Part 3 - Presence
In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series we’ve taken a look at why both “discipline” and “instruction” are essential to leading little ones. At a young age discipline needs to be established so that children understand boundaries, basic household rules and the order of good authority that God has placed in the home. We don’t discipline to punish, we discipline to shape, guide and create an environment for discipleship. When our homes have order, not fear or a punitive culture, the possibility to teach and instruct becomes a wonderful opportunity.
At the start of this series we used an acronym to make it memorable DTPL (G) – which pretty much means nothing other than Discipline, Teaching, Presence and Love (Grace). In Part 3 I want us to look at the third letter, P, which stands for “presence.”
In the Bible we find God revealed to us as “Father” and us his daughters and sons by faith in Jesus. The Holy Spirit forms the fellowship of the church which is one big family of families with God himself being our head and leader. One of the things we find in both the Old and New Testaments, and throughout church history, is that God is present with his people. Consider this short smattering of verses to simply serve as a small illustration of the massive biblical theme of the presence of God:
- God with our first parents in the garden (Genesis 1-2)
- Sin as separation from God (Genesis 3)
- Pillar of Fire, Cloud – God with and leading his people (Exodus 13, 14)
- The ancient tabernacle – the presence of God among the people in the camp (Exodus 26)
- Moses’ confidence was only if the presence of God went with the people (Exodus 33:12-16)
- Promise of presence – I will be their God, they shall be my people (Ezekiel 37:15-28)
- The Temple – where God’s presence dwelled (2 Chronicles 5)
- Jesus was called Emmanuel – God with us (Matthew 1)
- The Word became Flesh – The Son of God dwelling/tabernacling with humanity as one of us (John 1:1-3, 14)
- Jesus the New Temple (Mark 11)
- The Church as a place of presence (Ephesians 2:11-22, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
- The Communion Table as a place of presence and fellowship (1 Corinthians 10:14-22, Revelation 3:20)
- He is with us in his mission (Matthew 28:18-20)
- He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:4, 5)
- The Kingdom of Heaven – The dwelling place of God in man (Revelation 21:3)
The promises of God are that he will be with us!!! His presence leads us, His presence assures us, His presence shows us love and grace, His presence guides us, His presence disciplines us, His presence convicts us and His presence allows us to trust his heart when we don’t understand our present circumstances.
I say all this to make one central point about parenting. The Fatherhood of God is an up close and personal reality for the believer. Parenting should be an up close, personal reality for families with kids.
Our kids need to know their Mom and Dad as they are discipled and taught. Parents should desire to win the hearts of their children when they are young, not lose them because we are always scurrying around for anything and everything. What I want to say next I want to say clearly but gently. Our culture has also bought into a stupid idea that if we can get “quality time” together then our families will be close, connected and fruitful. The problem is in our definition. The truth is that quality time IS quantity time. To know their Mommy and Daddy, children need to be with you and not simply for half an hour a week. If your kids don’t know your hearts, you will not have quality “forced quick time” with them. In fact, without time given to your kids, they will not want to be with you. As they get older, they will find better things to do than “quality time” with ole Mom and Dad. Fathers, be with your kids often and intentionally from the time they are young. I have two kids who are now in middle school and we are very close. Why? Because we have been since day one. I’ve made sure that I’m around for them.
We live in a world where we must work and work hard in the hustle and bustle of the east coast. Moms and Dads both are running hard and fast to juggle work, kids activities, schooling options and serving others in ministry and mission. Finding time to listen to kids, be into what they are into, to give focus to their faces and not to our phones is a huge challenge. DO IT! Without presence our voices grow small, our kids’ opinions of us weaken and our opportunity to be guides who give wisdom are diminished over time. A few quick ideas to close.
Finding a Place with Your Kids
Expose them to your Loves – when your kids are young do things that you love with them. Expose them to your heart, your hobbies and the quirkiness of what is uniquely you. It’s no coincidence that our kids like sports, reading books, audiobooks, country music (wife did that), marvel comic universe (not DC haters but it is superior), asking questions, sci-fi and fantasy movies.
Follow their Loves Fully – Your kids will take up interests of their own that you never cared for or wouldn’t choose yourself. Follow those interests any way. Play with LEGOS, ponies, trains named Thomas and cuties from the littlest pet shop. Read about dinosaurs and clone wars and talk about whether Yoda can really beat Vader. Listen to the musical instruments, listen to stories about fish caught with Grandpa and hear about the books you wouldn’t read and delight in their delight in these things. You might even learn to love something you previously hated…like soccer. ;-)
Listen, Listen, Listen – My daughters have more words than I could ever imagine. I’m there to listen to anything and everything. Yes, it takes patience and focus and sometimes it’s just hard for the old man to keep up, but I want to hear what’s going on with the kiddos. My son wants to talk about what dinosaur is the toughest and who would win in T-Rex vs Raptor fights. I’m in – I’m in to listen. This does mean putting down the phone and unplugging from work and social media to hear the hearts of your kids. If you are present, you can listen.
Do Stuff with them – We go to practices, school plays, movies, meals out together and all sorts of activities. Just this summer I’ve ridden roller coasters until I’m green with one and laid around and chilled with another just to spend some time together.
Apologize and Repent – Kids need to know you are sorry when you mess up and see your own repentance and faith in life. If you are distracted, working too much, ignoring your kids and simply there but not there with them…apologize, repent, do different. I’ve found that husbands and wives can help one another in seeing that one or the other needs time with the kids or a particular kid. You are not perfect, you’ll have your face in the phone too much. Just own it and move forward together.
Debrief Life in the Moments God Supplies – There are moments in life where God gives time with the little ones to debrief, teach and exhort and encourage. After an emotional disappointment, after a disagreement with a sibling or another kid, after they’ve been told no about something, before a game or heading home from first day in school. There are precious moments that are teachable.
Being present with your kids early and often in life means that you have been through the ups and downs of the world of KIDdom so that you are a trusted and wise voice. Later on your little ones will hit many life transitions. They will go to school, hit puberty, transitions to middle, high school and college, deal with the drama of “dating”, choosing a spouse and maybe having their own kids. If you’ve been present in the game from the start you’ll have the potential of a relationship with them through it.
When my oldest hit her teen years we had a very clear re-definition of our relationship. I told her my role is shifting to being a guide as she makes more and more of her own choices. We have watched a lot of Bear Grylls’ Man vs Wild over the years so I gave her this metaphor. Life is like Bear hanging on a tree limb going down a white water rapid filled river. Because he is wise he knows the water flow that shows a boulder is under the surface or where deep swirling undertow currents reside. Life is like heading down that river. I’m just going to point things out to you as you are making your way. There’s a big rock coming up, watch out for that swirling eddy! You will make choices, I’m here to help as a guide who loves you. Trust my voice, I will trust yours. Let’s do this.
Be present my friends. God is here for us. He has placed us here for the little ones. Love them well.
Part four will focus on the L(G) or the Love/Grace function. The most important parenting principles of all. Until next time…stay in the game with your kids.