In hindsight it seems Joshua was foolish in agreeing to the deception. However, how many times have we ourselves fallen for the deception of the “distant country”.
It is too far to affect me, my family, or my Church. I will not be impacted by it, not by a long shot, we reason. It will never become a habit, it is just a one night fling, and the list of reasoning go on. And very soon we realize, and often too late that we have played with fire in our bosom and are badly burnt (Prov 6:27).
Sin is never too far, it is true for us, just as it was true for Cain (Gen 4:7).
Lot in Genesis 19:20, tells the angels to allow him to go to Zoar because it is a ‘little one’, meaning a small thing. A little sin, too small to give it any significance; and just like a little leaven, you can be sure just as God Word says it will, it will fill our entire being. It will consume our whole self– just like a wildfire caused by a carelessly tossed light, is raging and too large to be easily stopped.
We have treated sin and our propensity to sin as being ‘far and distant’ and ‘a small thing’ – small enough to be forgiven and forgotten in and of itself.
Don’t be fooled by the display sin puts on.
I heard this great story about a guy, let’s call him Matt, who qualified to be on the school football team. Matt was ecstatic –it was a valuable passport to fame, scholarship and girls. The practice days were simply exhilarating for this young teen. The swagger, the cool look of his uniform was intended to attract attention. Matt relished in the Oohh’s and Aahh’s as he walked down the hallway. It was great to be on the team.
Sure enough, the game day arrived. It was time to put into practice all that the team had learned against the strongest opponents in their league. As Matt sat on the bench waiting his turn, he saw his teammates getting battered and bruised. Their once sparkling white uniform was all muddied and dirty, not to mention the smell of sweat that lingered even after they walked past.
The young teen was not so sure of himself anymore. Matt wasn’t keen on getting hurt, getting his uniform dirty or smelling like the Friday evening garbage can. He contemplated running away or slipping quietly out so that no one would notice that he was missing. He prayed like never before; he prayed that his name would not be called. He had revelled in all the glory he had received previously, but now he doubted whether it was even worth it.
That’s when Matt felt the tap on his shoulder. It was the coach. It was his turn next. He was being herded to the slaughterhouse; the time had come. Matt could either get up and be the man he always projected he was, or chicken out, feigning sickness.
Matt chose the latter. The coach didn’t argue, and the next person was sent in.
In spite of all the abuse their bodies suffered that day, their team won. It was a great day for the school and an even greater day for the team.
Congratulations were being given out freely. It was funny that the crowd didn’t seem to mind the dirty uniforms or their ‘stinking’ presence. They were being carried on shoulders, hugged and kissed. They received all the adulation on that day.
In all this, one thing stood out. One look at Matt’s clean uniform and the crowd could tell he had not played. He was a bench warmer. And so, though he was the cleanest and probably the most charming, he was not included in the celebration.
The one thing that Matt would have loved to receive was denied him because he had not played.
It is unfortunate that for many of us this might just ring true at the final count.
We all wish to hear the words from the Lord, “Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in little things…”.
However, the adulation of that Audience of One may be missing because we did not ‘play’.
All that you learned and all the practice you have had will not amount to anything, unless you get down to play the game.
Come on then, get off the bleachers. Join in the play.
“Harvest is plenty, Laborers are few”
Not sure if this is an universal phenomena, but children seem to grow up faster than their parents are willing to let go?
Well I have been struggling with this very dilemma, as my son prepares to leave for University.
Ready or not? Here they go.
So what is the issue?
There is this constant battle between parental stewardship that doesn’t want to let go, and adult responsibility that begs for rational release. I think the issue lies in over-thinking and under-trusting. More about that later.
However, these are times when parents look back to what they would have done differently. In my mind, the only two reason why we as parents may not have regrets, are either because we have not learned from past mistakes, or that we have been too arrogant to admit them. If “to err is human” then the cape of the super parents must be used to cover the face as remorse.
I don’t intend this to be a downhill, slap on the wrist article. I want to applaud parenting by contrasting the dark regrets against the brilliance of the joy and thrill of raising a child. Much like a diamond trader who places the gem against the dark black velvet to capture the nuance. The point though is that a mere human factor in the parenting mix is destined for disaster. It is like a single ingredient recipe. It doesn’t amount to much.
Are they ready?
Parents often worry that their children are yet ill-equipped to face the world.
My parents in their seventies still think so; and while I have given them enough fodder to foster that opinion the mute point is that we must accept.
Accept that they are an independent life, apart from us. That ‘my’ son is a complete human; a man, just like me. Nothing less, and hopefully more.
