Today I want to tell you about The Family Workshop. It is hard to know where to start unpacking it. One important note first, please keep in mind that any of the principles we are discussing, that are put forth in God’s Word, are applicable to you. Principles about parenting can teach you even if you don’t have children at home now or if you have never had children. Principles about marriage translate wonderfully into other relationships too. Ultimately, we see many references in the Bible to marriage and children that are meant to teach us about our relationship with God Himself. If you are able to find a personal meaning in scripture that is different than what I am suggesting, please share it! Chances are, someone else might feel the same way and think they are the only one.
The Family Workshop was the name of a parenting class I taught when we lived in Ocean Springs, MS. I put it together quickly as a Lenten study this year; so with days off for various reasons, it was only seven weeks long. But it all started much earlier for me and it got much bigger than just the seven weeks of class.
The Family Workshop was planted in my heart over several years. I was teaching a ladies Bible study while my husband and I were struggling in our marriage and our children were getting to be preschoolers, which brought on many new challenges in terms of discipline and teaching. I guess you would say it was my personal school of hard knocks. But I see now how the LORD was teaching me. And when I prepared recently for the seven week parenting class, I realized that the LORD had purposefully used my little family to grow me, spiritually. This was an awesome revelation.
Have you ever heard the saying, Having kids is like having your heart walk around outside your body? This a beautiful picture generally referring to how precious children are, and how vulnerable you feel at having them at the mercy of the big ol’ world. But I see now another meaning that this Proverb describes: As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man (Proverbs 27:19). In teaching my children, I learned a lot about my heart. And it wasn’t pretty. I saw myself reflected in my children. The mistakes I made, they copied, amplifying my shame. The good things I said, they repeated, which was nice. The bad things I said, they repeated, which was not nice. They learned more from what I did, than from what I told them. Let me say that another way: it was the way I lived my life, rather than how I wanted them to live their lives, that made an impact on them. The example I set was the primary teaching method, no matter how many different ways I tried to “manage” their behavior. This was a hard thing to see. It still is.
My children also showed me how limited I was. All my shortcomings were multiplied by two – once for each little one. I was selfish, but I expected them to be generous. I guarded my time and schedule, but I wanted them to be flexible. I was not patient, but I wanted them to be easy going. I complained and criticized, but they were not supposed to whine. Some days, I was flat-out not nice. Some days I was immature when I was supposed to be the grown-up in the room. I was fearful, but I wanted them to learn to trust in the LORD. I saw that continuing in this way would never yield godly children, but I was lost as to how make meaningful change. I felt like a constant failure as a parent.
I learned that when there was a behavior issue in them I could usually look to myself and see a seed that I had planted. For example, if I had a sassy and disobedient child, I often could look to the way my husband and I had behaved in front of them. My eye rolling breeds their eye rolling. His “tone” breeds their “tone”. Disrespect breeds disrespect. Yet, grace breeds grace. Forgiveness breeds forgiveness. Honor breeds honor. When I honor my husband in front of my children, I give them a picture of what honor looks like. Make no mistake, kids are called to honor their parents: Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12); and they are accountable to God for their own behavior. But how can they know what honor looks like…if we don’t show them? And we are accountable to God for that: And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).
Seeing the connection between my example and their behavior was key. But it left me a little hopeless. How would they ever turn into anything good when they were emulating my bad example? But I realized I had to hold my tongue, check my attitude, change my focus or I would lose my relevance and become nothing more than a hypocrite. This was a turning point. I am honest about my shortcomings and will repent to them and God when I am wrong. I try to keep short accounts. In living more intentionally for them, God has made a long-needed change in me.
And so as I prepared for The Family Workshop class, this scripture became the foundation of the study: Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock (Matthew 7:24-25). This is the concept that we will unpack over the course of our examination of the intersection of family living and our spiritual refinement: it is in the hearing AND the doing of God’s Word that change takes place.
There is so much more to say about this journey that we will have to continue Friday and beyond. The two places I want to go in the next week or so are (1) Intro to Baptism by Fire: Marriage, and (2) So, I am a Big Giant Mess, What Now? Then it will be time to get a little more organized. Please pray with me that I can share what I have on my heart in a logical and methodical way, in a way that makes sense, in a way that honors God, in a way that resonates with you, and of course, pray that we will have fun with it! For now my plan is just barely sketched out: I will be peeling back the layers of this onion on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Other than that, God is writing the plan. Blessings!
justAgirl…just like you