Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Wind & Fire Parenting (part 3)
The Holy Spirit appears as fire often in the Scriptures. Pastor Sweeting reminded us of several sightings in his Pentecost sermon: the covenanting fire in Abraham's vision (Gen 15), the commissioning fire Moses encountered in the burning bush (Ex 3), the guiding fire of the pillar of fire and cloud that led Israel through the wilderness (Ex 13:21, 22 ) and signified God's presence with Israel in the Temple (2 Chron 7) and in exile (Eze 1).
When Abraham saw the glory/fire, God appeared there to covenant with him, passing alone between the slaughtered halves of the sacrifices. The usual practice in the ancient world when forming a covenant relationship like this, was for the inferior or conquered party to pass through the halves, signifying that if he broke the stipulations of the covenant, he stood in danger of being laid open just like those sacrificed animals. God reversed this practice, promising to become the sacrifice Himself, regardless of how well Abraham and his descendants kept the covenant.
As parents, we make unconditional promises to our children (or we ought to do) to care for them, to train them, to shepherd and help them regardless of how well they behave. As they launch out, they particularly need to be reminded that we will stand by them no matter what success or failure they face. They need to know that no matter how far their calling takes them from us, they still have the privileges and the welcome of sons and daughters.
When our daughters graduated from high school, we presented them each with a silk shawl made from our family's tartan. We told them that wherever they went, they would always be wrapped in our love. And although a husband will someday wrap each of them in a new heritage as his bride, they will still have a sheltered place in their heritage as part of our family. It was our confirmation of covenant as they began pursuing their callings as adults.
God's appearance in the burning bush signaled Moses' commissioning for his work of delivering Israel from slavery in Egypt. Remember, Moses had a passion for this work from at least forty years earlier and he had tried to step into that work without God's commission - with disastrous results (Ex. 2). In both Moses' case and in the case of the disciples at Pentecost, it was vitally important that their commissioning be initiated by God. And when God gave His commission, He also gave His people special tools and anointing for their work.
Our children need to be sent out to the work that stirs their passion with the best tool-up we can manage and bearing blessings initiated by us. This doesn't mean that we wait until our children have nothing more to learn about their calling. But it does mean that we send them out when both their passion and their skills will allow them to move forward in reliance on God. Both Moses and the disciples felt rather tentative about their ability to actually accomplish what God was sending them to do. They had moved beyond their immature enthusiasm, beyond Peter's sword-waving defense of his Master in the Garden of Gethsemane, beyond Moses' vigilante justice for abusive Egyptians. They had acquired a realistic sense of what it would take to step into that calling and in humility they were anticipating God's move.
In the case of our eldest child, she was sure of her calling and was eager to graduate with her older best friends and get on with it. But we asked her to wait a year to apply for scholarships. With some tears, she agreed, and it was during that year that God blessed her efforts with about half a million dollars in scholarship offers and a professional internship that gave her perspective, skills and networks that actually allowed her to accelerate her entrance into her calling. So when commencement came around the following spring, we were able to send her out with joy and power.
The activity we most often associate with the Holy Spirit is personal guidance. For infant Israel, He was the visible pillar of fire and shade. For the emerging Church, He became the invisible purpose shaper in the disciples' lives, the One who taught them what to say and where to go, their constant companion. But the Holy Spirit does not teach us in the same way that Jesus taught. The Spirit leads us to Jesus, urging us to consider what Jesus said and what Jesus does. It is indirect illumination rather than direct instruction. Jesus is the words on the page; the Spirit is the light by which we read.
So as our children are emerging into their callings, our influence needs to become more indirect. No longer are we principally teachers and boundary-givers for them. More and more we become coaches and companions, leading them to Jesus' instruction, to Jesus' example, and helping them to live with the choices they make.
And this work is absolutely vital to our children's progress. Jesus told His disciples that unless He went away, the Holy Spirit would not come to lead them into all truth. They would not come to maturity without the Holy Spirit's work. They would not have the fullest share in His glory. Just so our children will not come to full maturity unless we transform our work with them into this invitational, indirect influence. We are not to "push them out of the nest" and abandon them to their fate; neither are we to continue to direct them by visibly, presently pushing and hovering.
Get the big picture on transitional parenting. Quests & Homecomings, an audio experience from Kim Anderson