Christian counselor and they can help you. But be very, very careful the intel that you share. Now, I know there are certain topics and certain things that only families share, but there are other things that are way, way, way too valuable and volatile to share.
#4 – The fourth thing, I love this. Eat the fish and <spitting> spit out the bones. Eat the fish and spit out the bone. I love to eat fish but I’m not into eating fish with a lot of bones. I’m really not. And it kind of disturbs me when I take a big bite of fish, this is just me, my obsessive compulsive-ness, and I feel this little bone. And I’m thinking, man, did I swallow two or three? And you have to kind of spit it out. Someone told me the correct way to spit bones out when you eat fish is you cut the piece of fish with the fork, you put it in your mouth and begin to chew it. When you feel a bone you don’t just <spit-TING!> on the plate. No, you spit it back onto the fork and then discreetly put it back on the plate. Someone taught me that a long time ago. I don’t always do that.
Anyway, we have to stay on the positive side of the situation. We’ve got to. Spit out the bone, spit out the negative, spit out the cra-cray, spit out the weirdness, and just eat the fish and spit out the bone. Concentrate on the positive. For example, too many husbands and wives, too many family members, think other family members are gonna make these radical, crazy changes. Listen to me. It ain’t gonna happen. I mean, if they get struck by lightning or have a burning-bush experience or like the apostle Paul did, yeah. I mean, God can change peoples’ lives but as far as making a radical personality change, we have to love one another the way they are. And say, in your mind, “I love you the way you are” and say this: “Bless your heart.” And just keep it at that. You can’t expect someone to be someone they’re not. And too many families have too much drama because they expect too much.
#5 – The fifth one, and this is a major one here. When you visit your relatives, when you visit your in-laws, don’t wear out your welcome. In other words, visit them leaving. Let me say that again. Visit your family, leaving. A friend of mine actually used to have his car, he would pull into the driveway and turn his car so that at any time he could leave. It was a little extreme but I like the 48-hour rule, 72-hour rule. You go in, have a great time, high-five, whatever, eat, and then… it’s time to go. Don’t ever say, “I’m going to see my family for vacation.” No, that’s not a vacation. That’s a family obligation. It’s cool to see your family, like a good friend of mine does, drop off the kids. After you’ve been there about 48 hours and then you and your spouse take a little trip, but to sit there and say, “Yeah, I’m vacationing with my family.” I just don’t consider that, and I don’t believe anyone would consider that a true vacation. As a family outing, that’s great and fun and all that. Make sure, though, that you travel, you see them, you show them the love, you greet them, you’re generous with them, you’re supportive, you’re honoring. But then after about three days <car engine sound effect>. I understand that the women, the wife, can maybe stay there longer but it’s time for the husband to leave, at least after 72 hours in my opinion. That’s just my personal opinion. Because women have more of a connectivity, oftentimes, than men. So those are just some quick, practical suggestions for the adult children.
Now, let’s switch it. Let’s flip the script and talk to the adult relatives, the adults in the house. The first one, #1, I’ve already said it but let me say it again. Respect their boundaries. You see the No Trespassing sign. We have, around our house, we have a little outdoor area and this is not cruel because we love animals but we have it electrocuted off, not for us, not for the kids, but for our dogs. The dogs have these shock collars and the shock collars warn them <beep-beep-beep-beep-beep> when they get close. And they will not mess up, jack up, our outdoor furniture. So when they get near it… <beep-beep-beep-beep-beep> it warns them and they’ll back off. So these No Trespassing signs need to have a <beep-beep-beep-beep-beep> to just back off. I think you understand. So that’s something we have to do.
Also, too, listen more than you talk. When your adult children see you, they shouldn’t see a big old Steven Tyler/Mick Jagger mouth, they should see a big, honkin’ ear. Like an <elephant sound effect> elephant ear. Listen. Listen and respond to what they say.
Another suggestion, #3. Do with your adult kids what you love to do together. What do you love to do together? Just recently my 21-year-old son said something to me that just pierced my heart. We had our rod and reels, doing some bass fishing, and he said, “Dad, my favorite thing to do with you is to go fishing.” And I thought, wow. Yeah. So that’s what I’m talking about. What are those things you like to do together? It can be making crafts. It can be, I don’t know, sweeping leaves out of the yard, putting them into trash bags, I don’t know. It should be something that you enjoy doing. It could be shopping. It could be getting your nails done, ladies. I don’t know what it could be.
#4 – Make sure that you establish ground rules when you have disagreements, because you will have disagreements. You’ve gonna have them. “Well, how do I know what to say or what not to say?” OK, if something is serious or dangerous, step in, mom and dad. In other words, if your adult daughter is smoking pot, step in. “We’ve got to get you some help.” If your son is getting ready to make a ridiculous, what-was-I-thinking financial move where he will lose everything, you might want to step in and say something. However, if they’re doing something that’s just irritating, like showing up to a family event barefooted, unshaven, unkempt, slothful, you might say to yourself, “What in the world? That’s ridiculous.” But it’s not worth doing battle over. So if it’s something dangerous or serious, step in and talk. Give your opinion. But if it’s not, just let it go.
#5 – The fifth one – Parents, remember shift happens. Everything is a shift. Everything is moving. Everything is fluid in the family game. So often we’re afraid to let go. We’re afraid to go, OK. Because we want to keep control due to the fact that we, for a long, long time, have lived vicariously through our kids. Or maybe, just maybe, because we’ve not built our marriage we’re afraid of the empty nest. Seriously, when your kids leave, when the kite flies, it shouldn’t be an empty nest, it should be a love nest. So that’s where you need to (I’m talking to adult parents) need to get involved in enriching the marriage and teaching those values, too, to your kids. Remember, though, this shift happens from the one-down to the one-to-one and then as you get older, one-up. So it moves from a vertical to a horizontal to a vertical thing again.
The family is a beautiful thing and if we understand that great fences build great families, I think we’ll be way, way ahead of the game. This whole family situation and scenario is simply a reflection of our ultimate family. Our earthly family has got to reflect God’s family because God is all about family. God is our Heavenly Father. He loves us so much, even though we were separated from him, sequestered from him due to our behavior (which the Bible calls sin). God did something about it. He loves us that much. He sent Jesus to live this perfect life, to fight the perfect fight, to win on the cross as he took your sins and mine upon his shoulders. And then after three days he rose again, thereby giving us an opportunity to become – check this out – children of God. And we become adopted because of what God did for us through Christ into the family of God. We’re adopted. The Bible calls it, we’re born again.
And I’ve got to ask you. I mean, obviously you’re here, you have a physical birthday, but how about a spiritual birthday? Have you ever said, “God, I want to be born again. I want to be adopted into your family. I want to give my life to you, tax, title, and license. This tract of land, to you. My marriage to you, my family to you, I want to give it all to you. You can make that decision right now as you become a part of the ultimate family, the ultimate family of God.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]