Jul 01 2013

Cutting back the weeds…a consequence turned into a powerful discipling moment

Have you ever had one of those parenting situations when you needed to deal with a serious behavior choice of your child but you had tried so many ways of handling that you were at a total loss about how to respond this time? I have. In fact, I dealt with one of these situations in our family today…it took me a while to pray through it and talk with a couple of more experienced parents and my pastor at church, but the Holy Spirit took the simple consequence I started with and turned it into an amazing spiritual connection moment for us that was so powerful I feel led to share it with all of you in hopes that it might help you as a parent or just on your own journey too.

This post is a little longer than usual, but I feel called to share what happened in hopes it will encourage you as well…

This past week Josh and Michael were at VBS at our church. Friday night was VBS Family Night. While I was watching Michael and Josh interact and take part in performing and leading the songs they had learned during the week, the Lord helped me to see the beginnings of something bigger that He is doing and wants to do in their lives in the future. It was a powerful moment and something I really needed to help me keep the bigger picture of what God is doing in their lives in mind while I teach/train them and disciple them.

It has been my experience that when God does something powerful in your life, like began happening in the lives of my guys this past week, usually the devil doesn’t like it and so after mountaintop type experiences (as I like to call them) it isn’t uncommon to have times of serious temptation or challenges soon after.

This morning was one of those times for my Josh.

This morning, he acted on some impulses in anger toward me that were NOT good. I’ve dealt with this before with him but it has been a few weeks. His morning melt downs or “losing his mind” as we call it at our house, usually happens when he hasn’t had enough sleep and it has been a long week of getting home late from VBS ( it didn’t end until 9pm) and then it took a couple of hours for them to wind down so everyone is tired. Keeping that in mind, I prayed my way through it and was able to calm him down and we were able to move on with our morning preparations for church. I took him aside before we left for church and told him that I love him very much…no matter what. With that in mind though, he needs to remember that the choice he made to act on his angry impulse against me this morning were not acceptable or godly behavior and I would need to pray about the consequences and we would talk about it later today.

He was very calm and his eyes got very big and he said he understood. I gave him a hug and we left for Sunday School.

After worship and having a chance to talk it out with my pastor and a couple of friends (we have a VERY small church and are like family), I knew I needed to find a way for his consequence to be serving me or another woman in some way. So before we took our Sunday afternoon nap I prayed and asked God to lead me in the right direction on this.

When I woke up I knew what to do. It will sound silly but I told him that it was time to talk about and do his consequence. He knew it would be a community service type project…but what I said surprised him.

I had him get a scissors and we went out to our front yard, which needs to be mowed, and I had him cut the tops off of all the weeds that you see in the photo above. He gave me a confused look and agreed to do it…thinking it would be easy at first. I sat on the porch and watched him and quietly and respectfully pointed out where he was missing spots and reminding him to slow down and be careful as he did it.

After a while his hand began to hurt and he asked me if he could stop.

I told him he could if he would agree to sit on the porch with me and listen to what I had to say.

The Lord put an object lesson on my heart and I shared it with him as He brought the words to my heart.

I asked Josh if it was easy to cut off the tops of the weeds.

He said it wasn’t hard but after a while his hand got tired.

I asked him if he knew what happens when you cut off the tops of weeds or prune flowers or plants.

He didn’t know.

I explained to him that when we prune them back the grow stronger and multiply most of the time.

I asked him if he knew what we would have to do to get rid of the weeds?

He told me we would probably have to dig them up by the roots.

I smiled at him and told him that he was absolutely right!

He looked surprised and I asked him why that surprised him.

He said that if I knew that him cutting off the tops of the weeds would make more weeds in our yard then why did I ask him to do it?

It was then that God helped me to see how it related…

I explained to him that him the weeds in our yard are a lot like our sinful choices are in his life and heart. If he only uses self-control or asks for God’s help to stop making certain choices so that he could get a reward from me or get to do something he wanted to do…it is a lot like going through the yard and cutting off the tops of the weeds. We might not see the behaviors for a while but eventually they would come back and be stronger than they were before.

