Posts Tagged ‘tough love’

2 Samuel 15:13-37 (Part 3 of 3)
David Escapes from Jerusalem

As I stated a couple of blogs ago, this series of chapters we are in right now about David and his unruly children could easily be formed into a sermon series about being a father. David shows us in this sequence of chapters, often, what not to do as a dad. Today, we return to that theme of fatherhood. However, this time teaches us, as dads, a valuable lesson of the fact that sometimes we must simply get out of the way and let life teach our children the lessons they need to learn.

With my youngest child, she is now almost 28 years old, I have spent the last few years doing just that – allowing life to teach her the lessons she needs to learn. Often, life lessons learned on our own can teach us so much more than our dads ever could. As I have stated before here, my youngest child never really knew what life was like in a normal household. From the time she was about 2 years old, marital strife was the home that she knew. By the time she was that age, her parents’ marriage (in which God was not the center of it due to our not being Christ followers) was winding its way to its ugly end. Then, after the divorce and my remarriage, I failed her miserably as a dad during the 9 years of my second marriage. Then, while I was single those six years before I married my wonderful and final wife, Elena, I spoiled my youngest girl rotten. Anything she wanted she got. Any immature behaviors were never dealt with. I spoiled her, I admit it, to the point she did not mature as she should have. She was so spoiled that she did not get her first job until she was almost 20 years old. I would bail her out financially at every turn such that she had no incentive to really make something of herself. Her behavior was that of entitlement and expectation that things would be handed to her.

Finally, a few years ago when she was in her mid-twenties, I finally had to say enough is enough after one final act of kindness. We gave her Elena’s car and said this is it. You are on your own now. No more financial assistance. You’ve got to do this yourself. Since that time, she really has not had that much to do with me except when she emerges from her “radio silence” and acts as though she wants to restore our relationship but really she is simply looking for another handout. I have had to show her tough love these last few years. It has pained me terribly. I miss the closeness we once had where she and her crew that she hung around with as teenagers thought I was “the cool dad.” But now, she hardly speaks to me. The last time that I talked to her was probably six months ago in a text exchange by phone. The last time that I talked to verbally was by phone was almost a year ago. The last time that I saw her in person was maybe over a year ago. I hate it. I mean, it is not like I am so angry at her that I do not want to speak to her. I love her so much. But it is by her choice that she does not want to have a real relationship with me anymore. If she showed up here in Illinois at my house right now, I would wrap my arms around her and hold her and cry tears of joy.

However, she did not even come to say goodbye to me the day Elena and left the Upstate of South Carolina to move to northwest Illinois. She has effectively cut me out of her life because I cut her off financially. However, that is how being a dad is sometimes. You have to do things that are going to make your kids hate you at the moment and just let life play out in their lives. It’s not because you hate them. It’s because you love them. Some kids, like my oldest child, who want to become independent and self-sufficient and they will do it. Those kids you can give advice and they will heed it. However, some kids, you just have to let life teach them their lessons that they need to learn. With this type of child, you just sometimes have to quit protecting them and let life happen to them. They may get angry at you for taking the safety net away but you are doing them no maturity favors by keeping the safety net there. You have to take it away, let life happen to them, and just know that you love them regardless of whether they believe that fact or not. That is where I am at with my youngest.

That was the thing that I thought of today when I read this passage for the second time of three readings that I have planned for this passage, 2 Samuel 15:13-37 – that idea that sometimes, as a parent, you just have to step out of the way and let life happen to your kids. Let’s read the passage now:

13 A messenger soon arrived in Jerusalem to tell David, “All Israel has joined Absalom in a conspiracy against you!”

14 “Then we must flee at once, or it will be too late!” David urged his men. “Hurry! If we get out of the city before Absalom arrives, both we and the city of Jerusalem will be spared from disaster.”

15 “We are with you,” his advisers replied. “Do what you think is best.”

