No matter how much authority a parent can wield, children will always hold a power over us. It is our love and our hopes for them that put them in control. And I don’t mean that they control their day to day situations or get to make all their own choices. That is not healthy. That is not parenting. However, whenever we entrust our hearts to someone who is reckless and immature, we give them the power over us: the power to hurt, to force us to choose the lesser of two evils or even the power to tear down what we have built.
There used to be a term that was more commonly used in the past. Now it has almost faded out of memory entirely: “Child-wealth.” It was a term used of tribal nomads and Celtic clans. It was a phrase that conveyed the ethos that the real wealth of the clan, tribe or family was not truly in how much gold, silver, crops or cattle they possessed. Their children, the next generation, were the paramount treasure of their parents and the group as a whole.
What good were riches if there was no legacy to use them? A man of great wealth with no children was consider poorer than a farmer with sons and daughters to continue the work after the farmer was gone. The principle concern of the clan was to raise children who were functional members of society: good craftsmen, honorable warriors and moral kinsmen who respected their elders. Those who are parents understand the great prize of seeing your child do something that brings your family honor and stirs up pride in your heart. That is a treasure unmatched by anything else in this world. Child-wealth.
We have a lot of ups and downs in our house with our girls. In a matter of minutes I will go from scooping them up in my arms and hanging a perfect spelling test on the fridge praising them and telling them how proud I am. Then, not two minutes later I will find out they were caught stealing or being a bully at school. We will fight over how long they brushed their teeth and then read a book and snuggle. Parenting has a lot of ups and downs. But nothing makes me more angry, frustrated and hurt like open rebellion.
David’s son Absalom staged an open rebellion against his father that cost thousands of soldiers their lives. He tried to take the crown when crowns were never meant to be conferred from father to son. Sovereignty was held by God who gave it to his people through his prophets. Now this would break the heart of any man. Your own son is trying to kill you.
If you don’t know why, this feud starts with a hurt that will not heal. David’s first born son, Amnon, rapes his half-sister Tamar. Tamar’s biological brother is Absalom. So one of David’s children rapes his sister and what does David do about it? NOTHING. So Absalom furious that his father is sitting idly by, waits. He waits for his opportunity then murders his half-brother Amnon. So what does David do? NOTHING. Sound like some parents you know?
These wounds just fester and rot, so Absalom decides his father can’t govern his family so he is unfit to govern his kingdom. Children are always testing their boundaries and they ferret out weakness. It is like blood in the water. How poor is a man whose child-wealth has been spoiled? The rest of life will turn bitter as well. So David doesn’t ride out to meet Absalom in battle. He stays home, but he tells his commanders to not kill Absalom. Even when your child intentionally hurts you, it is our job as parents to have the self-control to love them anyway. We don’t seek revenge on our children. Sometimes we don’t punish them even when they deserve it. Is it weakness? Laziness? Apathy? Mercy?
There are days that I am filled with hope when I think about the strong, confident, intelligent women of God my daughters can grow up to be. There are also days that I’m filled with dread when I think about choices they are making and I pray those choices won’t become lifestyles of open rebellion.
How merciful God is to tolerate us. How benevolent to give us all grace when we are so often stubborn children, stomping our feet and crying because we can’t have everything the way we want. I can hear the voice of my six year old clear as day saying, “I don’t want to do that. It’s hard.” God forgive your people of our sin and show us mercy, that even though we stage open rebellion against you… you would redeem us.