I quietly explained to him that just like the weeds, to really get rid of the sinful choices in our lives we have to ask God to lead us in doing whatever it takes to get rid of that sin from our lives. It takes work, it isn’t easy, especially if it is a “pet sin” or one we tend to do most often. The roots of the sin have grown deeply into our hearts and the process of God pruning that sin can be painful sometimes and feel like we are missing out on the “good stuff” for a while.

I asked him what is left when you dig up a weed, roots and all.

He explained to me that when you do it that way there is a big hole left in the ground…the bigger the weed the bigger the hole because the roots go deeper and are stronger on the bigger weeds. I smiled really big and told him that he is very smart and absolutely right.

I told him that when we dig up a big weed in the yard we need to replace it with something else or the other weeds surrounding that hole will just see it as fresh dirt to spread their seeds into and grow more weeds. His eyes and expression grew serious at this thought.

I told him the same applies when we ask God to prune us…and I told him we do need to ask God to prune us. God is a gentleman and He won’t just come into our lives and start changing things we don’t want to give Him. We have to first really want Him to take the sin away. But the seriously cool thing about God that makes Him God is that He will fill that hole with His grace, strength, courage, power and HIS fruit, IF we let Him lead us.

I explained that there are two kinds of fruit that grow in our lives.

Fruit that grows from our relationship with God as a gift from His Holy Spirit being active in our lives.  I asked him if he knew the names of the fruit of the Spirit. He quoted this verse to me…

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control… Galatians 5:22-23 NLT

I affirmed that he knew the fruit of the Holy Spirit!

I asked him if he knew the verses that came right before this passage in Galatians and he didn’t. So we talked about what it says…

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Galatians 5: 19-21 NLT

I asked him if he could see any of his choices from this morning in that list. His eyes grew wide as he was able to pick out four that described his choices this morning… he named hostility, quarreling, outbursts of anger, self ambition and after I explained what dissension and division meant, he realized that those could be added to the list from just this morning’s situation.

I explained to him that the things in this list are the fruit that Satan wants to produce in our lives.

He got very serious at that.

I told him and Michael that God had helped me to understand that He has something very special that He wants to do through their lives. We had talked before about the fact that God had a reason for rescuing us and helping us survive the accident last summer. I told him that on Friday night I could see the beginnings of some of the things God has in mind for them. He looked at me and said, “really, mom?”

I smiled at him and gave him a big hug and told him, “really!”

I then explained to him that I know that he loves Jesus and wants to serve Him. He agreed and told me that he really does want to. I told him that God wants to use his testimony of overcoming the odds and allowing God to transform His heart and prune away those sins. I explained that by going through this and making the tough choices and learning to totally trust that God’s way is the right way and that He will help him through it every step of the way, he can help others who are struggling too someday.

I told him that the godly form of being strong-willed is being determined and passionate for God. He smiled. I reminded him that the apostle Paul was strong-willed too before He completely turned his life over to God and look what God did through His life and testimony. His eyes got really big there and I smiled.

I reminded him that I love him so much that I can’t sit by and let the weeds overtake his heart without trying to do everything possible to help him learn to identify the weeds and help him turn them over to God.

I asked him to look at our lawn (and I use that term very loosely) again. I asked him if it was mostly weeds that get mowed to control them each week or if he could see very much grass there. He looked for a bit and then said, “Mom! Most of our lawn is actually weeds!”

I told him he was right!

I told that is what happens when you don’t do anything to get rid of the weeds…eventually they take over the lawn and it is hard to find the grass because it is so full of weeds. I shared with him that the same thing can happen in our hearts if we aren’t careful and that is why Paul was warning the Galatians to look at their lives and really think about what they were doing. They had accepted God but they hadn’t really allowed Him to be Lord of their lives. When someone is Lord over you they are your boss.  You let them have control of what you do and you follow what they want you to do.

