“You just wait until your father gets home!”
The above are eight words no child wants to hear from his or her mom. Yet, I must confess, my sister and I heard that unwanted octet more times than we cared to.
After those words came flying angrily out of Mom’s mouth, we were marched off to our bedrooms to await our fate. Since my sister’s room faced the front of the house, she would anxiously peer out her window and whisper a play by play across the hall to me.
“Car’s coming.” Hold breath through an uncomfortable pause. “It’s not Dad.”
Sadly, it would always end with, “Car’s coming…It’s Dad.” Shortly thereafter, the creak of the front door, muffled voices in the kitchen, the pounding of dress shoes up the steps, followed by “unpleasantness.”
Indeed, knowing that we had done wrong and were deserving of consequences, my sister and I waited fearfully for Dad to come home. But let me be clear. We did not fear my father, just the consequences he would be bringing.
Most days, I waited excitedly for my father to come home. You could find me many an evening pacing the front porch with a baseball glove or a Wiffleball bat in hand. I didn’t even give Dad time to put down his briefcase or change his shoes before I asked, “Are you ready to play?”
Many people view “the fear of the Lord” negatively, as though we should act like frightened children hiding under a bed when they hear the drunken footsteps of their father coming near. Please don’t think that way.
To fear the Lord does not mean to dread Him or His presence. Never! We should long for God’s presence, as I longed for my father to come home so we could play baseball. What the fear of the Lord actually refers to is understanding that He is the one in charge. When we make sinful choices that go against His will, He will answer with consequences—sometimes quite unpleasant ones.
Studies show that children who have a healthy fear of their parents grow up to be the most well-adjusted. A Pathways to Desistance study found that teens who described their parents as “warm and firm” were more mature, more academically competent, less prone to internalize distress and less likely to engage in risky behavior than their peers. In regards to this, an article in the Temple Review stated, “The study lends some support to the contention that especially firm parenting…may be more beneficial to youth, protecting them from harm.”
In discussing another study from the University of Minnesota, pastor and author Chip Ingram writes, “The balanced, authoritative parent who combines high levels of support with high levels of control typically produced children with high self-esteem, good coping skills, and a positive relationship with parents.”
Certainly, recent research shows that children who know their parents love them, yet also understand that doing wrong means consequences, are going to make the best adults. Conversely, these same studies show that parents who are “high love” but “low discipline” create feelings of low self-esteem and inferiority in their children.
The reason? Children with little to no boundaries are always questioning themselves. They never know for sure what is right or wrong, safe or not safe. With no clear boundaries, their seeming freedom only leads to insecurity and doubt. And without discipline, they never learn responsibility.
Underscoring this, a study by Brigham Young University found that teens of indulgent parents were three times more likely to make irresponsible choices…” This is because, writes author, professor, and psychologist John Santrock, “children [of indulgent parents] never learn to control their own behavior and always expect to get their way.”
The evidence is clear. High love coupled with high discipline is the best combination a parent can use to raise healthy and well-adjusted children who will work hard, serve faithfully, and effectively raise children of their own.
Yet, when it comes to Father God, our culture seems to want to view Him as an indulgent parent who has lost the “high discipline” and only engages in “high love.” Because of this, we’ve become like the children of indulgent parents making irresponsible choices, never learning to control our behavior, and always expecting to get our own way without any thought that God may be displeased with us.
I hope you are ready for something more.