This summer our generous church family made it possible for me to take a three-month sabbatical. It was an amazing time that allowed me to spend more time with my family than usual. Together with our four children (ages 7-14), my wife and I did a three-week road trip to southern California, went camping, and kicked around our city. We played games and rode bikes and threw the football. I loved it, and am still thanking God regularly.
Not surprisingly, though, the increased time with my kids led me to experience more frustration (read, selfish anger) than usual, too. At times, I found myself looking forward to getting back to the normal routine where helping mediate adult conflicts can sometimes seem easy compared to keeping the peace in my home.
Though I have a great earthly dad, my heavenly Father has been my best example when it comes to loving and training my children well. So, amidst my frustration, the Spirit called my attention to a few specific things that I was saying to my children, phrases that the Father never says to me as His beloved child.
Our house is almost always filled with noise. My oldest daughter has taken up the guitar and loves to sing. My second daughter loves to talk. And talk. And talk. My two boys are, well, boisterous. Everything is a weapon (of course) and the world is waiting to be conquered. My older son simply loves to yell, for no particular reason (I call it his “barbaric yawp,” from Dead Poet’s Society). Oh, and then there’s the occasional (ok, regular) arguments that break out in our house. “Stop it! She hit me! Give that back! WHY?!”
All of which leads me to say/yell, “Be quiet!” If I’m honest, it’s not just the content of the noise that bothers me, it’s the noise itself.
Which is so unlike our Father.
Our Father delights in hearing us. We are His children. He wants us to make noise for Him. Psalm 100:4 says, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!” Psalm 150:5 says, “Praise him with loud clashing cymbals!”
It’s going to be loud in the new heavens and new earth.
Revelation 5:12-13 describes an ear-splitting offering of praise to the Father and the Son, shouted by a chorus of countless angels… “saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’ And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’”
Granted, this is worship directed straight towards the Creator of the universe, but stop and think about it for a moment. Can you imagine how much noise the Father hears on a daily basis? And much of it brings Him delight.
Instead of saying, “Be quiet!” the Father says, “Rejoice! Shout! Sing!”
“Stop Asking for Things!”
A chorus of seemingly unending requests rains down on my wife and me: “Can I have a snack?” “Can we go to the store?” “Why does she get to have a friend over?” “Can we have dessert?” “THAT’S NOT FAIR!”
The moralist in me likes to say things like, “Be content” or “Stop complaining” (neither of which are helpful on their own). And then, sometimes, I just blurt out, “Stop asking for things!”
The contrast between that statement and our Father’s heart is striking.
When Jesus taught His followers to pray, He contrasted His prayer with the prayers of the irreligious, non-Jewish people. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: ‘Our Father…’ And He went on to instruct us to ask the Father for the things we need, even though He already knows about them (Matthew 6:7-11).
Our Father wants us to ask for things!
Philippians 4:6 says, “Let your requests be made known to God.” In 1 Peter 5:7, Peter says, “Cast your cares upon him because he cares for you.”
Instead of saying, “Stop asking for things!” the Father says, “Tell me what you need.”
“Leave Me Alone!”
I realize this is a blessing, and that it says a lot about how much grace I’ve received as a parent, but my kids always want to be with me. If I am in the house, they want to be right beside me. It’s a huge honor. I feel deeply loved. But sometimes, I need some space.
Which leads me to think, “Would you guys please just leave me alone!” Fortunately, I think I’ve only uttered those words once or twice, but the thought crosses my mind fairly regularly.
This one runs totally contrary to the way our Father treats us. He wants to be with us. James 4:5 says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us.”
All of redemptive history culminates in the sending of God’s Spirit to dwell in humans. God has permanently joined Himself to us as His children. The Spirit is a “seal [which indicated ownership], guaranteeing our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13). The Father wants to be with us 100% of the time, and He gave His Son as a sacrifice for our sins so that this could be possible. Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus died “that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Could there be a clearer demonstration of the Father’s desire for us to be with Him?
Instead of saying, “Leave me alone!” the Father says, “Let’s spend more time together.”
Repentance and Faith
Anytime I think or say one of these phrases, here’s what I’m really saying: “Can’t a guy get a little peace and quiet in his own home? You are driving me crazy! I am entitled to some comfort, and you are seriously hindering that right now.” I am saying that I cannot have peace, comfort, or satisfaction unless my children behave rightly.
The bottom line is that I don’t believe that the very presence of God is enough to satisfy me, to comfort me, and to bring me peace. In John 14:16, Jesus says that the Father will send the Spirit, and in John 15:26, Jesus says that He will send the Spirit. The Spirit is “the spirit of adoption…through whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” (Romans 8:15). The Spirit is “the Spirit of Christ” (Romans 8:9). Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
So when I say “Be quiet!” or “Leave me alone!” I am saying that the presence of my heavenly Father and of His Son Jesus is not sufficient to satisfy the deepest longings of my heart. The reality is that even in the midst of craziness, noise, and commotion, the Spirit is able to produce the fruit of peace and self-control in us (Galatians 5:22-23). The key is to worship Jesus in the moment instead of ourselves. We do this by saying, “Jesus, You are enough for me in this very moment. You are good, and You are with me. You are present in me through Your Holy Spirit. Would You give me joy, peace, self-control, and love right now? Those things can only come from You! You are better than a quiet home and content children!”
If I am content and deeply satisfied in the love that the Father has for me, I will not look to my children’s good behavior for contentment and satisfaction.
Only then can I speak words of life, words that reflect the deep love the Father has for me because of what Jesus has done for me on the cross:
“Rejoice! Shout! Sing!”
“Tell me what you need.”
“Let’s spend more time together.”
Join the Conversation
How can God’s fatherly love for us impact how we love and relate to our children?