My Son, Myself and Fire

When I was about three or four years old, my mom and dad were smokers. One day I picked up a book of matches. I played with them on the coffee table by batting around, flipping it here and there. Finally, I got around to opening it. And I fingered the little red matches long enough and one came out. I finally figured out how to light the match, and was mesmerized by the flame burning brightly… until it hit my fingers and I screamed! Bad experience. However, it didn’t deter my love of the flame. I’ve always liked fire. I’ve always played with fire.

Fast-forward ___ years….

My one year old son really, really likes fire too. When I start the wood stove in the morning (a near daily affair), he loves to come and watch. He’s learning to stay back, but we do have a fence up to remind him not to get too close. He likes to test us. He wants to make sure we really mean no. He thinks his way is best. Did I already say, he’s one…?

But I realized his nature: fire intrigues him. I realized that watching the fire was in his very core of who he is. He just wants to touch it. He loves to watch when I start the fire. He loves to lay in front of it when he gets his diaper changed – and will lay still while I change him, if he can just watch the fire. I love to watch fire too. It feels good. It’s relaxing. It’s mesmerizing.

So? Should I let him?

A few nights ago, we decided to open the doors of the fireplace/wood stove and roast hot dogs (should’ve done marshmallows, but didn’t think of it until now). As 4 of my kids crowded around the fireplace with the metal sticks and hotdogs a-roasting, my son crowded in behind them. He wanted to get close too. But he couldn’t. He was like Zacheus – He was too short to see over the crowd. But he JUST HAD TO SEE IT AND GET CLOSE AND TOUCH IT. I mean, it’s in his very nature. He is attracted to fire. (He’s not attracted to cold – go figure….) Then he saw a way around the girls and went for it. He ran beside them and was going to get in close. Fortunately the 12 year old saw him and stopped him. He screamed, he cried, he really wanted in to touch that brightly colored fire.

I know what he was saying. I don’t speak in tongues, but I still knew – I could see it in his eyes and read his facial expressions. “You don’t love me, or you’d let me!” “You must not care for me, you are telling me no!” “It’s who I am! I want that!” I could see it. I could hear it. Believe me, I could hear it!

Should I let him, because he wants to? Because it’s in his nature? Because he was born that way?

Of course not! The most loving thing any parent can do at that point is to say no. Love doesn’t mean agreement. Love doesn’t mean acceptance of everything, but it does mean acceptance of everyONE. I did the most loving thing I could do – I provided a safe place for my son because I told him no and put the fence back up after the hotdogs…. And one day, when he realizes what could have happened to him, he’ll thank me. I’m sure of it.

It ought to be the same at church. I would hope that when I’m headed down a faulty way, someone (ANYONE!) would tell me to stop. I’m not talking about people outside the church. I’m talking about people inside the church. We help and support each other. Church should be a safe place. And a safe place isn’t where I’ll get burned. A safe place is where I choose to follow the “law of liberty” the Bible talks about. Any help along that path, I’m grateful for.

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Parenting…Ah the joys….

I just finished reading a book called, “Raising Godly Tomatoes” by L. Elizabeth Krueger. It’s a great book on child-raising, filled with practical advice and most of all, it seems, Godly advice. I suppose I wished I would have had this when my oldest children were young.

This woman has raised, is raising 10 children ages 7-27! Wow…that’s even better than my wife and us! But one of the things that struck me towards the end of the book is when she said (paraphrase) It’s understandable that secular people go to secular humanism to find out answers to raising their children. But why do Christian parents do that. Sadly, most parents don’t even know all the evidence towards raising children that is found in the Bible.

I bought the book – even though you can basically get it for free by reading the website. I find books easier to read than websites. I recommend it highly and found very little I didn’t agree with. You should read it if your kids are anywhere between the ages of 0-20. I wish I would have had the last couple of chapters years ago – the note to raising the parents….hmmmm….

Parenting is full of joy. But it can also be frustrating. The goal isn’t to raise kids to be mannerly and responsible – although we should strive for that too, but the goal really ought to be to raise our kids into Godly Adults.

My wife’s and my personal mission statement is this: “As we grow in holiness we are called to raise responsible leaders who are shot out as flaming arrows to ignite the world for Christ.”

Get the book – it’s worth the read (even if you are a grandparent).