16 So the king and all his household set out at once. He left no one behind except ten of his concubines to look after the palace. 17 The king and all his people set out on foot, pausing at the last house 18 to let all the king’s men move past to lead the way. There were 600 men from Gath who had come with David, along with the king’s bodyguard.[a]

19 Then the king turned and said to Ittai, a leader of the men from Gath, “Why are you coming with us? Go on back to King Absalom, for you are a guest in Israel, a foreigner in exile. 20 You arrived only recently, and should I force you today to wander with us? I don’t even know where we will go. Go on back and take your kinsmen with you, and may the Lord show you his unfailing love and faithfulness.[b]”

21 But Ittai said to the king, “I vow by the Lord and by your own life that I will go wherever my lord the king goes, no matter what happens—whether it means life or death.”

22 David replied, “All right, come with us.” So Ittai and all his men and their families went along.

23 Everyone cried loudly as the king and his followers passed by. They crossed the Kidron Valley and then went out toward the wilderness.

24 Zadok and all the Levites also came along, carrying the Ark of the Covenant of God. They set down the Ark of God, and Abiathar offered sacrifices[c] until everyone had passed out of the city.

25 Then the king instructed Zadok to take the Ark of God back into the city. “If the Lord sees fit,” David said, “he will bring me back to see the Ark and the Tabernacle[d] again. 26 But if he is through with me, then let him do what seems best to him.”

27 The king also told Zadok the priest, “Look,[e] here is my plan. You and Abiathar[f] should return quietly to the city with your son Ahimaaz and Abiathar’s son Jonathan. 28 I will stop at the shallows of the Jordan River[g] and wait there for a report from you.” 29 So Zadok and Abiathar took the Ark of God back to the city and stayed there.

30 David walked up the road to the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went. His head was covered and his feet were bare as a sign of mourning. And the people who were with him covered their heads and wept as they climbed the hill. 31 When someone told David that his adviser Ahithophel was now backing Absalom, David prayed, “O Lord, let Ahithophel give Absalom foolish advice!”

32 When David reached the summit of the Mount of Olives where people worshiped God, Hushai the Arkite was waiting there for him. Hushai had torn his clothing and put dirt on his head as a sign of mourning. 33 But David told him, “If you go with me, you will only be a burden. 34 Return to Jerusalem and tell Absalom, ‘I will now be your adviser, O king, just as I was your father’s adviser in the past.’ Then you can frustrate and counter Ahithophel’s advice. 35 Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, will be there. Tell them about the plans being made in the king’s palace, 36 and they will send their sons Ahimaaz and Jonathan to tell me what is going on.”

37 So David’s friend Hushai returned to Jerusalem, getting there just as Absalom arrived.

In this passage, we see that David, knowingly or not, teaches us another lesson in parenting. Here, we see him just get out of the way and begin to let circumstances play themselves out for Absalom. He could have rushed forward with his army and attacked Absalom by surprise and maybe even captured him before he tried to seize the capitol city. He maybe could have saved face for himself and even Absalom. He could have approached this situation by clandestinely meeting with Absalom and pulled the father/king card in a face to face meeting. However, he chose to step aside and let circumstances begin to play out. Eventually, in the coming passages, Absalom proved that he was not ready to be king like he thought he was. Experience was to be a better teacher than any parental lecture could have been.

