Saturday, January 21, 2012

Oven cleaning

“And let endurance have its perfect result…” –James 1:4

One of the hardest things for us to do as parents is nothing. Many times we’re called to be right smack dab in the middle of issues with our children. But other times, we’re called to wait on the sidelines while our kids work out their own problems. Our role is to pray and encourage, but not to solve. The best thing we can do is cheer them on, but leave them alone. We run the risk of ruining the God-given lesson for them if we jump in to fix. We need to leave God’s lesson plan alone.

I cleaned our oven the other day. Jeanie was busy and I had the urge. But I didn’t use a spray cleaner or Brillo pad, I used the “self clean” feature. We have the kind of oven that cleans itself - sort of. The directions are pretty easy. Step one involves following the directions. Step two is locking the oven door and turning the dial to “self clean.” Step three is waiting for three hours while it cleans itself. Then step four is turning off the process and removing left over debris from the cleaning. Every step is crucial.

Step one is the most important. Following directions means acknowledging the need for a plan. It’s submitting to someone greater than ourselves. The Biblical challenge to “pray without ceasing” takes on new meaning when we become parents. We need prayer to give us directions for raising our kids. God gives us the discernment to know when to step in and when to back off.

Step two involves trust. When the “door is shut” on a trial in our child’s life, it’s best if we leave it shut. Sure, we’re there for encouragement and support, but sometimes we need to leave our kids alone to “take the heat.” Though it’s hot, the environment of the kiln will produce a stronger and more resilient kid.

Step three may be the hardest. It involves patience. It involves waiting. It involves letting go. When that self-cleaning lever is pushed shut and the cleaning begins, the cycle needs to run its course. Ten minutes of high heat won’t make the difference. The cleaning needs to last all three hours. Sure, the heat is high and the residual smell is annoying, but the process needs to run its course. The objective simply won't be met without time. The same is true with our kids. We can “consider it all joy” when our kids encounter trials by letting the trials run their course.

Step four is the follow up phase. Eventually, the tough basketball season, the difficult class or the broken relationship comes to an end. Whether or not the lesson is learned depends on how well the lesson is realized and remembered. That’s where we come back in. We are there to help our kids’ process through the trial and move on.

Of course, there’s another option: never clean the oven. Or, help our kids avoid all possible trials. That’s what some so-called “super-parents” attempt to do. They are involved in every single detail of their kid’s lives, there to control it all. But ovens need cleaning and people need cleansing. Even the most protective parent will concede that they want their kids to grow up and be prepared for adulthood.

So, when the self-cleaning light comes on and the trial begins, leave the oven alone and let the cleansing have it’s effect. Trust that God knows what He’s doing. The result will be a more enduring, efficient and productive child.

Remember, when life get’s tough, we all want our kids to be able to take the heat.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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