IT’S AP-PARENT SERMON SERIES
HOME FIRES – LEARNING FROM MISTAKES
SEPTEMBER 4, 1994
If you ever want to have a lively conversation with your friends or family members, ask them the following question. “Tell me about a humorous or weird mistake you have made in your life.” You’re talking about some fun answers.
Recently someone asked me that question and here is what I told them.
You know when I think about mistakes, friend, I think about something that occurred about three months ago in a restaurant between myself and one of my best friends. You see, I invited my friend to lunch and we were to meet at a restaurant. And if you know my friend very well, he is always late, I’m talking about at least fifteen or twenty minutes late. So I get there on time, he’s not there and I decide to go to the men’s room. After I go to the men’s room, I exit the men’s room and I stand around and happen to see three or four people from our church who were dining at that restaurant. I walk up to them and I said “Hi, how are you doing?” And I go from table to table. One of the tables is across the restaurant. And I noticed that as I talked to people that they were laughing their heads off at me. Ha, ha, ha. And I was thinking to myself, I’m on a roll. (Laughter) Everything is going great today. You know I’m having one of those days where the bio-rhythms are really high. And after I greeted the folks at the restaurant, I walked back to the front of the restaurant and my friend makes his way in. He goes, “Ed, how are you doing?” Then he looks down and he said, “Ed, would you mind turning around?” I said, “Sure, man.” So I turned around and he said, “Ed, you have a five foot strip of toilet paper (laughter) tucked in your belt. (much more laughter) And I thought, no way. You are kidding me. So I kind of looked back and, folks, it looked like the train on Princess Di’s wedding dress. So just very coolly and calmly I just kind of collected it and put it in my front pants pocket and we sat down and we dined together.
Some mistakes are humorous and they get more and more humorous as the years roll by, like that particular true story. Some mistakes, though, are painful and the pain lasts for awhile and then it subsides, like when a fifty-pound dumbbell fell on my big toe, or great toe, and crushed it in fourteen places with three bones sticking out of the nail bed, that was a painful thing. It still hurts a little bit, in fact in a little while I am going to sit down, but I know the pain will be OK one day. Some mistakes, though, are different. They are different. They don’t get funnier over time, the pain doesn’t go away, in fact, the pain intensifies. The mistakes that parents make fall into this category. Because parents are seeing the results of blunders, of miscues, of misfiring and it really hurts. So today, in this session, I want to share with you four mistakes that parents make. And it is my motivation to show you these mistakes so you can work around these mistakes, so you can learn from these mistakes, so you can be the best father or mother that God wants you to be.
Before we get into these four mistakes, I know you have your outlines ready, I want to say something parenthetically that needs to be said. This is not a parent-bashing message. Too many baby boomers and baby busters love to bash mom and dad, to point the finger of blame and say “I’m the way I am because you were the way you are, and I’m from a dysfunctional family and that’s why I am depressed today.” Yes, parents are sinners. Yes, parents make and will make mistakes. And they have made mistakes in my life and in your life. We all carry bags of brokenness to one degree or another in our marriages today. We’ve talked about that in this series. And yes, some of the situations and problems that you dealt with are things you are dealing with now, but you cannot blame everything on your mom and dad. One day you have to take responsibility for your life. That is the parenthetical word.
Now, let’s jump into the first mistake that parents make. You poll parents, you talk to moms and dads and they will say this first area is a big one. You are talking about a hot area – dealing with discipline. Dealing with discipline. I’ve talked to moms and dads and here’s what they tell me. “Ed, we were too strong with our children. We gave edicts, commands with militaristic rigidity. We kind of acted like Sergeant Carter on Gomer Pyle reruns. And our children lived in fear. They didn’t know how we would react. They were scared of us.” And today they are paying the price for it. That’s on one end of the spectrum. On the other end of the spectrum we have parents who kind of have this philosophy. Hakuna matata…whatever you want to do, don’t worry about it, it’s OK. Highway robbery, burning down the garage (you do that again and I will put you on restriction), just whatever, you know, kind of like Mike and Cindy Brady with all the Brady bunch. Mike Brady would talk to Cindy’s little girl and Mike would say, “You know you shouldn’t have killed the dog. And if you do it again, I am going to add another chore to your list on Friday.” That doesn’t work, the permissive, anything goes parenting style. You see children beg for discipline. They want to have lines drawn in the sand. They were designed that way. And parents we’d better earn our doctorates in discipline if we are going to be the kind of parents that we want to be, and more importantly to be the kind of parents that God wants us to be.
