The other day someone asked me what I’m passionate about in ministry. At the time, I didn’t really give a very good answer. At least, I didn’t give a complete answer (I don’t think well when I’m nervous, so impromptu Q & A’s are really a weakness for me.) Anyway, since that time I’ve been mulling the question in my mind, and one of the answers I’ve come up with is that I am passionate about helping church kids develop personal relationships with Jesus that continue into their adult lives. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the church. Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen so many of my friends and my children’s friends choose to walk away from the church and choose lifestyles that bring them nothing but heartache and pain. Whatever the reason one thing I know for sure: I want to be a part of turning the tide. I want to do all I can to help kids who were raised “in the church” remain a part of the God’s growing, thriving “ekklesia” throughout their lives.
That’s the motivation behind this series, particularly the next phase we’re entering which will focus on “The Rules and Regulations and the never ending question, “Why Can’t I Do That?”
There’s no doubt about it, this topic is one of the most common themes I hear when I talk to Parents.
“Should I let my son wear an earring?”
“Is it worth the fight to keep my daughter from getting a tattoo?”
“I don’t like what my teen’s posting on Facebook, do I have the right to object?”
Of course, these dilemmas aren’t new. The topics of debate have changed, but the principle hasn’t. Kids want to be like everyone else and do what everyone else is doing. They want to be as much like the world as possible. On the other hand, parents are trying to raise their children to love God and live by His kingdom principles. They also want to keep their children from making mistakes and suffering the consequences. With these two opposing viewpoints, the battle lines are drawn.
When my sister and I were growing up the issues weren’t tattoos and piercings, but things like Christian music versus secular music and whether or not to go to the movies. Phrases like, “But everybody else is doing it” and “When I leave home I’m not living by these rules” were heard in many Christian households, including ours.
Like many other Christian Moms, my Mom was faced with the decision of which rules to enforce and which battles to avoid. Today, I can say as a former “church brat” that I am so grateful my Mom chose to fight the battle for her kids souls as she stuck to all of her convictions and enforced all of the house rules. As adults, Adessa and I tell many people that one of the greatest gifts she ever gave us was that she gave us rules and boundaries and had the courage to enforce them.
You see, my Mom and Dad did not have the privilege of growing up in born again Christian households. Mom wasn’t saved until she was 29 years old with two little kids. Because of this, she knew that the world had nothing to offer her. She followed Jesus and tried to live by God’s principles with every fiber of her being. In the same way, she dedicated her life to raising Adessa and I to be a part of God’s kingdom and to living separately from the world.
While we were growing up, Mom had very strict rules. When we were kids it didn’t seem like that big of a deal. Then we became teenagers and the distinctions became clear. Even among our friends in the church, we were peculiar.
The truth is that many of our friends weren’t given a clear definition between right and wrong. Their parents had very few rules. Sometimes it was because their parents didn’t want them to rebel so they didn’t give them anything to rebel against (a completely illogical form of logic).
Other times it was because the parents were living a compromising lifestyle themselves.
Either way, it didn’t take long for Adessa and I to realize that our friends were allowed to do things, have things, and participate in activities that we were not. Often times, this opened us up for some ridicule. Other times, we had to decline invitations because we weren’t allowed to participate in the planned activities.
To be honest, at times this made life difficult. Why couldn’t we be like everybody else? Why was our Mom so strict? (If you have teenagers, I bet you’ve heard those words before!)
Other times, Mom’s rules were lifesaving. There was a certain amount of security in being able to say, “My Mom won’t let me do that” when faced with a situation you know is wrong. (Trust me; there were plenty of times like these!)
But whether Mom’s rules made our lives comfortable or uncomfortable, what I appreciate most about her rules is that they didn’t change. My Mom had the courage, tenacity, and strength to stand by her rules and boundaries no matter what came against her—even when it was the wrath of an angry teenager. She stood her ground and said, “These are the rules we live by. While you live in my house, you live by these rules. If you don’t obey the rules you’ll suffer the consequences, and then you’ll live by these rules.”
So often when I hear Moms talking about this issue I want to say, “Have the courage to stand your ground and stick to your rules like my Mom did. Although it’s stressful and really hard on you, it’s the absolute best thing for your children. Even though they don’t like it now, someday they will thank you for it.”
Then I share my testimony with them. Although we both lived under the same rules, I was the one that really struggled with the desire to be like everyone else. My Mom and I had plenty of battles over the rules and why we couldn’t do the things everyone else was doing.
