Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Well-Oiled Machine?

From Every Thought Captive, Volume 5, Issue 1
by Denise Sproul

I am thankful for technology, but am sometimes still confounded by it. Ask any friends of mine who have to wait almost an eternity for an e-mail from me – or ask my husband who just had to hold my hand through getting on this computer to write this article! My subject, in this, my first regular column, is utilizing technology – and therefore, systems – in the home without allowing ourselves to become machine-like. How do we keep the heart of our homes a living, beating, feeling entity rather than a cold machine made of steel? Technology has invaded our homes, just as it has touched every aspect of our world. Sometimes this is a blessing; other times it can be a curse. I am thrilled not to have to rub my family’s clothing against a rock in a cold stream somewhere. On the other hand, I’m less than excited about the mountains of clothing we possess that I have to wash and press (though I have gotten smart about that and now have very few items that need to be ironed). The very machine that makes the clothes easier to wash has also multiplied the clothes.

We sometimes allow technology to affect how we view our families; we come to think of our loved ones as a single economic unit (which they are) but look at each family member as a spoke in the wheel, each with an important job to do. While each person in our family does have an important role and function, he is much more than just that. Going to the opposite extreme of this technological view of the family is likewise unhealthy- the romantic reaction of thinking that whatever is ‘natural’ is best. It should occur to us that whatever is natural, since the Fall, includes sin. It is natural for our children to belch, but unless they’ve just eaten a meal in China, we want to teach them to control certain natural impulses.

We don’t desire to just “let things happen naturally, kick back and relax, just do whatever floats your boat”- I could go on with the aphorisms, but I’m sure you get my drift. We want to bring order, intentionality and deliberateness to our family lives. All of us adults, whether or not we will consciously recognize it, want structure and predictability just as our children do. Part of me is pleased when my husband comments that I run our home like a well-oiled machine; however, I don’t want to take this too far. It is a hard thing to find balance though, because if I am tending capably to things like meals, laundry, homeschooling, and cleaning, those things are very outwardly measurable. One can easily look at a clean house with clean children sitting down to a delicious meal and think, “Wow. She’s doing everything right.” What cannot always be seen are attitudes, lack of time reading to or talking with the children, an in-tune, how-can-I-help-you-today demeanor towards our husbands. For those of us who may struggle with more of a Martha (as opposed to a Mary, choosing the better portion) outlook, we have to constantly be thinking, “What is my focus? Is it what God wants it to be?”

Children are not machines. Yes, they need order, structure, and of course, discipline, but they cannot be crammed in to fit on an assembly line. Whatever our systems are, they require flexibility. It is good to have a plan for when certain household tasks will be done (lest they remain perpetually undone) but it is not good to allow that plan to lead to hyper-scheduling and insensitivity. If I plan to dust from 9:30-10, I don’t tell Campbell to wait for me to hold him when he’s split his lip. If playtime at the park is planned for Saturday morning, I don’t drag my children out in the rain or try to bring the swingset inside. Now, I know as you ponder the two solutions to these dilemmas, you might be thinking, “Oh, I would never do that! How ridiculous!” But how many of us would have a bad attitude about the disruptions to our plans? Do we look at these disruptions as divine intervention, as opportunities for obedience, as things that are also part of God’s plan for our lives for that day, or do we think as we’re holding our crying child, “Now how do I rearrange the rest of the day so that my house is clean?”

Resist the urge to think that all structure and planning is bad. Being like Jesus’ friend Mary does not mean sitting back and letting life happen to you. We are called to live life simply, separately and deliberately. God does exhort us to do things “decently and in order.” We are not to be constantly flying by the seat of our pants and praying that when we land, we’re all in one piece. “You shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Luke 4:12). Being loving and sensitive is not to be equated with being wishy-washy and undisciplined. As in many cases, balance is the key. If our focus and structure is too narrow, we scrunch our loved ones in to fit our agendas. If it is too broad, our families turn to jelly – no one seems to know which way is up. We must also always keep our eyes on the prize: our goal is to raise godly children, not well-ordered heathen. We must teach our children to be orderly and disciplined, but must also teach them with our words and with our actions what Christ’s love is like. If I grudgingly hold my hurt child, I’m teaching him that love is rude. If I have a fit when we can’t go to the park, I’m teaching him that love is impatient. We want to see godly seed flourish as godly men and women. To be like Christ to your children, never fail to take them into your arms and bless them. Never fail to suffer the children to come unto you.

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