I have listed three scripture verses from the book of Proverbs that talk about parenting. And these three verses are going to tell us three positive results of really handling and dealing with discipline properly. First you will see in that first scripture verse from Proverbs 22:15, “Discipline and proper discipline removes rebellion from a child.” Circle the word remove. Now skip down to the second verse, Proverbs 13:24 and circle the word love. Secondly, “Discipline loads our children with love.” Now skip down to Proverbs 29:15 and circle the word wisdom. Thirdly, “Discipline wraps children with wisdom.” It wraps them in this thing called wisdom. So it removes rebellion, it loads them with love and it wraps them in wisdom.
Let’s talk about these very quickly. And remember parents, these are just the cliffnotes, the ABCs of discipline. I cannot get into some exhaustive thing on discipline, but I want to hit the high points. Let’s jump in, Proverbs 22:15. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child…” This word foolishness means rebellion, it means a sin nature. Last week we talked about Proverbs 22:6 which mentions the good bents. Children have good bents. Children also have a case of the bad bents. No one taught you or me how to lie, cheat or steal, it is a natural thing. It is a genetic or, I like to say, sinetic quality we receive from Adam. So, Mom, that little bundle of joy you hold and cradle in your arms is really a miniature sinner who can’t wait to display his or her depravity. And a lot of little toddlers sit in their playpens and they check out Mom and they look at Dad and they say, “Heh, heh, heh, I’m going to take over this joint.” And they case the house and they’ll test you and they’ll push you to the limit. And well meaning, laser age parents kind of crawl into the play pen, sit down indian style and reason with their toddler. They wouldn’t even think about facing or dealing with discipline. They wouldn’t even think about time out, or spanking them on the posterior. No, no, no, I’ll just reason with them. The Bible says though, foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child and the rod of discipline will remove it far from him. The word rod infers spanking. And the Bible does not say to use the hand, it says to use an instrument. And you are to use the instrument on this padded area that God has given all of us. Some He has given more padding than others. But, I believe in spanking. And let me tell you when and where I believe in spanking. First of all, I believe in spanking when a child harms another child or harms or hurts property or God’s creation. And where? I would say do it privately. Lisa and I do spank but we don’t spank all the time, we don’t spank a lot, but that is back there and we use a little wooden spoon on the, again, buttocks.
Let’s move to Proverbs 13:24. The Bible says, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him…” You see how the words love and discipline are inseparably connected. The Bible says, when talking about God’s feelings towards His children, toward you and me, that God loves us. In fact, Hebrews says God loves those he disciplines. God does not punish us. Jesus took the punishment 2000 years ago, but He does discipline us because He knows what is best for us, and parents, we have to get involved with this process. And the Bible says “diligently”, see that last word in Proverbs 13:24? Discipline your child diligently. This is an interesting Hebrew word because the term diligently means early. I’m talking about when they are young, when they are small. You don’t wait until they are four years of age and say now, I’m going to discipline you. You don’t do that. You start when they are young. And part of discipline is nurturing. It is love. It is giving of yourself. It is sacrifice and in that process you have the act of discipline.
Proverbs 29:15. “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to a mother.” That means a child left to his own, you say, “You do whatever”, hakuna matata type mentality, that child is going to bring shame to his parents. Look at the benefits, parents, again. It removes rebellion, it loads them with love, they understand this concept and it wraps them with wisdom. The benefits of discipline.
Let’s look at the application now. Because, parents, we have to learn how to deal with it. I have given you an acrostic D E A L. The DEAL way to discipline. D stands for discernment. When you discipline you’d better discern the age of the child and also the situation and the punishment. You don’t discipline a six year old like you would a sixteen year old. A six year old, you might put him in time out or use the special spanker. With a sixteen year old you might add more chores or you might put them on restriction. E stands for enlightenment. Every disciplinary action, every interchange in this regard needs to become a teaching situation, Moms and Dads. It’s tough but it’s a teaching time. Enlighten them, show them what they could have done differently. Show them how you can help them and how it will assist them in obeying your “laws” and your commands in love. A stands for affirmation. You have got to affirm the child. “You matter to me, you matter to God and you matter so much to me and to God that we can’t allow you to get away with this behavior that is going to harm you.” Affirm the relationship. And L stands for love. I’m talking about embrace. Some of the best times and most tender moments in my parenting life have been after discipline where I hug and embrace LeeBeth and EJ. I forget about it, that’s in the past, and we move to the future. The DEAL approach.