Accept that we are neither omniscient, nor omnipresent. We do not have all the answers, and can never be at all the places they will be.
Accept some lessons are learned by living, not telling. That they must reinvent the wheel according to their template.
Accept that we could never be perfect parents even with repeated chances.
We reined,trained, and hopefully ingrained, and neither our guilt nor their supposed inexperience must now prevent them.
Are we ready?
The question really is directed at us.
Consider how even from that first day when we brought them home from the hospital, we have only reared them trusting the good Lord for guidance and wisdom.
All of us will acknowledge freely that we are not self-made perfect parents and that it was the grace of God that allowed us to move past colicky nights, broken wrists, school reports, and nightmare-comes-true alarms.
We trusted each day for wisdom and strength. We prayed for character and personality.
Now it is time to test our faith and realize that the wings that were spun with tears and toil will hold as they begin to soar.
Let go, and Let God
It is time to let go.
It is time to know that the same God who led us through parenting will lead them through life.
Learn to let go and see them glide on the strength of answered prayers.
When we do, we will realize it was never us that ultimately held the reins, but God.
He is the one who brought them till here, and He is the one who will guide them till home.
I must remind myself of this truth everyday.
Parental instructions as adornment is probably taking things a little too far by any standards!
Imagine having a note around your neck from your mom reminding you to eat your vegetables at school. Graceful? NEVER. So how does Solomon, the wisest man ever, presume to advise on instructions being a graceful chain around the neck?
Now we can’t deny that an aptly worn chain adds grace. Just the visual – a pearl necklace at an evening out, will have many drooling. Probably therein lies the secret — ‘Aptness’ in wearing the graceful chain of “Instructions”.
So how do we understand all this?
I want to capture three aspects of what we will call “Attitude Adjustments”. When I use the term Parental Instruction, please understand that it could refer to someone significant in your life. Someone who is investing into your life sacrificially.
1. Affection & Assurance:
Just as pearls around a neck screams of someone’s affection (I am making a presumption that pearls are always gifted); Parental instructions are a sign of affection. We read in the Bible:
Hebrews 12:6. “…For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes those he accepts as his children.”
Again in another passage, we are reminded that discipline is painful for the moment, but will yield the fruit of righteousness.
Hebrews 12:11. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it”.
Godly instructions are intended as minor corrections that prevent a major catastrophe.
So when you receive instructions, look behind the fabric and see it woven with affection. Be assured that these godly instructors are with you during your formative journey.
2. Agreement & Appreciation
This is where the rubber meets the road. It is one thing to realize that the basis of instructions is affection, but totally different when accepting it as good and important. There is a effort of learning in appreciating this influence.
Appreciation and agreement moves you to another realm– from mere acquiescence to acceptance. From a reactive mode to a proactive mindset.
I want to suggest that this is where the switch is located. The switch between being dragged to change, and walking in agreement.
However, agreement is not blind acceptance, but a conscious decision that you are willing to accept help. Agreement can be humbling to both the hormones and the testosterone.
Agreement is not emotional slavery to ‘control’; but an acknowledgement that these are voices of warning from those who have gone ahead. Listening, agreeing and appreciating godly instructions can prevent you from reinventing the wheel the painful way.
3. Agenda & Alertness
Wonder if you ever had the experience of wearing a gold chain and finding yourself in the wrong side of town; or even on the other side of midnight. Every sound is heightened, and every move cautious as you walk through that supposedly lonely street.
Life is much the same. Instructions keeps you alert and on the look out for danger. You see ‘prevention’ in a different light. You prefer avoidance than having to risk experimenting with danger.
So why wear the Chain of Instruction?
It is not the lucky amulet that protects you from danger, but strategies you can use when in danger.
These ornaments of grace is a gentle reminder that we are on an agenda.
We are work in progress. The chain, therefore, is a gift from our parents, our grandparents, pleading us to think about them, and the God they serve, in times of crises. It offers time tested solutions. It is the mother’s recipe for danger (or from danger, however, you may use them; and the portion size is customized to you).
Godly instructions are part of life’s manual. Just like the flat packaging from Ikea that doesn’t make sense without the instructions sheet, godly instructions prod us to do the right things. Doing right, even at the wrong time or wrong place that we often find ourselves in. Godly instructions holds the key at the end of the chain that opens doors in sticky situations.
I hope you are convinced? In fact there is more to this graceful Chain of Instruction, but more about it later.
This book revolves around passing life lessons to my son.
