Thursday, July 14, 2011

Parenting. Vacation.

You’ve burned the candle at both ends for a little too long. You’ve planned and anticipated. And it’s finally here. You’ve packed up and packed in. And now you’re off!

You’re not even a mile down the road and the bickering begins. Then your little parental tirade begins (or was that a temper tantrum?!). “WHAT is the problem?! We are going on VA-CATION!”

If you’re really peeved, you might even pull out the old “If you don’t stop it right now, we can just turn the car around and not go!” idle threat. As if.

You’re thinking, “What is their problem?! Why can’t they be happy and peaceful for just A FEW minutes?!”

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? (James 4:1)

We, the parents, are upset about the fights and quarrels in the back seat. But we fight and quarrel too. Hmmm…little mirrors, our kids. Our reactions are evidence of passions at war within us. What do we want? We want a hiatus from all hassles. We want a vacation from parenting. We want, as Paul Tripp says, “self-parenting children.” And when we don’t get it, we get angry. We fight and quarrel.

What can we learn from all this?

A few lessons learned from these impulses:
  • Our greatest problems are inside, not outside.
Sorry, you brought your biggest problem with you on vacation. It’s your own sinful heart.

We need to come to terms with our inveterate situational interpretation of sin. “I was tired….” “If he hadn’t….” “I had a bad day at work and so when she said…I just exploded.” As if everyone and everything else is at fault when we sin. As if we are not culpable. As if. Oh no. Circumstances and people “out there” can only tempt us to sinful responses. They cannot cause them. Situations and people don’t inject the sludge into our souls that spews out in times of conflict. It’s already in there. It just gets heated up by means of the friction of conflict and challenging circumstances.
  • The answers to our greatest problems are not situational.
Vacations don’t solve problems. No matter how perfect the location, weather, accommodations, etc., you will still take your sin with you and your kids will still take their sin with them. Don’t ever put your hope in vacation.

A few lessons to learn for these impulses:
  • Vacation is not a vacation from our need for Jesus.
Whether we “feel” it or not, we are just as much in need of God’s grace on vacation as any other time. In fact, on vacation it can be even easier to get lulled to sleep, forgetting that we are still at war (hyperlink Eph. 6:10-18).
  • Vacation is a special time to drink deep at the well of God’s grace.
How often do Christians say, “I just don’t have time to read and pray like I want to.” And then they get on vacation and…they don’t read and pray like they “want to.” We make time for what we want to make time for. If the desire fire is low, you’ve got to throw more wood on the fire if you’re ever going to burn hot again.
  • Vacation is an important time to invest grace in the souls of your children.
Die to the desire for a vacation from parenting. Your vacation is a wonderful opportunity to do some heavy investing.

Paul Tripp encourages parents, when conflict comes among the children, to stop and ask them, “What is important to you right now?” They want what they want and they want it now. They need to see that they want what they want more than they want to please God and love their neighbor (sibling).

This question can be helpfully asked by parents of themselves as well. When conflict comes with the children, stop and ask yourself (esp. when you start fuming that “ALL YOU WANT” is just a little peace and quiet, etc.), “What is important to me right now?” Is comfort, ease, “a break” more important to me than the glory of God, the good of my children, loving my neighbor (spouse or child), etc.?

Vacation time often exposes false hopes and expectations. It’s easy to put our hope in our vacation – as if true rest and comfort and refuge is a place and a time and a set of circumstances – and not a Person.

Matthew 11:28-30 is still the answer, even on vacation.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

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