Now some of you who are in a parenting season like Lisa and I are in are saying, “Ed, I feel like these toddlers are sabotaging my life, man. All I am saying when they wake up is no, sit down, get off that, stop it, quit spitting and all the other things…no, stop, get down, quit spitting and all the other things and no, stop, get down, quit spitting and all the other things. Is it ever going to end? Is there hope.” It is just for a season. Parents, hang in there, persevere, it is well worth it. I got a dosage of this last night when I came back from the Saturday service, I walk in the house, both twins are crying, EJ is crying because he missed his nap and he was tired, and LeeBeth started crying because the outfit that she was going to wear today did not match. (laughter)
Let’s look at the second area. Another area parents mess up in is really facing feelings. Facing feelings. Our children have feelings, folks. So many circumstances kind of go along these lines. We are scanning and channel surfing through the television set and looking at this and looking at that. And then our children will reveal some feelings to us, Mom, or to us, Dad, and we will surf over the feelings like we surf over the channels. And we act like the feelings don’t really matter that much. “What are you crying for, now?” Sound familiar. “If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about.” What kind of messages are we sending, parents? We are saying, your feelings don’t matter. The way you feel is not the way you should feel. That’s why so many of us don’t cry at appropriate times today as adults. That’s why so many here have these outbursts of anger. That’s why so many of us laugh at weird times. Our feelings were never handled properly by mom and by dad. They are so delicate. Children are so revealing. Make sure you receive their feelings and incorporate them and make sure you hold them as a high priority. That is why the Bible says in Ephesians 6:4, “And, fathers, do not provoke your children…” This word provoke means to nag or arbitrarily assert your authority. “..do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Many of us live in houses. But the question that needs to be answered today is, how many houses are homes?
That is why I have listed for you the H factor. Three H words that can help you deal with your child’s feelings. The first H is hear. Hear. Hear your child, listen to their words, watch their body language, receive their feelings, don’t put them down, know they are important. The second H, hug. You have got to hug and embrace. And that is where this whole concept of a shelter comes in, a refuge, a true home. The final H is help. Help. You have got to help your children. Help them express their feelings. Anger is not a bad expression when it is expressed properly. But anger is a bad expression when it is expressed negatively. If EJ wants to express his anger by giving LeeBeth a elbow drop, that’s not good. I want to change that into a positive expression, and we would discipline him on that. Think about God the Father. God the Father did not hold back his feelings from us, He is not some robot God, is He? He sent Jesus to live on this earth. A great study would be to examine the feelings of Christ. He exhibited pain, laughter, love, anger, joy. And God said it was good. And Jesus was perfect. Perfect emotionally. So don’t ever say parents, that is a bad emotion, that is stupid you are laughing, that’s crazy, you’re excited. Because when we assault our children’s feelings, it will mess them up.
When I was in the fifth grade I had a very traumatic thing occur in my life. My parents moved from Greenville, SC to Columbia, SC and I moved from a very pristine, protected private school to a rough house, out-of-control public school. I walk in the first day and people were threatening me, using four letter words I had never heard of, wanting to fight and all this stuff. And for five straight days during recess I walked around the edge of the playground. I was scared to talk to anyone. And on that fifth day I came home and I just lost it. Tears and everything. And my parents could have easily said, “Ed, you big baby, come on, stand up, be a man, fight those guys, let’s go.” But they embraced me, they loved me and I remember them telling me how important my feelings were during that time. That is what I am talking about, parents, your home becoming a true shelter.
Let’s move to the next mistake. Constructing character. Constructing the old character. Well-meaning parents overprotect and overproduce for their children. And we have too many conch shell kids walking around these days. You know what a conch shell kid is? How many of you have ever found a conch shell before in the ocean? That is a rugged shell, isn’t it? Inside the conch shell you have a weak creature called a conch and the conch uses this tough shell as a defense mechanism. Parents when we overprotect and overprovide for our children we place a shell around them because, we say, you know I don’t want to expose them to too much, I don’t want to give them too many responsibilities. And parents we keep our children from a lot of the things that made us great. We keep our children from that minimum wage job, we keep our children from chores, from responsibilities, when they need that to develop character. And if you don’t do it, they will end up being immature, having no concept of money and still living at home when they are twenty-five and dressing and looking like an eleven year old. You have got to take the risk. Look back at the perfect parental model, God the Father. Did God the Father protect his Son? Did He say, “Here is Jesus Christ in this conch shell, I’ll place Him on the earth when He is thirty years of age and then He can begin His public ministry.” He didn’t do that. He gave him an earthly father, Joseph, and Jesus had responsibilities, He had chores. You know what burns me up? It is to see Jesus portrayed as some glassy-eyed guru, some pale, frail rabbi. The man worked for at least twenty years as a construction worker, fourteen hours a day, six days a week in the hot, boiling middle eastern sun, cut and carried His own lumber, mixed mortar, dug His own foundations. The man was muscular, a man’s man and Joseph used those times to build character in the sinless Son of God. If it is good enough for Jesus, I think it is good enough for your son, Dad, or your daughter, Mom. Building character. What are they involved in? What are they doing to build it. Give them chores and responsibilities at a young, young age. I remember LeeBeth when she was two years of age, we gave her the chore of making up her bed. Even though she kind of butchered it every time, she still did it. Character school. Character school. Another mistake. Parents look back and say you know, I blew it with this character thing. I really messed up.