I remember one time she found a cassette tape (yes, I said cassette tape) that I wasn’t supposed to have in my car. She confronted me with it and then she threw it into a public waste can. There was no way I was going in there after it!
I was furious! Who was she to throw my tape away? I was a teenager, I had rights!
Well, the truth was that she was the Mom. According to the Bible, I didn’t have any rights, but she had God-given authority to establish rules and expect them to be obeyed. Even more importantly, she had the God-given responsibility to train her children in the fear and admonition of God. Realistically, she had a maturity that comes from living longer than her children had. This was what gave her the right to make rules and expect them to be obeyed.
This was just one of many battles my Mom fought as she chose to stand her ground and enforce the rules she felt God wanted followed. There’s no doubt about it, Kathy Holden was strict. However, years later, I can see that her strict rules and her courage to enforce them were one of the greatest blessings in our lives.
Why? Because the truth is that all children are going to push the boundaries. However, because my Mom drew the boundary lines so close to Biblical standards, whenever my sister and I tested the boundaries we were nowhere near the danger zone.
For example, when Adessa was a junior in Bible College, she had a very difficult year. Rather than dealing with the issue that was bothering her (her heart was broken by a boy) she became angry with God and my Mom because she was telling Adessa the truth she didn’t want to hear. Anyway, in her anger she decided to push the boundaries she’d known growing up.
Do you know what wild and crazy thing she did?
She went to the movies.
I know, you’re all shocked and appalled. Way to act out, Adessa!
That’s my point exactly. Someday, your kids are going to test the boundaries. If you’ve already compromised with them throughout junior and senior high, what will they be doing when they leave your house?
We joke around about Adessa’s big rebellion, but do you know how my friend’s whose parents were more liberal were pushing the boundaries? They tried drinking, smoking, and pushed the boundaries with sex.
This is what worries me about the “choose your battles” theory. The principle is that parents should let the small stuff slide and fight their battles over the big stuff. In my life I found that because my Mom stood her ground with the small stuff, Adessa and I never got anywhere near thinking about trying the big stuff.
Here’s one last thing that I tell dad’s when we’re talking about this issue. Galatians 6:9 says, “Do not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Looking back now, I know it couldn’t have been easy for my Mom to enforce rules the way she did. I’m sure there were times when it would have been easier to compromise and let some things slide. Still, she loved us too much to do that. She knew that she didn’t make rules to ruin our fun, but to protect us from the dangers and consequences associated with sin.
The truth is when you’re young you don’t know anything. Of course, you think you know everything. However, it isn’t until life kicks you around a little bit and you gain some experience that you realize, “Wow, my Mom was right.”
Although no mother wants to hear this, the truth is that someday your child is going to face life’s difficulties. As we all know, sometimes life is really hard. It is usually during these times that young adults (former teenagers who thought they knew everything) begin to appreciate what their parents tried to teach them.
Someday your kids will realize, “Mom was right. She really was trying to help me and protect me. She didn’t make rules to kill my fun but to keep me from trouble.” That’s when your kids will start to realize the wonderful gift your rules and boundaries have been.
I often tell people that after I experienced some of life’s difficulties, I realized how blessed I was to have a Mom who stood up to me and enforced the rules even when I fought with her. I realized that she was right. Now of my own free will, I choose to live by the same strict standards under which we were raised. I will proudly tell you, “My convictions are as strong as my Mom’s and I’ll stand up for them as firmly as she did.” It took a little while, but because my Mom didn’t grow weary in well-doing, she produced a harvest in our lives.
So as a former kid who was raised in the church, I’d like to encourage all of the parents out there to stand strong in your convictions and beliefs.
If you truly believe something is sin, don’t allow your kids to do it.
When you believe something needs to be done because it is the right thing to do, make your children live up to those standards.
Don’t back down. Stand firm in your principles, and make them adhere to your standards and beliefs while they are in your home.
When your children break the rules, allow them to suffer the consequences. If they come to you and ask you to forgive them, forgive them with loving open arms. Then continue making them follow the rules.
If they want to know why the rule exists, tell them. Explain the Biblical reason you believe something is wrong and tell about the consequences that could result from their behavior. If you have a family history of addictions or generational sins, tell your kids about it so they will understand why you don’t want them to do something. Talking is good and explaining why something is wrong or dangerous is healthy. But at the end of the day, your kids need to understand that the family rules aren’t changing and you expect them to obey them. Even if they don’t like it today, someday they will understand. Then they will thank you for the extremely valuable gift of rules and boundaries.