The tiny nursery at our little church - amazingly calm and peaceful all morning - erupted into chaos just as the worship service ended. An untimely "potty disaster" required a change of clothes and some major clean-up for one child. Simultaneously, parents with older preschoolers in tow converged on the cramped room to pick up their toddlers and babies. In the midst of this burst of activity, two of my large sons stepped through the doorway, asking for the keys to the car.
"Boys, not right now. Leave the room - you can get the keys later." I addressed them with a firm voice, wanting to limit the traffic and activity as much as possible in the cramped and chaotic room.
"I can just find the keys myself," one son offered. "Where's your purse?"
Before I had time to reiterate my first statement, one of the young fathers in the room, there to pick up his children, responded. Joe turned toward the door, made eye contact with my sons, and said, "Boys, obey your mother." A simple command, spoken in a calm and pleasant tone, with no opportunity offered for response.
The reaction from my teenagers? "Yes, sir!" And they disappeared down the hall.
The reaction from me? "Thank you!" My respect for and appreciation of this young father increased exponentially. His timely reinforcement and encouragement in this parenting endeavor were such a blessing. I didn't find out until we were driving home from church that the Sunday morning message had been about the commandment to "honor your father and your mother" - and that Joe, knowing the sermon was fresh on my sons' minds, was taking advantage of an opportunity to translate the sermon from words into practical application!
Parenting is a monumental task. It's a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week job. Although parenting is incredibly delightful at times and is an honorable and rewarding calling, the truth is that it is also frequently exhausting, often frustrating, sometimes overwhelming. To complicate things, our culture - music, movies, schools, peers, technology, even extended family and sometimes our churches - often work to undermine our labor as parents. It is a rare and precious thing when a calm, strong voice speaks into our children's lives with the intent and effect of affirming our role and responsibilities as parents.
Within the church, I feel we are called to some degree to be about the business of co-parenting, of strenghtening each other for the challenge of raising a new generation and engaging that "next generation" as they move from infancy to childhood to adulthood. (Is my covenantal theology showing?) Obviously, we need much grace for such a collaboration! Grace and courage to speak into the lives of others with children, grace and humility as parents to receive godly wisdom and practical assistance from our brothers and sisters in Christ. I am praying for both: for grace to engage other parents and their children, to be a "Joe" to my neighbor; and, for grace to receive their involvement in my life and the life of my family.
What about you, Dear Reader? Do you have a story of a "Joe" in your life, someone who was willing to enter this messy parenting endeavor alongside you? Or, maybe you have been a "Joe" to someone else - how were you able to do so graciously and in a spirit of love? I'd love to see your comments!
2 days ago