The slightly controversial word: Obedience.

obedienceWhilst at Word Alive last week we went to a couple of parenting seminars. They were very helpful in getting our heads around what we are trying to do in these first stages of the parenting world. Having someone else telling me that these first years are flipping hard work was deeply reassuring. The huge slap in the forehead was, however, the message that these first few years are all about obedience (EDIT – A slight over statement- I’m not saying these years are just about obedience by ANY stretch of the imagination, just that the seminar placed a large emphasis on obedience that made me think about this lots.)   I’m not very good at obedience, just ask my parents. I wasn’t very good at it about 30 years ago and I haven’t managed to get good at it as I’ve lived out my life. I used to think that made me cool and rebellious. I’m starting to discover that I need to love obedience so I can help my son love obedience.

The trouble is, as I write that, I wince at the words. Obedience is not cool. James Dean didn’t become an icon by obeying the rules. Everyone knows the prodigal son is the cool one in the story, he disobeys, comes back, is forgiven and everyone has a party. It’s in no way cool to be the older brother who sticks around, he was bound to get bitter and cynical right?

Hmm. Something needs to change in my heart to help me to realise that obedience isn’t such a bad thing after all.  I am called to be an obedient child to my Father after all, however much my rebellious heart wants to cry no.

I wonder why we hate the word and concept of obedience so much? For me it’s about not wanting to relinquish control, I think that obedience will lead to me having less of a life, less fun, less of everything. If I don’t get to do things my way all the time then I can’t conceive how that could be a good life. I also think that when we put obedience along with children in our head we come to all the wrong conclusions. We think it’s about shouting, being harsh, not listening to the child, not being empathetic, being dictatorial, being angry and imposing a stricter than necessary world upon a confused upset tiny human. We also fear what will happen to children who are taught to just do as they are told. There are a whole load of problems with the word.

I can’t decide whether we need to throw out the word all together or reclaim it. For me, as a Christian I can’t get away from the word, it’s right there in black and white in my Bible. I am called to obey God and children are called to obey their parents.

So lets go for the reclaiming option for the moment.

Obedience does not mean that we don’t empathise with our children, that we don’t say to them that we know that plug sockets are very interesting things to put fingers in, that we don’t offer alternatives to the thing they are so bent on doing that might just hurt them. It doesn’t mean we don’t explain why we are putting boundaries and rules in place, it doesn’t mean that we don’t get down on their level and help them through the many emotions going on as they get frustrated that they can’t get their way all the time. It doesn’t mean that we don’t apologise when we get it wrong, it doesn’t mean that our children can’t ask questions.

Obedience is a good thing to develop, it’s helpful for being able to get out of the house each day, for stopping children before they run head first into the path of oncoming cars and it’s helpful to create a world of routines and boundaries that is understandable to the tiny humans in our care. I want to help my son discover the world in safety, I want to help him through his emotions as he struggles to do as he is told, I want to be a helpful source of authority in his life, providing a world of love and support for him.

I’m still new to this whole world and I imagine I’ll revisit this when I actually start struggling with this with our small sonface. But for now I’m going to try and start to figure out that obedience can be a good thing, that we can reclaim this word, that living in God’s world, walking his way, obeying him is a good and wonderful thing.

I’m not quite convinced yet, I still hate the word so I think you’ll find some more posts around here struggling to find out how the command to obey can lead to a full rich life rather than the impoverished strange one I currently think it will lead to. I think I’ll try and start with working out how obeying God can be the best thing we could do… Watch this space.

(Disclaimer: I realise that this is a huge can of worms and the word obey has all sorts of negative reactions in us for a whole load of reasons. These are my baby thoughts on the subject.  I want to believe it’s possible to reclaim it. Do you think that’s possible at all in a world that equates obeying with obeying harsh commands or horrible things happening to children who are taught to do as they are told…?)

(oh and great to have the lovely Jason illustrate this again)

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5 Responses to The slightly controversial word: Obedience.

  1. ateamjapan says:

    Yes! I think it is possible! With God anything is possible! 🙂

  2. Alice says:

    Ooh, good post! I find the emphasis on obedience in Christian parenting things a bit scary.
    Sometimes the message feels like “you can train your child to be good” – which sounds a bit like “you can train your child to be a pharisee and not need Jesus”. I’d love to know where you end up with this!

  3. Kath says:

    urgh, yes- hate anything which teaches our children to be ‘good’…! but how not to just teach moralism when helping them work out it’s good to share, to be kind, to love etc.. I deeply want sonface to know he is loved unconditionally and want him to learn well that it works out for his best to obey…. so hard!!

  4. Of course the older brother wasn’t really good or obedient either – he clearly fails to obey the instructions about obeying with rejoicing… (somewhere in Deuteronomy!)

  5. Ali Bourne says:

    what were the seminars you went to? who did them? Need all the help we can get. . .! x

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