January 9 – Obedience is Life and Death (Jenny)

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One of the sorest subjects around our house in our entire marriage involved an animal. Let me be more specific: a 120 pound black lab puppy. (He was not the first pet to be a part of this story, but I won’t go back that far!)

I completely dropped the ball when it came to helping this active and enthusiastic dog. Of all the obedience training I attempted to put in place while Lorenzo was at work, nothing seemed to stick! Several places on our home’s light beige carpet stuck around to prove my ineptness. In spite of all the success of my sisters and other friends and family with their pets, I just couldn’t get it to sink in.

Truthfully, I was too inconsistent to see any real progress! We do live in a society that values obedience training in our pets. And I know lots of animal lovers that do an amazing job. But the stakes really get high when we start talking about the pursuit of obedient children.

My husband has always said that whatever we see in our 2 year-old that goes uncorrected, “multiply that particular behavior” by a 16 year-old. It usually doesn’t give a pretty picture. Research has shown that the foundation to our children’s character is formed by the time they turn five.

What may look like cute antics right now in our toddlers won’t be so cute when they are ten, or older. In much the same way as our dog, (and even more so), our children are begging us for boundaries! They not only need to know “yes, no, who’s in charge, and I love you,” but they need to be trained how to respond in certain situations.

All of us have moments we need our children to stay close to us and not run off. So when our first three children were four and under, I would take them to the mall (a big, safe space) on a morning that wasn’t busy, and I would tell our older two that “our job today is to stay by mommy.”

Then we would walk around the mall, as I reminded them of the goal as I pushed the baby in the stroller. If one of them ran off, I would bring them back and give them a gentle reminder. After fifteen minutes of this kind of training, we’d all be ready for a reward.

Moments like that can really pay off in the long run. We can practice situations at home that will come up later, such as eating in a restaurant, sitting quietly through a wedding, etc.

Obedience doesn’t come just because we demand it, or even from using discipline, it comes from building a relationship. And it is life and death, because we can all face a time when a child tries to run towards a busy street. Then, obedience can save their life.

God loves an obedient heart. He’s certainly not into condemnation, nor does He hold our wrongs against us.

Mistakes will be made. But just as Jesus willingly went through the last moments of his life as God revealed His will to him, so should we cultivate the riches of obedience in our children. And their response to us will always reflect the level of our obedience to the Father as well. Spend time training your heritage towards obedience.

And these words which I am commanding you this day shall be [first] in your [own] minds and hearts; [then] you shall whet and sharpen them so as to make them penetrate, and teach and impress them diligently upon the [minds and] hearts of your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 6:6,7 AMP

 Biblical Meditation: James 1:25

Favorite Source: Hints on Child Training by H. Clay Trumbull

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