November 16, 2015

What is Needed

Devotion for the Week...

I love reading down through the comments stream on pictures on Instagram when there's a discussion going on. Yesterday a woman posted a picture along with a caption that said she was working on some Christmas things to distract her from the unpleasantness of living with teenagers. "How dare I ask her to empty the dishwasher?" she asked. What followed was commiseration from those who are also raising teenagers with attitude to spare, along with suggestions for how to make those teenagers more willing to pitch in and do what needs to be done. It was interesting to read, partly because Aiden is 13 (but not yet full of attitude) so we're just beginning our voyage through the teenage years, but mostly because those suggestions are so different from the things I do with the toddlers I babysit, who can't yet grasp the concept of getting their beloved technology back once the chores are finished.

I read this passage of Isaiah with Aiden and Zachary the other night before they went to bed. Though at first glance it doesn't seem at all related, this is what came to mind as I read the Instagram suggestions for dealing with teenagers.

Listen and hear my voice;
    pay attention and hear what I say.
When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually?
    Does he keep on breaking up and working the soil?
When he has leveled the surface,
    does he not sow caraway and scatter cumin?
Does he not plant wheat in its place,
    barley in its plot,
    and spelt in its field?
His God instructs him
    and teaches him the right way.
Caraway is not threshed with a sledge,
    nor is the wheel of a cart rolled over cumin;
caraway is beaten out with a rod,
    and cumin with a stick.
Grain must be ground to make bread;
    so one does not go on threshing it forever.
The wheels of a threshing cart may be rolled over it,
    but one does not use horses to grind grain.
All this also comes from the Lord Almighty,
    whose plan is wonderful,
    whose wisdom is magnificent.
                                             Isaiah 28:23-29.

I confess that when I first read this, I didn't see it as having any connection to raising teenagers, or to anything remotely connected to my life. I also confess I had no idea what it meant, especially since it seemed out of place coming as it does in the midst of Isaiah's prophecies of destruction. So, I headed online to see what the commentaries had to say. You can read those commentaries here, but I'll summarize a little, and I'm going to take it in two parts. Since most of us aren't farmers, Isaiah's example doesn't really make sense to us, so I'll relate it to parenting, which in turn will help us see how God works in our lives.

First of all, the farmer has a variety of tasks that he needs to do in sequence (verses 23-26). He doesn't plow forever, but moves on from one task to the next, all working towards the goal of a harvest. As parents, we have to tailor our teaching to the ages of our children, with the end goal of raising capable, godly adults. When Zachary was two, we didn't ask him to make supper. Now, though, he is learning to cook. At first he and Paul worked together to make sloppy joes, which are his specialty, but now Zachary does all the work except for the cooking of the meat. Gradually, task by task, we teach our kids to take care of themselves, to be independent. 

In a spiritual sense, God has a plan for His people, which requires that He not always be doing the same thing in our lives. He works in us, bringing us closer and closer to being the Christ-like people He wants us to be. Sometimes He will be working to prepare us, other times He will be planting and tending the seed of some trait He wants to develop in us, and at other times He will, hopefully, bring in a harvest as that new character trait becomes part of us.

The second part of the passage talks about threshing, which is certainly something I've never done and have no clue about. I buy my flour already ground and ready to use, thank you! But as I read, it seemed obvious that different grains have to be threshed (or separated from the inedible chaff) in different ways...what works for one won't work for the other.

As I said, this passage comes in the midst of Isaiah's prophecy about the destruction that will come because God's people have been disobeying Him and have refused to heed the many stern warnings they've been given. According to the commentaries I read, the threshing symbolizes God's work in us too, but this time in the manner of discipline. Sometimes we need only a gentle reminder that what we are doing is wrong. Other times sterner measures are needed, like the destruction God would have to send on the people of Israel and Judah before He would get their attention. God knows how best to discipline us, just as the farmer knows how to thresh different grains, and just as we know to discipline our own children in different ways according to their ages and personalities.

Proverbs 3:11,12 says, "My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in." Though we won't like being disciplined by God any more than our kids like being disciplined by us, we can be sure that we are being disciplined by a Father who loves us. 

Most importantly, always, no matter what stage we are at in our spiritual growth or what form the discipline takes, His goal is to make us better and never to cause us harm.

1 comment:

  1. What a well written devotion! 3 of my 8 are teens and I enjoy them a lot! Attitudes enter in at times, but it is not the norm.

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