This past weekend, my wife and I attended the Future Women Conference along with almost 500 other parents, grandparents, and ministry leaders. Like most parents, we are not just looking to raise “good kids” who do not get into trouble, or even ones that know lots of answers to Bible questions. Instead we want to parent them in a Gospel-centered way that equips them to evaluate their own hearts, their relationships, and their culture in light of who God is and who we are in relationship to Him.
As a father, I also realize that I am accountable for how I shepherd my family. I did not grow up in a family or culture that thought this way, and it is a life-changing experience for me to be a part of a community that takes equipping the next generation, seriously. That all sounds lofty and altruistic as I write it, and in practice it is work...which requires a lot of thought and creativity in the moment. Sometimes I feel like I do that well, and other times I fail miserably.
There were several great take-aways from the conference, but one of the most significant “ah ha” moments for me came when Ed Sweeny said we need to take time to say “yes” to our children. I have felt that before, but could not have put words to it. There are days that I feel like all I say is “no,” followed by discipline, followed by more sayings of “no,” with a few “you know you are not allowed to do that” comments sprinkled in. I knew something did not feel right about that as it was happening, but if you asked, I could not tell you what it was. All I knew was it felt like I was beginning to exasperate them (Colossians 3:21), but did not know how to fix it.
Saying “no” is easy...especially for Dad. We carry a lot of weight, we are tired, we are also (thanks to the fall) predisposed to be passive, feel free to fill in your favorite excuse here. I realize as I am typing this that the days I am most short-tempered and most likely to be agitated are the days that I am least engaged with my children. It takes time and effort to say “yes.” It means I am going to have to close the laptop, not finish that email just yet, turn off the TV, and engage. I will have to ask questions, listen to the answers, and ask follow-up questions. Sometimes it is as simple as getting off of the couch and laying in the floor for 30 minutes while they use me as their trampoline.
“Yes” requires thought and creativity. It requires time and effort. It requires my best when I am feeling my worst. It requires me to evaluate the request and redirect it in a better direction.
Is “yes” always the right answer? No. But “no” is easy and I use it way too much.
- Rob Allen, Children's Ministry Staff
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