I explained that whoever you choose to follow, whoever’s ways or choices you make in your life shows up in the fruit of your actions, choices, and attitudes. I told him that Satan isn’t so powerful that he can force you to do anything. You make that choice of whom to follow every single day in everything we do, say, or the what we think about.

I told him that Satan isn’t thrilled that he went to VBS last week and began overcoming some of his big fears by trusting in God. He sees that as a threat. I explained that I know he has read in the Bible that we don’t fight against the flesh but against spiritual enemies. And the light began to go on in his eyes.

He told me that he got it now. If he kept making bad choices the sins in his life would take over more and more like the weeds in our yard. I nodded yes and smiled. He continued to tell me with growing excitement and understanding…and it is up to me what I choose to do. No one can or will force me. I told him that’s right, but that no matter what his choices were there would be fruit.  Fruit of the Spirit of God or…he finished it for me…fruit of Satan’s plans.

I told him that as Christians we are in a spiritual battle and that is why it is so important that we put on the armor of God every day.

I told him that when Daddy was alive that his Daddy and I had claimed our home, our family and our lives for the glory of God to serve God alone. I told him that still have that same commitment for my life, our family and our home…that we serve God for His glory not our own. I asked him if he was ready to join me in that commitment…to join me in the battle for his own life, our family and our home.

He had tears in his eyes but they were bright with understanding.

It was then that I took Michael and Josh’s hands and in a circle on our porch I led our family in prayer to walk together in this battle and hold each other up in prayer, accountability and encouragement.  I led our family in committing our home to be a place of peace in which we would encourage one another not tear each other down and that we would remember that our enemy isn’t each other…it is Satan and we need to choose to ask God to transform our hearts and take our sins from us every single day. Josh and Michael agreed to accept me holding them accountable and they agreed to gently encourage me when they saw me struggling too. We committed to be in this together and not against each other so that God would be the center of our home, our family and each of our lives. We don’t want weeds choking out the things God wants to do in  and through us.

I then prayed a blessing over them and our home as the mother and asked God to guide me and lead me in leading and discipling them…all for His glory.

It was a powerful experience!!

Did everything go perfectly for the rest of the day? No. It didn’t.

But the difference was that I was able to remind them of who the enemy is and what kind of fruit we want in our lives. And the beautiful thing was that even Michael understood a lot of what was said…he gently reminded me that I didn’t want to react instead of responding when I was frustrated because it wouldn’t produce God’s fruit. Wow. Now that was humbling…powerful but humbling. I thanked him for reminding me so respectfully and apologized when I was in the wrong and Josh saw that and I could see that more seeds were being planted.

Our family isn’t perfect. We continue to grow and struggle…but we are growing slowly but surely.

I am so thankful for how God answered my prayers today by leading me through this amazing discipling moment and turning a consequence into a powerful discipleship and prayer experience.

As a parent I am working hard on relying on Him more and more and not thinking I need to do it myself or figure things out myself. It is when we surrender even decisions about consequences or how to respond instead of reacting in frustration that God can grow us and grow our children and families.

I pray you are encouraged by our experience today…may God bless you and your family and I pray He ministers to you through the evidence of His strength in my weakness…remember…He is always faithful!

Grateful for His Grace,

Mary Joy

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About the author

Mary Joy

I am a broken daughter of God and a work in progress. I am passionate about encouraging women to embrace God's grace and faithfulness as I discover and share His faithfulness, grace and even joy in the messiness of my journey as a widowed (less than 2 yrs), homeschooling mom with a missionary's heart. I am in awe of how God fills me up and carries me through each day. My Heavenly Father leads me as I continue to parent and home school my two recovering and very active boys and encourage my beautiful teenage step-daughter (long distance) during her first year in of college. In every moment I see incredible evidence of God's healing love, grace and faithfulness. I am so blessed to be the creator, manager, and an author of Unwrapping His Grace as I lean on my Savior to lead us in this special web-ministry.

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