by Jennifer Blessing
Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction; don’t neglect your mother’s teaching; for they are a graceful wreath on your head, and beads for your neck. Proverbs 1: 8-9 CEB
I had a most interesting exchange with our daughter, Katherine when she was about 4 years old. She was playing quietly in the kitchen while I was cooking. Suddenly she looked up and said to me, “You’re the best kind of mom.” I was certainly pleased and a little confused. So I asked her what made her say that. Her simple response was “Because you say both yes AND no to us.”
I remember being overwhelmed with a sense that she was so mature beyond her years. That she was clearly wise about how parenting works for the good of the child. And yet there have been moments in the nine years since that exchange that have clearly demonstrated she doesn’t always like when I say no. In fact, she may have forgotten our conversation and her compliment all together. The teenage years can do that to the best of us.
But the truth of her comment has long stuck with me. Parents are not blessed with children in order that we may be at their beck and call. We aren’t charged with giving them everything they want or desire. In fact, all across the world, the goal of parenting is to not raise happy children, but to raise children to be productive adult members of their society. So we tell our children yes and we tell our children no—in order that they may experience boundaries that set them up for wisdom, patience, and grace. Research in child development demonstrates that children who have boundaries set for them tend to have better self-esteem, better emotional development, and a stronger sense of identity.
God sets boundaries for us—just like a good parent. He wants us to remember that His relationship with us is founded on love. And His love means that he sets firm and clear boundaries for us, His children. He says yes and He says no. His love for us is overwhelmingly designed for our good. And He knows that for our good, we need to follow instructions and obey Him. Throughout the Old Testament, His love is demonstrated by the boundaries He set with people. His covenants with His people are how God spoke yes and no. His covenant with Noah, with Abraham, and with Jacob—all are examples of God saying “I love you and that means I say yes and no to you.” His covenants demonstrate His unwavering love—a love that establishes a relationship with us. God is the perfect parent, nurturing us and loving us so well that He knows we need His guidance and even His correction sometimes.
This weekend we will continue our series on the book of Malachi. In Chapter 2, Malachi reminds the priests that they have forgotten the covenant God made with Levi. They have broken the covenant and forgotten who they are. Their unwillingness to obey God means God is going to say no to them in a large way. Malachi’s job is to remind them that God loves them and requires them to be obedient. If they can remember the covenant and swing back to God, they will experience the love that He has for them. I look forward to seeing you in church this Sunday as we remember the promise of God’s covenant with us, and the love He continually shows us.