An Ultimate Thing
An idol is usually a good thing that we make ultimate. We say, “Unless I have that, I am nothing.” – Tim Keller
I was listening to the radio today on the way into the Bay Area with the kids and came across a very interesting discussion that we ended up listening to most of the way. It was an interview with authors Jeramy Clark and Jerusha Clark. They were talking about their book Your Teenage Is Not Crazy: Understanding Your Teen’s Brain Can Make You a Better Parent.
It was a really great interview and of course I now want to read the book. After I finish the Parenting Teens With Love And Logic book, I’ll read this next.
In the interview Jerusha, who is absolutely brilliant, was talking about respect. Teens need to give their parents respect, but some parents make attaining respect from their kids an ultimate thing. Of course respect is good, but that’s what some idols are, good things made ultimate things. I remember growing up in a very conservative church where almost all of the children were expected to give 100% respect at all times to all adults. Which is good, I mean I want that for my kids and I tried to achieve that as a child. But the thing is that life is not as black and white as that, brain chemistry and developmental changes that happen to teens make life a challenge to manage. As teens go through “myelination” they start to explore independence and cope or try to cope with emotions that swing wide. We as parents feel a loss of control as our children start to change and explore boundaries. So we buckle down even harder, demanding respect and obedience above all else. And it may not even be disrespect, but if respect is an ultimate thing, if controlling our kids because we fear they may not make the right decisions and go straight to hell as criminals, then we won’t see it clearly. I watched it happen in the church I mentioned, I saw personalities squashed, natural process that were happening in my friends and their siblings treated as “evil” which incurred wrath and harsh consequences. Consequences are good, I am not saying they are not. But what drives those consequences. Rules, obedience, respect, these are all good things, but they cannot become ultimate things. The bottom line is that we can’t control our kids, only God can. We can do our part to shape them into adults, we are responsible for them, but we don’t have control. Control is an illusion. It always is. Only God has control.
I think about these kids that were trying to be controlled by their parents in the church I mentioned. Those parents meant well, but for the most part, those kids rebelled really, really hard. They dove into some dark and crazy stuff. Some came back around, some did not. Any good thing can be made an ultimate thing. The bible commands that children should obey their parents. That’s a good thing. It’s a command. But we can not handle control of our kids. They cannot handle control of themselves! We cannot even control ourselves. “True self-control is not about bringing our selves under our own control, but under the power of Christ.” -Desiring God Ministries. Only God is able to handle control. What I take away from this is that I must model for my children giving control to God. Control over my career, over my marriage, over them, to Jesus. I demand respect, and I want it. But if I don’t get it, I must fight the temptation to make it an ultimate thing. There is more going on when a teen disrespects you than meets the eye. Brain chemistry, emotions, beliefs, so much happens to teens as they transition from children to adults.
I want to live life this way. Never making anything an idol. Never putting anything above God. God is the only one who can handle being an ultimate thing. Anything else will be crushed.