Often, we must do the same as parents as David has begun doing here. Sometimes, we must let our children learn the facts of life, so to speak, the hard way. And in many ways, this is often how God deals with us as his children. Because He has set boundaries for us (for our own good not because He wants to keep us from doing things), He lets sin and its consequences play out in our lives so that we can learn the price of sin. Many of us are hardheaded because we love our sins and blame God for holding us back from what we want to do. Many of us blame God when we get in a jam and He has not miraculously pulled us out of the consequences of our sins. We get angry at Him for not bailing us out. We get angry at Him but yet it is our sin, our decisions to sin and rebel against Him, that ensnarls us. It is often NOT that God is punishing us but rather it is that sin always has negative consequences. Our sins often cause our pain. Our sins often cause the jams we get into in life. Our sins create these tangled webs of events and decisions in life that bring us to our knees. It is often only through letting our sins play themselves out in our lives that we are ready to kneel before God in all humility and say “Lord I have truly messed up my life and I need your help!” Even when we do that, God will not erase the long-lasting effects of our sins. He will let them play themselves out so that we learn from them and turn from them. It is when we have that a-ha moment that it is ourselves that is the enemy and not God that we are ready to stand before God and beg Him to provide us with the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Some of us are smart and heed God’s Word and accept Christ as our Savior as a young person and follow Him wholeheartedly all of our lives. Some of us are smart in this way and use God’s Word as the standard for their lives from a young age. I admire these folks. They have troubles too but man the impact that such people can have for the kingdom when they follow Jesus from an early age is far beyond what I will ever achieve. Some of God’s children are like me, fools! We lived life hard. Running from God and His Word for most of our lives. Life and the consequences of sin must be our teachers. We learn the hard way from real life examples in our lives of the hard road that sin brings us. For people like me that have to learn the hard way, the road to the cross is long, hard, and filled with cuts, scrapes, bruises, and broken bones. For God’s kids like me, we come to Him only after we have been down the road and find ourselves at the bottom of the valley and have hit rock bottom. I was age 39 when I finally came to my senses and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. Man, if I could go back and do it all over again, it would have saved me so much heartache and pain, but that’s the past. My mess is part of my message. I learned the hard way to the cross. But just as I would run to the street to greet my youngest daughter and give her a great big welcome home hug if I saw her right now, God is waiting for you and me with a great big hug and tears of joy…if you will just come home!

Amen and Amen.

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Numbers 14:1-12 (Part 2 of 2)

The People Rebel

Have you ever had a child act as though you are the worst parent in the world? There are times in raising a child or even when they are adult children that we, as the parents, have experienced that. I have gone through it myself with my own parents and have recently gone through the experience with it when one of my adult children. I think we all go through it at some point. It’s just part of the game. Consider yourself lucky if you have not. It is a strange situation to be in for sure.

 

You remember worrying over the pregnancy that was to bring this child into the world. You remember not sleeping for the first six weeks of their life. You remember having to take her for rides in the car because that was one wake to get this little spitfire of a child to go to sleep. You remember the hundreds, maybe thousands, of diapers that led to potty training. You remember the cuteness of the toddler years and her daredevil attempts at mimicking something she saw on TV while riding her tricycle. You remember how people said she looked exactly like the littlest girl on the show, Full House, played by Mary Kate and Ashley Olson. You remember wishing you could do more during your second marriage. You remember after that second marriage ended about how you went overboard making it up for it. You remember taking her and six of her middle school friends to the movies and being the cool dad. You remember supporting her financially in so many ways. You remember continuing to love her when she had troubles in her late teens. You remember being in California and having to send your fiancée to be in the emergency room one night when things went bad. You remember wanting the best for her even when she seemed not to want it. You remember hoping and praying that she would go to college and excel like you knew she could and still can. You remember still loving her despite the fact that she didn’t go. You remember being proud that she seemed to find herself when she finally got her first job and was doing so well when she moved on to her second job. Then, things came unraveled again with the death of her mother and she quit her job suddenly. Then, things got testy months later when she turns 25 and you begin to close off the purse strings in an attempt to get her to go back to work. No more cash given for sudden needs. No more car insurance, and forcing her to begin helping with the family cell phone bill. Since that point and much of this following year, I have been the worst parent in the world to her. I was not an understanding parent to her because I did not see her unique situation. It was not that I hated her and favored her sister like she believed. I was just trying to force my 25 year old youngest child to grow up, grab the brass ring, live the life that I know she is capable of living, and stop living this hand-to-mouth existence that she is living. I just love her and want the best for her even when she does not want it herself. Here, only in the last few weeks, has the communication begun again between and I tread tenuously in these waters in hopes, and in prayers, of re-establishing the relationship that has gotten so frayed over the last year.

