Jump Start # 2081
Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
We knew him simply as Buster. He was a friend of the family. My kids loved Buster. I loved to watch the interaction between Buster and the kids. Buster got sick, real sick. With the family gathered, we watched Buster pass away. Tears flowed. Questions were asked. A funeral was planned.
Buster was a pet hamster that we got for my son, Jordan. But everyone loved Buster. He was fluffy, furry, bright eyed and especially took to little Jordan. The boys would put Buster in their toy trucks and run him around the house. Buster seemed to have a blast. They played and played with Buster. But he got sick. On a Wednesday, we knew that Buster wouldn’t make it. We all left for Bible class. Little Buster hung on until we all got back. He died in Jordan’s little hands. I didn’t know at the time that the life expectancy for that type of hamster was only one year. I would have never gone down that path had I done my homework. That night, fearing a lot of tears, we put Jordan in bed with us. He fell asleep immediately. Mom and dad stayed awake most of the night with tears in their eyes. The next day, we had a funeral in our back yard for Buster. To this day, all these years later, the kids have fond memories of that short time they had with Buster. They sure loved him.
Our verse today is about parenting. Let’s face it, parenting is tough. It’s more than clean clothes, bedtime and getting them off to school. There are tough lessons that come with parenting. There are some things that the kids will carry with them in their heart and in their memory the rest of their lives.
Here are a few of them:
Dealing with death: Pets die. Grandparents die. Happily ever after only happens in the Disney movies. Death is part of life. Some try to ignore it. Some in trying to soften the tears and the pain, say things that just aren’t true. The death of Buster and the death of my mom were not the same. Buster was a pet. As much as we want to say that there is a pet Heaven or hamsters are in Heaven, we know Biblically that’s not true. Be careful how you say and present things. Don’t crush soft hearts. Don’t say things that later will only confuse them or mess them up spiritually.
Years ago, I was preaching in the Phoenix area. Someone in the congregation had passed away and their visitation was taking place on Sunday afternoon. I went with some folks. There I saw a young father from the congregation. He was standing some distance from the casket, bent down talking to his two young sons. He was pointing to the casket. They had all kinds of questions. I watched. In time, the dad walked up to the casket, holding each boys hand. That image of a godly dad explaining one of the hardest things to understand has always stayed with me. I expect what they talked about has stayed with those boys.
But I have also known the opposite. I had a grown man call me years ago. His grandmother had passed away. His question wasn’t about death, but funeral homes. What are they like? What do I wear? Dozen and dozens of questions. I found out that he had never been to a funeral home in his life. His family had sheltered him and now he had to go and he was sacred.
Teaching about death is hard. Dealing with the death of a beloved pet is hard.
Dealing with disappointments: This too is a part of life. A friend in the neighborhood moves away, a school closes. You must move your family. These things can bring an emptiness in our hearts. It’s hard for young children to understand why their friend has to move. Life’s lessons like this will help prepare your child for other disappointments that he will face. A scholarship doesn’t come his way. A promotion is given to someone else. A medical test reveals there is a problem. A company is sold. This is our world. It can be ugly at times. It can be hard. These are the things that breed fear and worry. These can be the very storms that causes our house to collapse if it is built upon the sand.
Parenting through disappointments. This is where your lead in spiritual thoughts helps. A friend of theirs moves. Say a prayer about that friend. Help your child to write them a letter. Call the friend up and have your child talk to them. Reminding your child about disappointments that happened to God’s people, yet their faith remain strong will help. It will help later on in life. It will help to have their foundation built upon the rock. The rock never changes. The rock is always there. The rock will hold them up. Many children never learn these lessons. And as adults, they don’t do well with disappointments. This is why alcohol flows like rivers in this country. “I need a drink,” has replaced, “I need the Lord.” Dealing with disappointments is a fundamental parenting lesson that is tough.
Dealing with failures: This may be one of the hardest parenting lessons. Your child has told you a lie. Your child did something wrong, mean and hurtful to someone else. You child is a bully. Your child was caught stealing. Alcohol or drugs were found in your child’s possession. The sins of our children can break our hearts. Those perfect little angels can quickly become little devils. Wrong comes with consequences. Tons and tons of lessons to be taught, reminded and explained here. Concerns about who they are being influenced by. Sometimes drastic things have to be done. Ending friendships. Switching schools. Even moving are some things I have known parents to do.
How we teach our children responsibility and dealing with their own failures will be a bridge to learning what God expects from us. Firm, yet loving. Don’t defend wrong. Don’t justify wrong. Yet, don’t destroy the child. The bigger picture in this is seeing your child as a prodigal in a far country. The call of the far country pulled him into wrong choices. Yet, your role, is leading him back and then you must take on the role of the father in Luke 15. You want your child to recognize that one mistake doesn’t mean he is ruined for life. Help him. Guide him. Use God’s word about repentance and forgiveness. Someday, as an adult, you want him to deal with his failures in a godly way.
Parenting is tough. Clean clothes and getting them to eat veggies is easy compared to what we talked about today. Hang in there. Keep talking. Keep taking them to church services. Keep up with them. You are learning as you go along. Ask older Christians for advice. Don’t be too big to admit your mistakes. None of us are perfect. Invite God into your home and pray every day for those children.
Sweet little Buster. He is a fond memory that is treasured by our family. Laughter and tears…good times and tough times—every family has them. Walking with God makes all the difference.