Monday, August 10, 2009

Speaking of self-control...

What do you think of when I say the words "self-control"? If you’re like me, you conjure up an image of yourself controlling your temper or avoiding a food temptation or doing the right thing in spite of your surroundings. Basically, taking charge of ’self’ in any given situation.

The last 48 hours have brought a new definition to light in my mind. I’ve come to the realization that self-control also has the implication that the only person you can truly control is self, and the only person that I will give account for is self.

Think about it. There are plenty of people and situations that we try to control. Each failure to do so results in a sense of frustration and feeling of failure. Maybe it’s trying to control a spouse and the habits that you don’t think are acceptable. Maybe it’s trying to control a situation that you really have no control over. Maybe it’s a rift with another that you’ve tried to make right but the other party is unwilling. All of these things are examples of times when you can’t control anything but yourself, yet if you try, you set yourself up for a life of perpetual frustration!

Today, my focus is specifically on the area of children. Years before I ever had my first child, I read and re-read a popular (amongst Christians) child training book. I won’t tell you which one as I don’t want to pick on it or its authors. I think there is a lot of wisdom in the book and that it’s a useful tool. However, this book left me with the impression that if I would train my children as infants in ’cause and effect", that I shouldn’t have any more trouble out of them after a certain age.

So, I trained and I trained. I tied strings of fellowship. I was as consistent as I had the strength to be. As my children grew, guess what? They developed wills of their own! I was totally unprepared for that. After all, I’d read and followed ‘the book’.

The more my children would fuss with each other or display a bad heart attitude, I would become discouraged. I mean, I prayed for widsom, I disciplined according to God’s Word, I trained! And guess what? My children still weren’t perfect! {gasp} Can you believe it??? Don’t get me wrong. I have good children but this mama wants godly children!

The other day, a dear friend wrote me with regards to an entirely different situation. In her letter, she said, "I tell my kids that… if there is a problem in a temporal relationship, it is directly linked to a problem with an eternal one."

Well, just knock me over with a feather. There was my "uh-huh!" moment! In that moment, the Lord showed me that I can do everything right yet my children still have a choice. They each have a free will.

2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ constraineth us; ….

The word ‘constrain’ means to compel or force; to urge. Up until a certain age, our children are constrained to obey us, either out of a desire to please us, a reward to achieve or a punishment to avoid. Something constrains them. At some point (and I believe it’s probably different with each child), they cease to be constrained solely by their parents and move into the area of being constrained by God’s love.

A child can’t be constrained by the love of God until they know the Lord as their Savior. My children all profess to be saved, so what they need is a closer walk with their Savior. They need to have a personal relationship with him that goes beyond salvation. Until they understand and realize how much the God of heaven loves them, His love will never constrain them to do right. It’s a tough job and a topic for another post.

The point being is that they seemed to have moved from a place of being constrained by me and into a place where they need to be constrained by the Lord. The balance is shifting. I cannot force them to be what God wants them to be. I can correct outward actions and I can teach them godly character but I cannot change their hearts. This was such an eye-opening realization for me!

Self-control has taken on a new meaning. I can only control *myself*….and in doing so, I can be a good example for my children to follow. We can constrain (compel) our children to live right by providing a godly example or we can constrain them to do wrong by our example. If we model a heart that seeks to please God, the Lord can use that to urge them to do right. If we model (for example) a life of laziness, than our children will be compelled to follow in our footsteps, making the Holy Spirit’s job all the harder.

Self-control….such a small word with such big implications.

eta: I was heading out the door when I posted this. I got to thinking about how this post may be perceived. Please understand that in no way do I think my work is done. Far from it. My children are only 11, 7 & 7. I guess the point I was trying to make is that I have finally realized that I can make my girls do the right thing because "I said so" but only God can bring obedience of the heart.

Our biggest struggle is with the "me first" attitude. I make them do right, I have them memorize Scripture, we pray for selfless attitudes but true heart change takes time and to some extent, maturity.

So….we keep pressing on, knowing that God’s Word will not return void.

Have blessed day!

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