Thursday, April 30, 2015

Creating a Climate of Commendation

Bobo skee waton daton, ah.ah. ahah.
Eenie meenie bobo skee waton daton, ah.ah. ahah.
Zachary, Zachary! Ah.ah. ahah.
Zachary, Zachary! Ah.ah. ahah.

I know; it's a little weird. But it's tradition, family tradition specifically, in the form of a family cheer. Any time one of the kids does something notable, we cheer for them. And, actually, this is just the first in a set of three cheers we do for them. But I'll spare you the other two.

It's tough growing up. And it's even tougher growing in Christ. It's hard at age two. It's hard at age twelve. Nineteen. Twenty-four. And I can personally testify that life is hard at forty-seven. It just is.

And that's why we need to build a climate of commendation into our family culture. Our kids need it. Our husbands need it. And we need it from them, too.

Building a culture of commendation has its risks. There is a family culture that strives at commendation but, missing the mark, hits on coddling instead. Coddling is ego-stroking, wherein Junior's ego gets stroked for eighteen years. Stroke, stroke, stroke. And before you know it, Junior is believing his own press. Then Junior enters the big, bad world, and realizes that not everyone thinks he's as fabulous as Mama thinks he is. But... but... Mama has raised a professional five year old who is doomed to go through life dividing all of humanity into those who like him and those who don't. Parents, if your adult child is using words like that (they don't like me; they're mean), praise God that He finishes what He starts, and pray that the Holy Spirit will intervene and grow him up. Post haste.

In contrast, from the perspective of Wisdom, our kids should never segregate the world into 'those who like me' and 'those who don't.'
Rather, Wisdom divides the world into those who keep the covenant and those who don't. More than that, Wisdom motivates us to admire and imitate those covenant keepers. 

You might be coddling if...
You think your child can do no wrong, you find yourself rationalizing your child's wrongdoing to others, you fight their battles for them. The bottom line for coddling is that what others think about your baby is more important to you than what God thinks about her.

Let's face it. When your child does/says something dumb, and, oh, I can assure you that they will, you need to be first on the scene and last to leave. You need to rebuke them, take them to the Cross, and urge repentance. Swallow your pride, Mama. Remember that there is a sacrifice for sin; there is no sacrifice for denial. *

So if coddling builds a full-grown five year old, what kind of person does commendation build?

His visitor was conscious of a deep and virile indifference in the man which his wife had called greatness. (GK Chesterton--The Strange Crime of John Bulnois)

His wife was right. There's something tangibly great, something virile, about a man who is indifferent. Not that he's indifferent to the world around him, but that he's unmoved by what it thinks of him. Flattery not only leaves him unmoved; it repulses him. But grieving or pleasing the One whose opinion truly matters? That gets his attention. 

How do we build that man or woman? A large part of it is by cultivating commendation.

When one of my kids was struggling with respecting me, he would roll his eyes or mumble something under his breath as he walked out to 'obey.' We had many go-rounds with the issue, and it was very frustrating for me. I would get angry; he would go cold; sternness defined the relationship. I was beginning to think we would never conquer this. Then the day came when he bit his lip, took a breath and said, "Okay, Mom." That got him commended, not so much because it was perfect (it wasn't), but because it was really, really hard for him.

Building commendation does not involve money or materialism. It is their Dad or me coming alongside and saying, "I saw that; that was hard. I see evidence of the Holy Spirit in you! And that's a commendable." Inevitably, they walk with their heads held a little bit higher.

A few weeks back, the eight year old wanted to go early to church with Brett. And Brett, not realizing she hadn't done her chores, said yes. But when I saw her heading out the door even though the dishwasher hadn't been unloaded, I intervened. Brett, of course, backed me up on that. But the eight year old was very, very disappointed. 'You said I could go,' she pleaded. She had to stay home, despite her disappointment. I'll also add that this one has a history of arguing and debating to get her way.

As I bustled about the kitchen finishing some tasks, I was also watching her do her job. And I observed something beautiful. She was putting the silverware back in the drawers, tears streaming down her cheeks. But there was something about her countenance. Something...resolved. After she finished, I put my hand on her.

'That was amazing,' I said. 'I know that was hard. But I saw you rally and resolve to do it, even though it was hard. That's a commendable!' She straightened up and smiled and leaned in for a hug.

Sure, it's great to see our kids succeed at extra-curriculars. Medals, plaques, and ribbons are nice. We can rejoice with and for our kids when they do well at something. I've cheered for football and cross-country; ballet and baseball; piano recitals and speech tournaments. In view of eternity, though, these successes are very transitory. They aren't worth commendation.

But when we see a kid crucifying his flesh,
taking a thought captive,
putting someone else's needs ahead of her own...
when we see him taking up his cross and being conformed to the image of Christ,
when we see evidence of the Holy Spirit in her,
when we see him doing the right thing, even though it's the harder thing,
now that's a commendable.

Most importantly, when we see a kid choose righteousness in an area where they have, in the past, consistently chosen sin, that's a commendable!!!

Life is hard. The Lord disciplines the one He loves and chastises His sons. Could we, as parents, lift our kids' drooping hands and strengthen their weak knees by coming alongside and offering encouragement?

Sometimes, there are days when I get to the dinner table and realize I've had very little interaction with my children that wasn't directive.
Do this. Don't do that.
That wasn't right.
Work on this.
Some of that is absolutely necessary. Discipling our children involves rooting out the sin in their lives. But having a fruitful garden isn't just about weeding. It's also about fertilizing. If discipline is the weed-pulling of parenting, commendation is the fertilizer. It's the extra boost to the soil in their hearts that encourages healthy, abundant growth.

The writer of Hebrews directs us to the covenant keepers of old "who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead from resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated--of whom the world was not worthy--wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth." Hebrews 11:33-38

Sprinkled throughout this chapter is the Lord's commendation for these covenant keepers of old,
these saints who never cared whether people 'liked them,'
whether people were 'mean.'
These saints were far too busy doing hard things to give a fig for the good opinion of men.
These saints are the covenant keepers who comprise the great cloud of witnesses.
These are the ones whom the wise imitate in this race for the Prize.

If the Lord commended them to us, surely we should commend our own in this little piece of the kingdom called Home.

*Jason Meyer, Bethlehem Baptist Church, 2015