What If My Children Don't Sit Still in Church?

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Recently, an article popped up on my newsfeed for the seventh or eighth time since last summer. Shared by many a mother thrilled to have found a simple solution to a common problem, the article is entitled “No Fuss Parenting - Teach Kids to Sit Still,” with one of the first pictures further expounding, “How I Taught My Children To Sit Still in Church.”

“Teaching my kids to sit still is the best thing I ever did as a parent,” the writer gushes at the beginning of the article, and then goes on to detail her simple solution to achieving these results: just practice sitting still a lot with your children at home. They will get used to sitting still for long periods, and then will have no problem sitting still in church! Voila!

I have read many such articles meant to encourage parents with tips and tricks as they raise their children. Sometimes, I gratefully absorb the advice in parenting blogs or books. I will be struggling with a particular issue at home, and that advice or tip will make all the difference. Implemented, the issue is resolved, or at least improves greatly.

Other times, however, these articles fill me with nothing but guilt and frustration. This was my gut response to the “teach kids to sit still” article. Why? Because my kids have never, not once, in the 4 years since I have become a parent, sat still for an entire church service and I am already implementing all of the tips and tricks!  My kids sit still at home all the time! They can sit for hours reading or listening to books. I almost never have a kid try to escape the table during dinner time. We have quiet time for 2 hours every afternoon where my kids are required to stay still and quiet in their beds, whether they want to sleep or not. And yet, they are unable to make it through a church service, EVER, without losing their minds at least once during the sermon.

Granted, at ages 4, 2, and 1, my children are still young. Perhaps they are still works in progress. Maybe if we continue practicing self control at home, they will reach an age where they have mastered it. Then maybe I, like the mother in the article, will be able to parade my children around town with full faith that they will behave like perfect little angels. I, too, will not bat an eye at bringing them to a long graduation ceremony, or enrolling them in preschool. With just a little more work, we will arrive at perfection in this area. I’m sure of it. Time to buckle down, work harder, and mold my children into the shapes I know they can become. It will be the best thing I will ever do as a parent.

Am I the only one who has thought this way about raising my children? Keeping always some dim “arrival point” in the forefront of my mind, I chase the illusion of “someday perfection” in my children. SOMEDAY my children will learn self control. SOMEDAY they will obey me perfectly. SOMEDAY they will be polite, well-mannered, patient, peaceful, kind, generous, loving, joyful, good, and gentle. SOMEDAY a veritable fruit tree will erupt where I have planted a seed and toiled at the soil, and I will sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labor as a parent. “These are my kids,” I will think. “It was hard work raising them, but they are just about perfect now, so it was worth it. Aren’t they awesome?”

I look to other, older, or more disciplined parents and mistakingly think they’ve "arrived." They’re in the blossoming fruit tree stage of parenting, right? They’ve sewn all their seeds and toiled at their soil and are sitting back, reaping the benefits of well behaved, perfect children. I’ll get there some day, if I follow their lead.

I read parenting books or blogs and believe they hold the key to achieving “someday perfect.” If I just implement the correct behavioral strategies, prevention methods, consequences, rewards, time outs, spankings, lectures, chore charts, or logic, the books tell me, I can achieve perfect children. If they’re not perfectly behaved yet, it’s because I’m doing it wrong. I have more work left to do, but we’ll get there, if I just stay consistent with the recommended strategies.

In all of this struggle to raise my children to be amazing human beings, to achieve the elusive “someday perfect,” I lose sight of one important detail:

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My children are not perfect. In fact, they are broken; imperfect since conception. This is the human condition, and no amount of behavioral strategizing, practicing, or preventing will erase this condition in my children. Even if I am able to teach them to understand right from wrong, their sinful nature will deliberately and repeatedly ignore right and commit wrong. As human beings, they are sick with sin, and will be until the day that they die and are made perfect in heaven with Jesus.

So why do I get hung up on believing that the “best thing I could ever do as a parent” is teaching my kids to sit still in church? Or to say “please and thank you” at the appropriate time? Kindness, gentleness, and self control, these are good things that we all want our children to exhibit, but they are not the end-all-be-all of Christian parenting. We forget that these things are fruits of the Spirit. They are what happens as a natural result of the Spirit working within us, not the other way around.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

As a Christian parent, I need to revamp my focus. My ultimate goal isn’t to force the outward behavior of my children into a mold of perceived perfection so that my life will get easier or so that other people will admire my well-behaved family. Rather, my main goal as a Christian parent should be to spiritually uplift and fortify the inward hearts of my children toward Christ. The “best thing I could ever do as a parent” is to teach my children to know and love Jesus as their Savior. If the day ever arrives where they make it through an entire church service without fidgeting (Lord willing!), I hope it's because they're engrossed in celebrating the beautiful relationship they have with Jesus.

