This is my family: me and my wife and the two young ones. This was taken about 9 years ago during one of our camping trips with Lake Huron in the background just south of Alpena, Michigan. Time goes by so quickly – life goes on and events become memories and the pace of living these days pushes and pulls us as we are just trying to make it through. Our kids are now 23 and 21 and and I sometimes wonder if we provided a strong enough foundation.
Of all the things that we have tried to provide for them, the one that has had the greatest impact is boundaries. Our kids know that you don’t talk back to adults…especially mom or dad. They know that if they don’t have anything good to say then you don’t say anything. They know that the TV is turned off at dinner time and phones and are stowed and we eat at the table as a family. They understand that chores and responsibilities happen before play and that it isn’t worth doing a job if you’re not going to do it well – you’ll just end up having to do it over again the right way. One thing we have learned as parents is that a boundary is not kept if it is not held. It sounds kind of weird to say it that way, but it is in a child’s nature to see how far they can push before they find push-back…and they will push hard. Without a strong boundary they will grow up believing that they can always have what they want and do what they want if they just push hard enough or complain long and loud enough. Another thing that we have learned is that there always needs to be a way back in when they choose do step out. It is our job as parents to keep that door open because the world that they step into will slam it shut behind them if we do not hold it open with prayer and hope. There also needs to be forgiveness and love and acceptance for each prodigal’s return…and they will return. “Train up a child in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
The Good Lord provides the very same for us. You may not have thought of it this way before but we live our Christian lives within boundaries as well. We have the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule – “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”…and don’t forget this blog’s namesake Micah 6:8 “…do justly, love mercy, walk humbly…”. Also what Jesus himself said were the greatest commandments, “to love the Lord your God and to love your neighbor as yourself”. He even went so far as to say that everything depended on these two. We, like children, have the option to step outside of these boundaries. We can choose to lie, cheat, steal, murder, hate our parents and our fellow man…even say we hate God. None of these will reap love. None will make manifest in our lives the safety and security we find inside of the boundaries. We may be happy for a season, but that happiness will be an empty, decaying façade and in the end will lead to resentment and bitterness. The Lord has also provided an open door as well and spent His life (literally) reaching through it to each one of us with the promise that we will always – always – find a loving Father, unconditional forgiveness, and loving grace.
Our kids will fail at things and may step out of the boundaries from time to time…it is a part of their learning process. It is our job as parents to hold the boundary and if they choose to breach it, hold the door open with prayer and hope, and then run to them with love and forgiveness when we see them coming home.