By Sean Stier
Having children was not on the top of the list of things I had on my mind when I married Tracy. Since we married in our early 30’s, it was clear that the issue of children would be on us sooner than we knew it. Women have a God-given longing for children and for a man who will protect and provide for their offspring. I vaguely remember her love for me, as she explained it, being so much greater than physical attraction. That was hard for me to comprehend. Until then, my life was defined as Rogue, or as physical attraction, and sexual gratification as the measure of love. We had Tyler three years after we married and Braeden three years after that, but it took well over a decade for me to fully understand that to excel as a father was to be shaped into the image of Christ, and become more attractive to Tracy at the same time.
Parenting was not easy, and most first-time parents have no idea what they are getting into when they bring life into this broken world. I’ll be the first to admit that my parenting in the “early years,” as a new believer, was marred with anger, power, and self-righteousness. The way to get the behavior I desired was often involved in loud outbursts, a form of fear-based behavior modification.
The issue of discipline in parenting is a common one in both the Old and New Testament. My parenting in the “early years” was thought to be a form of discipline by a dictatorship. The book of Proverbs is ripe with guidance. King Solomon in Proverbs states that a “rod and reprimand impart wisdom,” and “whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” Deuteronomy 8:5 claims, “Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.”
Turning to the New Testament, in Hebrews 12, the author states, “endure hardship as discipline” and teaches that “the Lord disciplines the one he loves…” If we don’t receive discipline as God’s chosen and adopted children, then we are not legitimate children, true sons, and daughters of our heavenly Father. Furthermore, Hebrews 12:11 provide us the justification for acts of discipline, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained in it.” But is discipline all you need to parent? I justified my rage-filled outbursts as discipline.
Christ loves children, and the gospels state that children would inherit the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:14, Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16). Besides, Christ commands us to welcome children in Mark 9:37 “whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” Christ transcends the image of parenting to include love over all else. In 1 John 4:7-8, we find, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
The Lord began shaping my thoughts and actions as a parent as I started to draw near to him through his Word. His Word brought the judgmental angry man into the Lord’s marvelous light. In 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” My old self used fear and punishment as tools to control behavior. This old self occasionally returns when I grieve the Spirit, but the Spirit offers no condemnation. Discipline is still a part of parenting but done with love. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul mentions speaking in tongues, prophesying with all knowledge, having faith that can move mountains and giving all possessions to the poor, but all done without love, and that this amounts to nothing. Parenting without love amounts to nothing.
There were some incredibly tough times as I look back at almost 20 years of marriage, and in the beginning, having children made it difficult to be a good husband. I acknowledge now that God was using all my past failures to bring me closer to him and to mold me into the man formed by his will; a masterpiece or “handiwork to do good works, which God prepared in advance.” God’s masterpiece is still unfinished and not yet ready for display. And when distance exists between my wife and I, and darkness appears to be closing in, the Heavenly Father reminds me that connecting with my children and showing unconditional love always sheds light. It fans the flame of the Holy Spirit, who shines brightly, illuminating areas where there was darkness.
Meet Sean Stier
Sean and Tracy Stier reside in Orange County, California with their two sons, Tyler (15) and Braeden (12). Our family enjoys spending time with each other at various sporting events and school related activities. Sean works in real estate finance and accounting and our family is blessed to call Mariners Church our home.
I am grateful to Sean for contributing this week’s blogs. Sean in a Rogue group facilitator and a member of our Rogue Ministry Leadership Committee.
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I also provide one-on-one coaching, if you want to improve your relationships, let’s connect through e-mail at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’. My hope for you is that through these blogs, references, and resources, God will transform you from being bruised or broken to an abundantly blessed man.