“Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.”(I Kings 19:11-12)
If you knew my earthly dad, every hearing of his name or his voice would remind you of thunders. There is such generation who influenced their children with fear rather than love and understanding. The generation before that was even worse, totally removed from bonding with their children and that led with fear of punishment. It’s possible that for every passing generation things become a bit easier, looser, more tolerant than ever before. Traditions losing their grips on things. But there are so many reasons for that. One generation suffers so much in their lifetime that it wishes to see things change for the next generation. I’m so aware of this trend that I can tell the many times I have been regrettably my dad to my kids, being impatient, frustrated, totally removed from their circle. To me, it may have seemed like catching a break because I then worried so much of not losing sight of my “list of things I need to worry about.” Quite pathetic, right!
From my parents, very early I learned that maturity means “worrying”, not “being concerned”, actual “worrying”. The message from my parents to me then became, “if you worry enough about not getting punished, you will do so well.” Fear became my motivator for almost everything including obedience, but fun. I’d have fun while forgetting the rules and harsh consequences. And I bet it is the same for my parents too at any time during their lifetime. I mean, how can anybody in the entire world have fun while worrying?
Love. God had to teach me love in so many ways so that I would demonstrate it to my kids in a way that is so revolutionary and powerful. Hence, the gospel.
My parents loves me. And they struggle in so many ways, so many times when trying to demonstrate that love for me. The problem is this: “I love you to …” and not “I love you.” In reality, they’re telling me that they like me for as long as I do as expected, and better yet follow the agenda they’ve set before me. What’s funny is that both of my parents were renegades to their parents and I thank God for that because otherwise I’d really taste what their parents were like as far as their strictness. Trust me, I’ve heard their stories of their parents whenever they’re having fun, stories repeated over and over again throughout their lifetime, and I thank God for that too.
My point is this: I cannot raise my kids by fear of punishment. That would have their eyes fixed on their graves and not their lives. Love is a whole other motivator. It works for both the giver and the recipient. Both can actually breathe when love is happening.
Unlike love, fear of punishment is at the core of all of our problems. It’s no joke. When my dad realized that he couldn’t corporally punish me and my brother anymore, he literally called the cops on us to kick us out, very much like he did to our two older brothers.
Fear in any capacity dictates death. Whether it’s fear of losing authority or fear of getting punished, it just seems to suck the life out of whoever you are. I’ve been on both sides of fear many times and I can tell you that I hated and still do hate it, and hope to continue hating it. Love? Jesus had to come down to teach me love. Nobody ever loved me like Jesus. People have liked me to do things for them. They’ve liked me for doing things for them. But love? Far from it. How can someone truly love you without knowing and enjoying the fact that God loves them (period). Religion couldn’t teach me that. Christianity, trying to look “Christian” didn’t teach me that. But the gospel revealed that to me and that alone. Knowing that God loves me makes all the difference. I don’t find myself trying to please God. I find myself rejoicing in God and I can bet my life on it that it pleases him so much that I am rejoicing in Him, that I’m rejoicing in His Son. Love is so much better than fear. Fear torments, but love sets free.
“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.” (I John 4:17-19)
As Kenny Rogers beautifully reminds me:
“Love lifted me, love lifted me. When nothing else would do. You know love lifted me.”
When nothing else would help, love lifted me. When nothing and no one would and could help, God lifted me by his love for me.