Thursday, January 31, 2013

When Kids Grumble and Complain

January 31, 2013

"The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness." Exodus 16:2

Two days ago the whole congregation of the Hander House grumbled and complained against me. The kids' emotions ran high mostly on account of a lack of sleep. But the constant bickering caused this homeschooling mama to unleash a not-so-godly character in front of her children. How do we as parents keep from becoming entangled in the web of negativity our children inevitably exude?

As the Lord would have it yesterday morning I just so happened to study the account of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. After 400 years of slavery God freed His people from Egyptian rule. The time had come for the Israelites to inherit the land which God had promised them in Genesis 15, a land which flowed with milk and honey. God demonstrated a miraculous love for His people only to receive a mouthful of bitterness and rejection in return.

I can relate. I love my children. I spend much of my efforts trying to make them happy. But often times my actions toward my children fail to ignite the response I desire. Don't get me wrong, my children are plenty sweet. But when my actions toward my children go unappreciated--or worse yet, criticized--I feel overwhelmingly frustrated and bitter toward them. God reminded me yesterday that it isn't about pleasing my children. It is about pleasing the Lord in the way I raise my (His) children.

Each time the Israelites grumbled and complained to Moses, Moses cried out to God. In Exodus 17:4 Moses says to the Lord, "What should I do with these people? They are ready to stone me!" Each time God responds to Moses by reminding him of the task before him. God essentially says, "Moses, I know its tough. I know my people can be ungrateful. But I want you to continue leading them." God also always provided Moses with whatever it was he needed to keep going.

When the Israelites grumbled and complained to Moses in Exodus14 Moses cried out to God, and God provided a path which no one had seen (see also Psalm 77:19). When the Israelites grumbled and complained to Moses in Exodus 15 Moses cried out to God, and God provided water from a rock. When the Israelites grumbled and complained in Exodus 16 Moses cried out to God, and God provided meat and bread from the sky.

When my kids grumble and complain, the first step I should take is to cry out to God. But as I continued reading in Exodus I discovered a few other action steps I plan to try.

Shortly after the Israelites leave Egypt Moses welcomes a visitor--his priestly father-in-law, Jethro. Jethro observes his son-in-law in action and quickly observes that Moses is in over his head in trying to manage the entire congregation of the Israelites alone. In Exodus 18:17-18 Jethro says to Moses, "The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone." Jethro proceeds to give Moses three pointers in how to lead God's people.

First, Jethro tells Moses to teach God's statutes to the Israelites and to make known to the Israelites the way in which God would have them work and live (Exodus 18:20). Second, Jethro tells Moses to empower the people to manage the smaller quarrels amongst themselves (v21). Finally, Jethro advises Moses to continue to handle the major disputes (v22). "Then," Jethro says in verse 23, "you will be able to endure."

What do we do when we feel worn-out from leading the [little] people God has entrusted to us?

First, we must remember who it is we work for. Colossians 3:23 reads, "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men." As a mom I must cry out to God and allow Him to remind me of His charge, and trust Him to provide me with what I need (whether it be a secret path through the wilderness, a cold drink of water or a yummy snack).

After enlisting God's help we are wise to follow the words of Jethro: teach our children God's statues, empower them to handle small disagreements themselves and yet still be available (mentally and physically) to handle major disputes. Then, and only then, will we be able to endure this call to motherhood.

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