These lessons are also relevant for teachers, coaches, mentors, or parents to pass on. All of us wanting to provide precious learning to the ones we are shepherding–all hoping that our ‘sons’ and ‘daughters’ do not have to reinvent the wheel, make the same mistakes, or even learn the hard way.
However in our excitement to teach, we forget that often times we are the ones who are taught. And that whatever role we may be playing–parenting, mentoring, teaching, we are always blessed and left richer by the experience.
I want to share about a moment where this truth hit home, real hard. A moment of truth. This happened when Dan was about two-and-a-half.
I had just returned from work, tired from the commute and corporate pressure. As I flopped on my bed feeling a little sorry for being caught in the rat race, Dan came up and lay beside me. It was conversation time for him – ‘Dad and Son’ time. So when his mom tried to enter the room, he told her it is his time for man-to-man talk. Complying with his request, Joyce stepped out of the room, but didn’t really leave the conversation. She was eager to find what Dan was up to. On my part though, I wasn’t really in the mood for a deep conversation at the end of a tiring day.
With parental obligation taking over, I turned to him and asked if he knew what the philosophy of life meant?
Now you must visualize the setting. Dan is lying down with his legs crossed in the air, corporate style, nodding as if answering my questions. His nods and his cute behaviour goaded me further, so I asked if he could repeat the word, ‘Philosophy’. Remember, he is two-and-a-half. He had been going to a play school but they sure hadn’t taught him to say ‘Philosophy’ as yet. He tried to say the word but couldn’t, so I ask if he knew what the word meant?
He nodded sagely again. Something was happening, and in trying to keep the conversation going I continued, “Dan, it means the meaning of life”. He nods again as if taking it all in. Here’s when I begin to download on the poor child. ‘Dan’, I said, ‘the meaning of life is all good things come to an end’. He continues his nod, and from the corner of my eye I can see Joyce trying to decipher where this conversation was going, while at the same time marvelling at the boy who was holding his own.
However by now, the game had begun. I was really curious to understand what this toddler was up to. So I turn to him and ask him to repeat what he understood. As a true Trainer, I was applying the principles of feedback, but on a child, shame on me, really. What he repeated back to me though, still echoes in my heart. A life lesson of immense magnitude; a life lesson for which I am tremendously grateful. For in that single phrase he changed that tired evening into the beginning of a new paradigm.
I had implied that life was a downhill slide; and that in life, ‘all good things came to an end’, but when he repeated it back to me, he said with all the innocence of a child — “All good things come in the end”.
That was a knock on the side of my head, a kick on my rear, and a jolt of new hope to my heart. His mom was already in and had scooped him up in her arms, for even she understood I had learned a lesson that day that will be useful all my life.
First book, and in many ways it feels like becoming a dad for the first time … again.
The night was sleepless as Joyce labored, literally, in the other room. It was the time we were all waiting for, nine months to be precise, and he was late, I mean the doctor. They are not very amenable I guess to be woken up at 4 in the morning and to have to rush to the hospital. Meanwhile, Dan was beginning to mistake the umbilical for a cashmere.
There wasn’t a sound when Dan peeped into the world on the morning of January 9th many moons ago, but his eyes were wide open.
More about the eyes soon, but that lull and the silence was just a prelude to a throaty cry that filled many rooms down the hallway. Dan was alright. Congratulations, best wishes and other social exchanges were taking place, as I stood in the operating room baffled by two awesome wonders. First, Joyce’s pain wrenched face and exhaustion was magically replaced with a gentle tenderness of a mom, as she cradled Dan. Secondly, I had just graduated to being a Dad.
Dan’s eyes! That’s a another story in itself. Doctors had warned us to expect the worst because of several complications during the pregnancy, even to the extent that his eyes would be ‘tender eyed’. I kid you not, the excited relief of all those in that room is seared in my head. Dan was born with the most beautiful set of eyes. You see, contrary to doctor’s advise we went ahead with the pregnancy trusting God that He will do all things beautiful. For parents in their mid-twenties, such faith should not have been natural, but we thank God for the experience.
So as I hold this book, 18 years a few months after that first landing on Dad Land, I am reminded afresh of how God works His purposes in us and through us.
The original book was given in its raw form to Dan- color photocopy and spiral bound on his 18th birthday. It has now transformed itself into a mature and handsome book, just like Dan, courtesy Davidson Publishing. Kudos to them.
As parents, the greatest joy in parenting is when we see our children soar on the faith, principles, and character that was kneaded, and kindled while under our care. A labor of love till they are grown.
I pray something like that for this book.