There is a final area though. And this area is the one that we like to skip over, parents. Forgiveness. Because if we do these three things, dealing with discipline, facing feelings, constructing character and leave out forgiveness, we are not really there. We are not really there. Forgetting to forgive or to ask for forgiveness. The Bible says in Ephesians 4:32, “And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Circle the term forgiveness there. If you want your stock to rise, Mom, Dad, you tell your children when you are wrong. There are a lot of parents here, you need to make calls this weekend, to a son, a daughter. They might be in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and say four words that are the biggest stumbling block I know in the parental game. Fill them out on your outline. I made a mistake. I made a mistake. I made a mistake. You see, I was too strong with you, I was too lenient with you, I was too just off the wall with you. I didn’t really build character like I should. We need to confess these things to our children. And parents, you want to see admiration, you want to see bridges built, you won’t believe what will happen when you do that.
There is a verse in scripture that many people overlook and this is the only verse that tells about the life of Christ between twelve years of age and thirty. It is Luke 2:52. Here is what will happen when you apply these four principles. “And Jesus kept increasing (and you could put your son or daughter’s name) in wisdom (that is intellectually) and stature (that is physically), and in favor with God (that is spiritually) and men (that is socially).” So if you want your children to increase in these ways, apply these principles.
I was in the ninth grade and I was making my way up the steps to go to bed and my father was reclining in his LazyBoy and he said, “Ed, how is school going for you?” I said, “Dad, it’s going great, you know, it’s there and I’m enjoying high school.” He said, “Well, what do you have tomorrow, any tests or anything?” I said, “Yeah, I’ve got a history test.” “What?” “I’ve got a history test.” “You said history?” My father majored in history! “Yeah, Dad.” “Well, great. You have a couple of minutes before bedtime, sit down here and I want to see how much you know. What is your test going to be on?” I said, “It’s on the constitution, the amendments to the constitution.” “OK, amendment 19, Ed.” I was clueless. “Ed, you’re telling me you studied. You don’t know what you are doing. You are going to fail this course, son. What is wrong with you. Listen, I’m going to start lecturing to you and you just take notes and I’ll read this history book, OK?” I said, “Yes, sir, I will.” So dad starts lecturing and after about twenty minutes my mind is wandering so I start drawing on my notepad. He looked at me and said, “Ed, you aren’t taking notes, you are drawing. What are you drawing?” He jerked it from me, and I had “I love Lisa” on there. “That’s your problem. You are spending too much time with Lisa and dating Lisa every single night instead of studying.” And dad lost it. He then took his hand and grabbed me up by the hair. Have you ever been grabbed by the hair before? I mean, like this. My father is a strong guy! Oh, that hurts. So he started questioning me. He started saying, “OK, Ed, no pressure at all, no pressure, I want to hear, what is amendment 19 to the constitution. Now.” “Uh, uh, uh.” Then here is what he started to do, he started praying for me out loud. He put his hand on my head. “Dear God. Give me patience as a father because my son will still be in the ninth grade ten years from now (laughter), and as he is flipping hamburgers at MacDonalds when he is forty-two years of age, Lord, be with him. You know I tried. And as he goes to military school, God…(more laughter).” Dad lost it, he really did. But he came into my room about a week later with tears streaming down his face and here’s what he told me. “I made a mistake.”
Parents, we are not perfect. We are not perfect, but make sure you think about discipline. Make sure you think about feelings. Make sure you think about character. Make sure you think about forgiveness, because the Bible tells us that our children will rise up if we apply these principles and call us, that’s right, self-centered sinners like us, our children will say to us, “Hey, I’m blessed and you are blessed. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”