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In Pursuit of Perfection: Fit For Him // Part One

FitforHimHeaderRecently someone said to me, "I just wanted that magic potion. I wanted this to be the answer. I wanted the same benefits that I read everyone else was experiencing. I wanted to feel perfect." How often do we feel that way? We see the results someone else is experiencing from a certain program, diet or exercise plan and we think we should be just as lucky. That way of thinking is dangerous on a number of levels.

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First, our bodies are not perfect, nor will they ever be here on earth. Regardless of what the gossip magazines, entertainment news outlets or the voice in our head are saying, attaining physical perfection is futile. Regardless of how much exercise we do, we may just have to take medicine for high blood pressure. It’s in our genetic makeup to need it. No matter how much yogurt we eat or how much milk we drink, we may need to supplement our calcium intake because of our heredity and our heritage. If we brush our teeth twice a day AND floss, we cannot expect a cavity free dentist visit every time. Every part of this life on earth is tainted by sin. There is no guarantee for anything on earth. Even if we follow the directions meticulously and abide by the recommendations of every doctor, guru, self-help book, exercise program or diet plan. Ever since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, this world is doomed to destruction and death, and we are no exception.

Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people because all sinned” -

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Who’s definition of perfection is right? Does the perfect body image include long legs? A long torso? Long hair? Short hair? Blue eyes? Dark eyes? Freckles? Fair skin? Olive skin? Dark skin? High cheek bones? A round face? High hairline? Or maybe you are mesmerized like some ancient scholars were, by Da Vinci’s Golden Ratio – the mathematical equation of beauty. Each culture stresses the importance of outward appearance and how to conduct one’s self in public, or what to wear. But in America the secular definition of beauty is often equated to self-worth. You feel inferior to someone because she has the earrings that you couldn’t afford. You feel embarrassed when you see your neighbor on your way to take the kids to school in the morning, and she is dressed in cute clothes and has her face and hair made up, when all you had time to do was brush your teeth. You feel defeated during your workout at the gym because you were unable to keep up with the person next to you. These incidents of comparison and failure to measure up make you vow to shop for new clothes, exercise twice a day, get up earlier to actually take a shower and get ready, and start updating your résumé for the perfect job. You think to yourself, “I am going to be perfect, just like she is”. Why is it that you define the other girl as perfect and assume she is happy? Because we like her outfit? Because she is the size we want to be? Her hair color is what yours should’ve been if the stylist would have gotten it right? Dear sisters, you are worth SO MUCH MORE than what some column on a beauty blog says you should look like or who an article in a business journal says is successful. You are God’s child. You were chosen by God. You belong to God.

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Galatians 4:7 “So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are God’s child, God has made you also an heir”.

This is the root of your worth. You can find acceptance and love and peace in this, knowing that God loves you and cloaks you in the perfection of his son, Jesus. In the light of Jesus you are perfect. He lived a perfect life, suffered and died for you. That’s how much you are valued. Jesus does not first ask for you to show him your flawless skin, your white teeth, your expensive purse, your toned arms and your push-up form. He died for you inspite of your short-comings and imperfections. He died for you even though you did nothing for him. You did not earn his love and forgiveness. You did not work your way into his kingdom.

But God has given you a certain skill set, a finite amount of time on earth and has provided resources for you to work with here on earth to serve him. I think back to almost 10 years ago when, out of left field, my husband told me he wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement. What?! He had just finished his Master’s degree in American Literature and was working toward his PhD at the University of Tennessee. Never once had I known him to take an interest in law enforcement or federal agencies. Where did this come from? We prayed about it and explored his options, and the Lord granted him the ability to pursue this new-found passion. Just over three years later, after going through the police academy and becoming a police officer, he was back behind a desk, writing. He was once again working within the framework of his skill set. God enabled him to see how he can best be utilized for service. If you are 5’2” and you want to play professional basketball, you may not be using your God-given skill set to the best of your ability. You may be pursuing a dream of yours, while being negligent of the resources God has given you. Maybe you don’t have the straightest teeth, or the texture of hair you wish for, or the ability to sing, or the capacity to run a marathon. But you have something to give. You have something to offer your Savior.

Romans 12:6-8 “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously, if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully”.

Don’t pursue perfection. Pursue your Savior and his will for you. He will open up doors for you to flourish and shine for him.

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