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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Part 1: My Kids Push My Buttons

I was angry and impatient with my children, especially my first son. “He knows how to push my buttons,” I would say in my calmer moments.

Each time I would struggle to control my temper and hold my tongue. Sometimes I succeeded and too often I did not. Each time I failed, I would confess my sin to God, ask His forgiveness and then do the same with my son. Every time, God forgave me. Every time, Ethan forgave me. But, it wasn’t getting any better. I wanted it to stop.

While counseling with a pastor friend who had opened a counseling center nearby, I realized that my anger was triggered by frustration. That frustration stemmed from my son not obeying me and my desire to control my life and also my image, the person I wanted to believe I was. I wanted to be a good father and in order for me to be a good father, I reasoned, my children must obey me. So, my son disobeying me was sending off all kinds of red flags for me emotionally. I was not a good father!

I had to prove to myself that I was a good father, so I had to make him obey.

So, in order to prove that I was a good father, I became what I loathed, an angry, yelling, out of control father. It reminds me of Paul’s thoughts about the fight against our sinful nature:

      I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
     So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom 7:15-25, NIV)

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
How often I struggled to understand this passage. Yet, even as I struggled to understand it, it brought me hope and encouraged me. Even Paul, the great apostle, struggled with sin. But, during this time I became aware of the hold that my sinful nature has on me. Even in trying to do good, to be good, “evil is right there with me” distorting and deceiving. I believed that in order to be good, I must act good. And, so my actions, though appearing to be good, were based on my desire to appear to be good rather than on my love for God. And, so when the actions reached their logical end, I was forced to act bad in order to continue to appear to be good.
And, so I concluded, with the help of Rachel and my counselor, “What a wretched man I am!” Who will rescue me from always having to try to be good. “Jesus Christ our Lord!” It is only by His grace that I could be healed. It was only by surrendering my desire to be “good” and simply letting Him declare me good that I could be free from that prison of anger and frustration when I couldn’t control those around me.
Then, I could truly repent of the core issue. Then, I began to see my patience grow and my anger subside. Ethan’s disobedience didn’t determine whether or not I was good. It was Christ who determined that. Then, living in Christ, drawing strength and hope and having faith in Him, allowed me to begin to love Ethan with the same patience and grace that Christ had for me.
Is it too late for you to have a good relationship with your children?

Believe this…

It is never too late.


While you and your child have breath in your lungs, it is never too late. If there is a schism between you and your child that seems to huge to cross, it is time for you to make restoring this relationship your primary goal

The way is clear. It isn’t easy. And, it may not seem direct.

But, you can build a new relationship with your child that is healthy and filled with love and respect. You cannot guarantee that they will respond the way you want, but you can move toward loving and respecting them more each day. Depending on the past, it may take days or decades, but it is possible. Don't give up and don't lose sight of the prize--a healthy relationship with your child.

You cannot charge after your child, stumbling headlong into their lives, and hope for the best. You have to REMEMBER.

Remembering is the act of putting your members back in the right order. Getting it all together. In order to Remember, you need to think through the process of beginning again, see what is most important, where things have gotten off track, and commit to doing whatever it takes to get them back on track. The process of Remembering looks something like this: Repent, Rethink, Redo, Remain, Respond, and Restart. Today we will start with the first step on the list.


You need to get honest. What have you done? What have you thought? What have you said? You cannot skip this step. You cannot even rush this step. This step may take an hour or a year. Give it all the time it needs. You may need counseling to help you think through it all. You need to get this right. You need to face what you have done and figure out why.

For every harsh punishment or unloving word you have spoken to your child, you need to ask for forgiveness, first from God and then from your child.

But, then take it further. That is the what but now explore the why. Ask yourself, in the presence of God and possibly with the help of your spouse, a close friend, or even a professional counselor, why you have done what you have done, said what you have said.

Explain that as much as is appropriate to your child. Teach them the process of repentance and help them to see how you are growing in your relationship with God and in the process you will grow in your relationship with them.

Repent. Repent of your actions, the what and understand your why so you begin to change your perspective and rewrite your future. Repentance is the start to a new foundation that you can build your relationship with your child on.

PS - If you haven't ever repented before, you really need to try it. It is so freeing. You will feel a huge burden lift from your heart and soul. God promises always to forgive. Our children may hesitate or refuse, but that is not up to us. We can only do our part. Getting right with God must be our priority. Repentance isn't a one shot deal. We continue to repent throughout our lives as we continue to sin and uncover new ways in which we sin. peel back the layers like an onion.

 Check out these practical  suggestions for when your kids don't want to spend time with you.

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