Does driving 5mph over the speed limit undermine your parenting?

“Please take your clothes to your room.” A common request I make of both my girls. One more than the other has offered this reply since she began speaking.

“K. Just a sec…”

Five minutes later…nothing.

“I’ve asked you to do something.”

“I will, just let me finish this.”

Five minutes later…nothing. At this point it’s really hard to not blow a fuse.

I’m sure no one else ever experiences such frustrations with their children :). It seems extra frustrating at times though because we are constantly repeating two phrases in our home: “Obedience is immediate without whining, complaining, arguing, or it’s not obedience” and “Obedience done your way is not obedience.”

But really who can blame them when they see their parents participating in things like: 
                       * Sneaking candy into the movie theater
                       * Driving in the 5-10mph “gray area” over the speed limit
                       * Ignoring copyright laws on movies, print, photos, or internet material

Because I am really telling my children that even though there is a rule or a law in place, if I don’t like it or agree with it and can justify my actions, then it’s okay to break the rule, especially with the seemingly insignificant rules.

Really!?! Do I not see how this undermines my ability as a parent to expect obedience from my children?  It’s a subtle but dangerous message.

As I was reading through 1 Samuel about two weeks ago, a particular story really stood out to me. In chapter 15, the Lord tells Saul to “attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them.” Saul does attack, but keeps the best of the plunder. So the Lord tells Samuel that Saul has not obeyed and He regrets making Saul king. When Samuel reaches Saul, Saul says, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lords instructions.” Samuel lets him know that he didn’t and that he’s going to lose his kingdom. Saul’s response, “But I did obey the Lord, I went on the mission he assigned. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”

Stop here.
Pregnant pause needed. 
Saul really thought he had obeyed. And he thought he was going above and beyond in bringing back a sacrifice to honor the Lord. How many times have we followed similar logic and tried to justify our actions with good intentions?

Direct defiance is obvious, but obedience accomplished our way is much harder to identify. Both are disobedience.

Samuel had to explain to Saul how he had disobeyed. When Saul saw it, he repented, but he still lost his kingdom over it.

Then God tapped me on the shoulder, as he often does when I am dealing with my kids, and I began thinking about how easy this is for me to see in them, but not myself. I know I struggled with it as a child because I hear my own mother’s words as I discipline my daughters at times. However, as an adult with a family of my own, how many times do I still obey my way or justify disobedience through good intentions and not even see it?  

I know I don’t like being told what to do, most people don’t. But obedience is black and white. I’m either obeying or I’m not. 

It’s also easier to obey when I remember that God’s plan is the best for my life and His law is designed to protect me. Like I tell my girls, rules are like a protective wall around you. You are free to make your own choices within them and you will be safe. But once you step outside them, I can no longer protect you.

So what? Why does all of this matter?

One of the most profound statements I’ve ever read in parenting books is “if children can’t obey parents they can see, then how will they ever obey a God that they can’t?” The only commandment the Bible gives to children is to obey their parents and it’s for that very reason.

And we all know that actions speak louder than words, so my girls learn more about obedience through watching how I obey, than through the hours of lecturing and discipline I spend on them when they don’t.

Lord, I speak all of this today as a reminder to myself that modeling obedience, especially in the “little things,” is so important. Help me to model obedience done your way, obedience that is immediate and done without whining, complaining, arguing. And… help me to remember that when I obey rules and laws I may not agree with and can justify not following, I am showing my children not only how to obey, but how to honor others, and ultimately, how to honor You.

What does obedience mean to you?

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  • Daphne Tarango

    Great post–and I think something we should talk about more often. The Holy Spirit convicts me whenever I’ve done any of those things–driving over the speed limit, sneaking food into the theater, eating grapes throughout the supermarket.

    I like what you say: “Direct defiance is obvious, but obedience accomplished our way is much harder to identify. Both are disobedience.”

    I may start using your phrases around my home: “Obedience is immediate without whining, complaining, arguing, or it’s not obedience” and “Obedience done your way is not obedience.”

    Thanks for sharing.