Tag Archives: Isaiah 28

Changing Rules & Healthy Development

So then, the word of the Lord to them will become:
    Do this, do that,
    a rule for this, a rule for that;
    a little here, a little there—
so that as they go they will fall backward;
    they will be injured and snared and captured.
Isaiah 28:13 (NIV)

When our daughters were young children there were a lot of rules that had to be made, repeatedly communicated, and enforced. Children, by their very nature, lack of development and require these rules for their safety, instruction, and healthy development.

There came a time in their development, however, when the rules alone were insufficient. The girls’ growth and natural development as  human beings allowed them to think, reason, and act with greater and greater complexity and autonomy. The black and white world of a parent’s rules were trumped by their ability to think and act as individuals.

As a parent, I recognized that my role had to change. Instead of authoritarian rule maker I had to introduce reasoned instruction to my role as father. It was no longer wise or practical to use my parental authority as a battering ram of family law. While I had a license for policing, judging, and punishing my children at will, the black and white approach that worked so well on young children was inadequate for the task of dealing with teenagers and young adults.

In today’s chapter, Isaiah prophetically finds a similar situation with  the religious leaders of his day. As the shepherds of Israel they found it easier to parent their flocks by making endless black and white rules to control behavior rather than wade into the admittedly more difficult pedagogy, understanding, and demonstration of love, wisdom, mercy, and forgiveness.

The more things change the more they stay the same. Jesus faced off against the same human tendency toward legalism when he angrily told off the religious leaders of his day (cf. Matthew 23). Today, we still have religious leaders and their followers who reduce the power of divine love to the spiritually impotent authority of fundamentalist legalism.

I was by no means a perfect parent, and our daughters are quite capable of providing you with evidence of that. Nevertheless, I am enjoying watching each daughter, now in their mid-twenties, finding and developing their very own unique and life-giving relationship with God. This was not the result of rules and parental penal authority. I did my best to be an example and to show them the way, but I couldn’t legislate them into maturity and spiritual openness.

This morning I’m thinking about the many ways we live in a world where humans love to paint everyone into a black and white world. It’s quite useful for categorization and alienation, but I have found it useless at developing the things that God requires (in either grown children or adults):

to act justly
to love mercy
to walk humbly with God.

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Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 28

Tom & girls at the lake 0709And at the harvest, the delicate herbs and spices, the dill and cumin, are treated delicately. On t he other hand, wheat is threshed and milled, but still not endlessly. The farmer knows how to treat each kind of grain. Isaiah 28:27-28 (MSG)

In the past few years I've had to adjust to the idea of my children leaving the nest. Now that the reality is here, I'm finding it an interesting and challenging new leg in life's journey. Stepping out on their own, you see them stumble, only you're not right there to reach out and catch them. You'd be happy to point out the pot-hole that's right in front of them (which you've twisted your own ankle on many times before), but they must learn the walk the road themselves.

Parenting fledgling adults is more difficult than I imagined. These emerging individuals are infinitely more complex than when they were little, and parenting is no longer a black-and-white world of authority & submission. When they are children you simply tell them to take your hand and you lead them. Now, they are traversing life's obstacle course blindfolded and you occasionally get to whisper hints and directions in their ear (though, of course, there's no guarantee they will listen). When do you speak? When do you stay silent? When do you prod? When do you sit on your hands? And, then there's the added intricacies of dealing with differences between children.

I'm gaining greater respect for God who knows how to approach each of His children, the way He knows how to treat each kind of grain. I'm in awe of God, the Father.