I was sitting on Sunday morning watching PBS with the kids when a show that I've seen just a time or two came on. "Martha Speaks" this morning was about a dog 'trainer' that claims to train the dog in just one day. To make the dog go from wild and rambunctious to obedient and 'perfect'. Of course the main character in the show, a dog that talks, figures out that the dogs are all being very robotic. They're not blinking, acknowledging squirrels, or anything that dogs normally do. They are, however, sitting still by their owner's side and hopping on one foot until they're told to stop.
In the end, Martha finds out that the trainer is putting a microchip into the dogs' collars and that's making them obedient- not any training. So Martha uses the microchip to get the trainer to tell what is happening (she puts it on him) and they remove all the chips from the dogs and have a community of rambunctious, but FUN dogs once again.
Why the cartoon recap? I've thought on this subject a lot lately in regards to my children. The idea that kids need the freedom to make choices- good ones and bad ones, to play, to be disobedient, to be loving, to learn by their mistakes, and to generally be themselves. I don't require them to be perfect by any means. I sincerely know that that's not only completely unreasonable, it's also not desirable. They will have to make mistakes to learn and grow and gain character.
Not only that, but God treats us- His children- with similar care. Of course He guides us and has a perfect plan for each of our lives... but He knows that we are human (hey, He created us that way!) and that He gave us the freedom of choice. WHY would God give us that same choice to mess up and to walk away from Him and His ways? Why would He not only accept that we WILL make mistakes, but also created us that way to be able to... What was He thinking??? :)
Well, fortunately He makes it clear what He desires for us... He doesn't just want us to be obedient because we HAVE to- as if we've been programmed to follow directions and go through life in a series of robotic movements planned out to be perfect. Instead, He wants us to be obedient because we WANT to be. He doesn't want to force us to have a relationship with Him- he wants us to desire it. He wants us to know that when we desire Him and live to walk in the ways that He leads us in to, that our lives will be the most fulfilling. In the end, the rewards are eternal.
So... back to my kids? A new perspective on child-rearing... one that I've had for some time, but it's always great to have that Sunday morning cartoon as a reminder... If we desire to raise our children in a way that doesn't force them in to obedience, but leads them gently so they know that the path of obedience will be the most fulfilling... they will be more likely to follow in this way to their Heavenly Father- which, really, is my greatest desire for each of my children. It far outweighs their obedience to ME. It far outweighs my desire for them to excel academically, socially, physically, or in any other way. And really- that "perfect" child... the robotic one that doesn't learn, grow, test, and have FUN... is that really who I desire my children to become? Not even a little bit.
On the other hand, God doesn't just leave us to do our will and to struggle through life. Not even a little bit. His gentle hand guides us, but a firm hand often lets us know the consequences for our wrong choices as well. We don't live without difficulties and these are often at the response of our unwillingness to listen or obey to what is right or good.
And sometimes... God takes us away from our comfort zone and asks us to do something which we don't see as fitting to 'our plans' and yet we need to follow with a blind faith. As I struggle down my own path of obedience... and disobedience to our Heavenly Father and experience the Grace He gives as I fail each step along the way... I pray that will help me to continue to focus on the grace I should then have for my children as they, too, struggle in obedience- now in a parental realm and one day in a spiritual one as well.