Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Irony of Parenting

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"Mommy, obey me!" my five-year old daughter then demanded. I laughed it off and explained to her what's wrong with that. Obviously, she did not understand that obedience varies in application.

At that time, I was reading the book of Genesis. God had plainly revealed in the earlier chapters of this book that He is our Father and we are His children, which along with that concept injected a few important principles of parenting.  He, being our Father, imposes obedience to His children which we, in turn, are expected to comply.   Since our heavenly Father is God, and God as He is, a perfect being, all righteous, just and full of wisdom, always proved the beauty of being obedient to Him.

When I came to Genesis 9, I discovered another perspective in parenting.  This chapter enumerated how Noah and his family lived after the flood.  God gave them the same command to multiply and fill the earth as to Adam and Eve. Verse 20 showed that Noah became occupied in increasing the produce of the land. He [Noah] began to be a man of the soil, and [he] planted a vineyard. Until he was fully drawn into it and finally sinned (v. 21).

From that verse until the end of this chapter, I remembered the statement of my daughter, and realized that parenting, in most cases, is wrapped with irony like that.

1. The Irony of Teaching Obedience

Noah was a parent of three sons. I am convinced that it was clear with him that he was to teach his children that obedience was a good trait and must be applied.  

But on one fateful day, Noah drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent (v. 21). He disobeyed God by giving in to his intemperance and abusing God's gifts.

It is logical to say that when you teach something, you are expected to be better than who you are teaching. But in the stance of obedience, Noah's story proved something else.  The hard truth presses on:  Parents struggle in obedience as much as their children do. So what shall we do? The task of teaching obedience to children was commissioned to us, parents. We must be reputed as obedient. We must persevere in genuine efforts to obey God for our sake and the sake of our children.  

But outward obedience is cheap.  Let us desire for the real thing - inward submission that will inevitably express outwardly. The Bible tells us to keep watch of our lives so that we are prepared to meet our Lord anytime. It is our destiny to encounter different temptations and trials not just as a parent but as a child of God. To lose heart is not an option but to be expectant in the Lord is an enduring confidence that we are helped.  Habakkuk 2:1 tells it with great exact,
"I will stand on my guard post 
And station myself on the rampart; 
And I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me, 
And how I may reply when I am reproved." 

Noah disobeyed God and shame was brought upon him through his son Ham. This story was told not for him to be eternally humiliated but to remind us that Noah was a perfect man yet not without sin.  Our nature opposes the Spirit, but as we come nearer to God, by His grace our calling as parents will be fulfilled.

2. The Irony of Scorning a Disgraceful

We often say, "Respect must be earned, not demanded".  If it is fitting to respect someone who is respectable in his ways and words, then it is just right not to revere anyone who does not deserve it! 

Or is it?

Let us look at how Ham, the son of Noah, reacted on probably his father's most shameful act."Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside" (v. 21)He intentionally went in to his father's tent to see him disgraced.  He delighted on the sin of Noah and intended in his heart of disgracing his father publicly (... scornfully spoke about his father to his two brothers outside.). He wanted everyone to see that his father sinned and that he is deserving to be shamed.

I have heard hundreds of stories of children hating their parents for being "bad parents".  Sons and daughters crush their parents with insults and rejection, thinking they are not obliged to respect such parents. In fact, they feel it is their duty to embarrass and expose them for what they have done.
Does God favor that? Verse 25 answers, "Cursed be Canaan (son of Ham); a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers." Noah cursed Ham and his entire generation for scorning his disgrace. Though this incident is within the divine appointment of the Lord, we cannot disregard that Noah's punishment to his son was also vindicated.

Shem and Japheth had a different take on the situation. It was settled in their hearts to honor their father despite him. For that, they and their generations were blessed (v. 26-27)
"Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both of their shoulders, and walked backward, and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father's nakedness... " (v. 23)

Our fallibility will surely fail our children many a time. So we must clearly teach them that their obedience is not really to us nor it is dependent on who we are, but their obedience is to God  -- because ultimately, He is our Father.

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