20 June 2009

A Tractor Beam to a Duck Pond: A Parenting Repost

From 10/25/05...
He’s fine.

I’m not comfortable with him walking alone, Mitch. You need to be closer.

Shelli don’t worry. He’s fine. He’ll come back.

No sooner had I said those words, Hudson, our 18-month old at the time, made a determined B-line for the duck pond. This fabled duck pond was the centerpiece of Cabela’s front lawn at their mega-store in Sydney, NE. It was by all accounts a cesspool. A disgusting shallow body of waterfowl waste diluted by the fertilized runoff of the several-acre lawn. Our son was heading straight for it - imagining some ecstasy lay within that brown sludge.

My first reaction was to rely on my well-developed vocal authority. “Stop Hud! Hudson stop!” It didn’t take long to realize that my words did not have the penetrating affect I had banked on. I might as well have been speaking with the residents of “Poo Pond.”

Hudson still had about 20 wobbly feet to go so I banked on a set of wheels I never really had and, if I did, had lost 15 years ago. Totally winded from my grueling 40 yards, I reached Hud a second too late – we met in the pond. I remember clearly how horrified I was watching him walk into that pond without breaking a stride. He literally disappeared under the “water” a second before I jumped in. After some fishing, I grabbed an arm and pulled him out. He wiped his eyes, peered around frantically, pointed at the nearest waterfowl and proclaimed, “Duck!”

Just to go on record, my wife was right. He was headed for danger and needed to be stopped much sooner. Hud did nothing wrong, his dad did.

As I have pondered that moment for the last two years, several things have come to mind. We should all be careful to “listen” to the events of our life, as God’s intent is to instruct. This moment was meant to be a metaphor for the parenting experience in years to come. It has taught me at least 5 things.

Hudson was doing what came naturally to him; he was headed for his destruction. Now, there is nothing theologically novel about that statement. We still believe that "nobody's perfect" and, inso doing, we agree with the bible.

David confesses his inherited depravity in Psalm 51.5 and Paul reveals the sin of all humanity in Romans 5.12. Still to some this inherent wickedness in a child may be a important revelation. Others may be tempted to drift at this point, but ask yourself this question “Do I really believe that Junior is in a condemnable state of sin?” Honestly, do you see your child as broken - beyond human repair and in need of a Savior? Does your parenting practically bear this mark?

Herein lies the novelty in my metaphorical story. I didn’t see that Hudson had a tractor beam on that sludgy pond. Beyond any wisdom he was headed for the pond and his destruction, happily babbling along the way. I believed he would stop. That is the only explanation for my inaction. Is there inaction in your life towards your child’s broken tendencies (even the potential “ponds” looming in the distance)? It may very well be that what is intellectually novel has not yet burdened your heart. My child is headed for sin, because he desires it. That is the simple, terrifying truth.

I am not kidding. This pond was disgusting. Thinking about it today still makes my skin crawl. Hudson was all over it. Something about that pond was so desirable, so attractive that he was willing to throw caution to the wind and embrace it completely.

Now I can teach him how to stop when I command it, to stay close to my side at all times and I can even fence off the pond but these efforts will be impotent without a revolution of his desires.

The boy needs to see something different. He needs to see that his “natural desires” are foolish, temporary and dangerous AND he needs to attach his heart to a greater desire. This will guide his life while in and OUT of my presence.

I believe this is the primary task of parents. Help them see the silliness and treachery of sin and the Glory of God. Give them a weighty passion for God (mostly because it exists in your life) and they will see the duck ponds of life for what they are and reveal the satisfying greatness of God to the world around them.

The author of Hebrews admonishes us to all develop this in our lives with this analogy:
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. Hebrews 12:15-17
Sin is a bowl of cereal – temporary and unsatisfying. Our birthright is eternal and satisfying. Teach them this. Pray they will see it. Don’t stop.

I believe this is what traps most parents. At the pond, I didn’t have the urgency - the sense that I have a window of opportunity to direct this child. My tardy burden did nothing for Hudson. He still went in. You must engage with your child today. There are duck ponds, idols, "not-gods" that have grabbed your children’s hearts and you must address them.

What agony has beset thousands of parents as they have helplessly watched their children fall into the sludge? Have forward moving faith today and avoid backward peering regret tomorrow.

Hudson provides a clear picture of what it means to be deceived. He was just snatched from doom and STILL focused on the object of his affection. Think of your own life. When sin has entangled you? When it has you are not thinking consequences, you are not thinking ruin – you are worshipping. Your idol has your focus and the only conscience that remains is self-gratifying at all costs. This is deception. This is being hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Hebrews 3:12-13). When your kids fall in to the pond, this is their condition.

Wet and dripping in the pond is not the time for instruction. It is the time for eye-opening correction. The best thing for a porn addict staring in worship at his computer screen is not a break for some instruction in the truth – it is for his wife or colleague to enter the room, exposing and rebuking his sin.

Instruction must be developed before desire is conceived (James 1:14-15). Here, a hundred yards before the duck pond, the heart can still be directed to worship the Creator instead of the created things. Daily instruction and renewal in the Scriptures, faithful proclamation of the greatness of God (Psalm 78) and consistent prayer shape the heart before the tractor beam locks onto the duck pond. This is the development of wisdom and every one of us needs this, our kids most of all.

Incidentally, this is the purpose of Proverbs:
To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
3 to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
4 to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
6 to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Prov. 1:2-7
Enough said.

May this image of a boy, a duck pond, his passive dad and his concerned mother be a useful parable for your parenting.


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