In a world where someone is always touting the latest breakthrough in health, education, living, or some other utopian dream, it is tempting to jump on the bandwagon and re-order one’s life to conform to the latest fad or research study. While it is laudable to seek ways to improve one’s life, family, or health, as parents, we need to be aware of the potential damage to our children if it turns out we are wrong.
Many years ago, I went to a meeting where the speaker indicated that many allergies in children were due to having pets inside the house. He was quite convincing. When I returned home, I informed the family that our dog was going to become an outside dog. No one liked the idea, but I was eager to address the allergies that were plaguing the household.
For two weeks, our Springer Spaniel lived outside and everyone (including the dog) was miserable. The health guru also suggested stripping the home of carpet (another potential allergen) which we could not do, as we were renters. Therefore, I had embarked on a journey that was only partially in line with the “expert” whose advice I was taking. There were other facets to this experiment that, in short time, proved unworkable. We were not witnessing any appreciable improvement in the allergy situation, and we reversed course. Everyone was relieved, and the dog moved back in with the family.
I bring this up to point out that there were ramifications to my actions that affected my children and they were not in a position to understand the entire situation. For example, my son felt guilty because his allergies doomed the dog to outside living. My young daughter was sure that I was punishing the dog for some infraction. My husband was weary of hearing the complaints, along with rightly rejecting our new health protocols as drastic and in need of more research. In short, my well-intentioned “good idea” affected others in ways I did not want nor anticipate.
Because families desire to obey God and live according to His Word, it is too easy to embrace a new idea (or a recycled one) and charge full steam ahead. That is why knowing the law of God is so important as we carry out our duty to rear our families in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We need to have a Biblical yardstick to determine if something is a good idea. And we need to ask 1) is it premised on Biblical principles; 2) can we implement it without violating another Biblical command or principle; 3) have we adequately explained what we are doing so that those under our authority are not in the dark and unnecessarily troubled by our decision; and 4) when we discover that the course we took was incorrect, do we take the time to approach those who were affected and apologize for our actions and ask for forgiveness where appropriate?
There are some decisions that by their very nature need to be carried out in a timely manner. Removing children from state schools, altering diet to rectify a health problem, or even relocating to a safer, more suitable living arrangement fall under this category. However, sharing your thought process will lessen the collateral damage and open the door to input that might improve the execution of the decision.
In looking back over my thirty-seven years of parenting, I cannot give myself a grade of “A+” very often. I would like to think that my motivation was always centered on doing the right thing. In retrospect, I see how it was often coupled with self-righteous pride and stubbornness. A benefit of getting older, wiser, and increasingly sanctified is that we have the opportunity to look back over the times in our lives when we have been deceived.
The admonition, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal. 6:7), tells us that when we are in positions of authority, we must weigh our actions, motives, and results in terms of what pleases God and what does not. Moreover, we need to make sure we do not fall into the trap of “baptizing” our actions as good, just because they are our actions.
[To this day I think of our Springer Spaniel, Buck, and what must have been going on in his dog brain. No doubt, he was trying to figure out why he was banished from the house, doing his best to undo the terrible wrong he had done, and trying to figure out how he succeeded in being readmitted!]