Throughout this series I want to keep bringing us to the definition of love, because we have come to think that love is yes. Now here’s the rub if God is love, and God is yes (which He is) than why isn’t love yes? Because God is not broken and we are. And while God is yes, He doesn’t always say “Yes.” And neither should we, as I wrote in the last two blogs. Love is not letting your child do whatever he/she wants, but neither is it total control.
In a broken world where we all start out self-centered, love is at least half “No” if not more. Why? Because it gives us security. Somebody loves me enough to give me boundaries, and boundaries make me feel safe. Somebody cares enough to do the hard thing and make sure I stay safe within those boundaries. Cares enough to stand up to me when I’m wrong. Cares enough to take the time and effort to correct me so I don’t crash and burn–(become addicted to food, drugs, alcohol, or porn by the time I’m an adult).
Remember how we are born; we have to learn everything. True, we have parental conditioning through those things that sit on top of our DNA and tell it how to express itself (epigenetics), but we still have developing brains that have to learn about everything. God knows everything.
And to a baby, parents know everything. We’ve had experience. Hopefully we’ve had good modeling. And hopefully, enough wisdom to know what we don’t know and get help. Also hopefully, we have enough confidence to use the education.
For a baby control is needed because they have none. So self-control in a parent is crucial to give their child what’s best in care–time, attention, and good responses to needs. Self-control as a parental necessity never stops, because the control in parental love is always changing with the need to be constantly giving more freedom until they are an adult, when the parent relinquishes control. Believe me that takes self-control too.
We could say that while love is not control, it is all about self-control: giving the amount of control that is needed at the appropriate time. A beautiful example of this was my daughter with her seven-year-old. The boys were tracked out while I was there and returned to school the day before I left. The day I left he didn’t want to go to school, and cried but went. The following day he had a stomach ache and stayed home, and the next didn’t want to go, but after listening to him, his mother said “You need to go. We all need to do hard things at times. Jeremy didn’t feel like going to work today either. I’m tired and don’t feel like taking care of the baby and Jack. I’ll bake you a cake and tonight we will have a special dinner to celebrate that we can do hard things.” So they did and it was a great success. And from time to time it gets reinforced.
It takes a lot of wisdom to know how much control to give, and when to let them try and fail. Too many choices too early are overwhelming to a child.
In the beginning there are no choices, and gradually they can choose what to play with or what to wear. Choices in food should be limited to between two healthy choices if any. Most tastes are developed and you are giving a gift of health if you help your children establish tastes and habits that are good for them. (That takes a lot of self-control on your part too.)
I’ve said many times that parental modeling is the strongest influence there is, and your self-control or lack of it will be imprinted on them. It is one of the most important things they learn from you, and most of it is caught rather than taught.
Some of you have been reading this with a nagging thought in the background, How can she say God is not controlling? because you read the Bible and think about all those laws.
I used to think that. But after writing the book about all those laws, I saw that the people He was leading were developmentally babies from 100 years of slavery when they had no choices and lost God’s ideas of what was good for them. So God spelled out His ways–which were so much better than any laws around them. They still spell out His good will (the way things work), and they never were the means to ultimate salvation, they simply made it possible for God to do whatever They (Abba, Adonai, Ruach) needed to do to protect and provide for their covenant people according to the rules of engagement in this war. Adonai was their king. You must give allegiance to a king and his laws to get protection and favors.
If you still have questions about God and law read Love’s Playbook: Cosmic Chess–the story of God’s law from Exodus through Deuteronomy. But you might like to start with book 5 which ends with the positive form of the Ten Commandments. (They were positive in Hebrew.)
We are developmental beings, a perfect place for the reality of love and freedom to be exhibited. Control is not love–never when you are adult to adult. But for parents control is built in and very important to use and not abuse, and grow out of.
Till next time…