 

It is a strange thing, a parent’s love. Even when you kids are all grown up and out of your house, you are still a parent. The job doesn’t end with they leave home for good. From holding the newborn child to the day you die, you are loving your child with an unconditional love that never ends. You may get angry with them for, what you perceive as, them wasting their talents and missing their opportunities. You may be disappointed at their cutting you out of their lives for periods of time. You may have to show them tough love at times that they will not understand until they mature (and maybe not until they have children of their own). You may have to play hard ball with them and have them think you are the meanest parent in the world to get them to grow up. However, one thing, they forget to tell you when you become a parent is that you never stop loving them no matter what. No matter if they do not speak to you for months on end or whether they think you are the worst parent in the world. You just love them. You just love them.

 

It is that idea of ongoing, continuing, undaunted love of God for His people, Israel, even when they rebelled against Him, even when He had shown his protection and provision on regular basis. Sure, He would be angered by them as we get with our own children, but He never abandoned them. That idea of how sometimes kids cannot see their parent’s love for them is what I thought of this morning as I read through this passage, Numbers 14:1-12, for the second and final time today:

 

14 That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

 

5 Then Moses and Aaron fell face down in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. 6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”

 

10 But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. Then the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites. 11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? 12 I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.”

 

In this passage, we see that God’s kids are rebelling against Him. With great miracles, God had led the Israelites out of Egypt. He showed His mighty ways to them through the miracles of the ten plagues that led to their release from captivity. He had shown them mighty miracles all along this journey through the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula. He had provided for their every needs all the way up to the doorstep of the land that He had promised them. He had protected them, fed them, and fulfilled every promise that He had made to them. Yet, when it was time to take on the battles that would be required to conquer the Promised Land, they refused to believe in God’s continuing provision for them. Sometimes, God may require us to do things that are very difficult so that His purposes for our lives will be achieved. It is easy to trust God in the good times, right? How bout when He requires something difficult of us? Are we going to rebel against the Father? Why can we not see that He is a loving Father and will never abandon us even when He is requiring us to do something hard or even when He is showing us tough love? Will we wander in the wilderness for a generation just to avoid what our loving Father calls us to do?

 

Why is that will not trust that God will provide for us when we encounter something hard and difficult? Have we not seen God’s provision in our lives before? Has He not kept every promise He has ever made to us? Here, as we will see, the people rebelled against God when He required them to put on their big boy pants and their big girl panties and take on the task of taking the Promised Land. It was not that God was being mean to them. He was just calling them to take on being a full-grown nation and take the land of His promise to them. Just like as a parent, you sometimes have to demand that your child grow up and take on the job of being an adult instead of floundering around and not attacking life. Here, God is saying that it is time to grow up guys. Take the land. It’s going to be hard work. But it will be worth it. You will be a full-grown nation then. Not just a nomadic band roaming in the desert. You will be a grown-up nation. Sometimes, God requires us to grow up too. He may put us through some hardships to get to the Promised Land but He will never forsake us in the process.

 

Just as I will never stop loving my daughter, even though I am pushing her hard to grow up and be a full-grown adult, God will never stop loving us though he may require of us to take on something truly tough! God loves us with a depth that we do not understand. He loves us even when He is pushing us beyond what we think we can do. He will never abandon us though. Go with God. Trust Him. He will never abandon you. Or you can wander in the wilderness just so you don’t have to do something hard or make the tough decisions that need making.

I think George Strait said it best when he sang,

And he said, “Let me tell you a secret about a father’s love,

A secret that my daddy said was just between us.”

He said, “Daddies don’t just love their children every now and then.

It’s a love without end, amen, it’s a love without end, amen.”

 

God loves you!

Amen and Amen.