"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4 NIV (Emphasis added)
ex•as•per•ate (ĭg-zăsˈpə-rātˌ): To make very angry or impatient; annoy greatly.
Don't exasperate THEM? Is that even possible?
Did Paul spend ANY time around children?
I mean, there are days when it feels as if my mere presence in the room causes an allergic reaction that spawns involuntary rolling of the eyes, a throaty growl, exasperated sighs and a very noticeable increase in mumbling.
I'm beginning to wonder if it might be terminal.
It's definitely chronic.
You would think my "No." meant certain death, my "Yes!" was a precursor to a million dollar shopping spree, and my silence the most irritating thing on the planet. And woe to the parent who changes the rules to discipline a misbehaving child.
Like consummate safe cracking vampires, these pea pods of our family garden are able to open the toughest vaults surrounding our hearts and extract the choicest bits of treasure for themselves, leaving empty and lifeless shells depleted of any semblance of power and superiority in their wake.
They steal our time, our energy, and our ability to speak with any semblance of reason.
And I'm still wondering where my wallet wondered off to.
What an incredible task to remain calm in the face of an angry or misbehaving child, wishing and hoping that if they could just see that the rules they hate so much, the chores they loathe and the parents they can't wait to get away from are all meant to keep them safe and sound from the evil of this world, they would understand that I come in peace and I mean no harm.
Don't they know we simply want to rescue them from themselves?
Is it any wonder that we need Jesus? No matter how easily God could have made Salvation and no matter how He might have laid out the plan for us, we would ultimately spend more time debating about how to get around such obviously unfair rules rather than follow even the most trivial steps to gain eternity for ourselves.
Pretty much like we do now.
And yet, God hasn't sent me to my room, growled back or abused His power in order to have the last word. No, in the face of my obstinate and selfish behavior God did something I couldn't. He gave His one and only Son to save a wretch like me.
Think about that for just a second. Someone who could have wiped us from the face of the earth with a twitch of his extended pinky decided that the only way for us to be with Him in heaven was to come to earth as a man and live among us. Then He died by the very hands of the people He came to serve.
If you can't see the Love in that, can I pray for you?
As a father, I would have snapped. I would have gone Godzilla on Golgotha. Not our God. He already knew what He was up against in this little stage drama called life and if we didn't have a Savior to show us the way, then we would know the true meaning of Christmas without Christ.
X is the loneliest variable that you'll ever do...
And that's what eternity is if you're not following the Jesus plan. Death is never the final destination. Those who choose to go their own way will find themselves forever locked away out of sight and out of mind of the only One who truly Loves them without expectation or obligation.
There is nothing that we as a living, reasoning organism can possibly imagine that would rival the emptiness of eternity without the presence of God.
And that's what I, as a father, must remember when it comes to antagonizing and frustrating my children. Their idea of God the Father comes from what they know of their human papa. If I'm a distant and cold person, they will see God as such. If I'm too harsh or frightening, then I am risking their growth as a follower of Christ. Push them too far in any direction but the right one and I will find my children distant from me and their eternal life line.
I have a very narrow line to walk and sometimes (far too often, I am sad to say) I trip and fall flat on my face. It hurts worse when my audience adds commentary during the free-fall competition.
Thankfully, I've never scored a 10.
So, as for me and my house, I must do better. BE better. I have to fight for them on my knees, not fighting with them in feeble attempts to bend their will to mine or in beating them into submission with boredom and blather that does more to make me feel better than it does to educate them.
I mean, if I’ve told them all they need to know, if they go and make a mistake, it's all on them, right?
I Love my children. I would Love to have more of them running around here and driving me and my beautiful wife crazy. (Sorry, honey!)
I - we - just need to remember that we must lead by example, not by force or dictatorial decree. Discipline is needed, yes, but God rules with compassion, mercy and grace. Yes, he has popped the cork on His temper a time or two and opened up Mount Vesuvius-sized cans of exile and scorched earth on His chosen people when they didn't heed His commands.
However, in this history - His story - every piece of the past points directly to the future and to the only Good and Perfect Father we have.
My hope then must be this: If my thoughts are focused first and foremost on my Abba Father, then, even when my last breath has been spent and the last eye I will ever see has rolled, my children will still always be in the best company they can find and accept nothing short of forever.