We thought we were ready. We had read the books and watched the videos. We had our parents with whom we talked. We saw others and knew what we wanted and did not want. We had a vision of how things were going to be.
Then our firstborn came along and everything changed. Screams in the night have turned into questions that would turn heads of state. Sleep is overrated. Answers are not forthcoming. In fact, one might actually lead to the other. The books covered very little. Extended family only can help so much. Sooner or later we all are parenting without a net.
Like the trapeze artist who swings and flies through the air in death-defying ways, parenting is both thrilling and dangerous. One wrong move and everything blows up. One bad decision and they might be scarred for life, both physically and emotionally. Meanwhile, the child you think needs protection actually is more resilient than you believe. Yet, we deeply want a net that isn’t there. Or is it?
As the Israelites were hanging out by Mt. Sinai, God is giving instructions to Moses concerning behavior and consequences. Every choice has a result. Follow along in Leviticus 26. With good decisions come positive responses:
3 “If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands,4 I will send you the seasonal rains.
6 “I will give you peace in the land, and you will be able to sleep with no cause for fear.
9 “I will look favorably upon you, making you fertile and multiplying your people. And I will fulfill my covenant with you.
With poor and rebellious decisions come negative responses:
14 “However, if you do not listen to me or obey all these commands, 15 and if you break my covenant by rejecting my decrees, treating my regulations with contempt, and refusing to obey my commands, 16 I will punish you.
Basically, God has taken the children of Israel into His family and will raise them as His own. He is parenting them. What can we learn?
We must be clear. God was extremely clear on the issues of obedience and rebellion. Throughout the message He gives via Moses, God is detailed in the rules of behavior. Much of the last half of Leviticus spells out the expectations God has for his people. How often are we clear with our families? Do we spell out the expectations? Do we go over the house rules regularly so that we are clear? Clarity is one important factor in parenting without a net.
We must be consistent. As one continues to read through the Bible, God is consistent in his responses. If the Israelites acted properly God would respond positively as He said he would. If the Israelites acted in rebellion, God punished them. He did not do this with malice, but mercy. He gave them chances, but there was an end. So often in families today there is no consistency. Either the parents don’t agree, or change the rules mid-game. Parenting without a net requires consistency. We must do what we say we will do, whether positive or negative. There is no respect without consistency.
We must be complete. The remainder of the Old Testament reveals to us that God was complete. He always followed through. What He said, He did. If we promise ice cream, ice cream needs to be purchased. If we promise a spanking, we had better use that paddle. God knew the need for humanity to see consistency in its authority figures. Do we complete what we start or fizzle out when it gets hard? We must finish strong. I have personally seen so many that threaten with a wispy whip. There is no follow-up. God followed through with what He said. Nation after nation was used to discipline Israel.
When the books fail and advice falters we parent without a net. In these moments we must remember three things. be clear. Be consistent. Be complete.