Last night, my friend Emmy sent me a great passage written by John Eldredge.
"Children need two basic messages when they are growing up: You are loved more than you can possibly imagine, and, You are not the center of the universe. Without the first, a child will grow up insecure, uncertain, looking for love and finding it difficult to believe that he is worthy of being loved, even by God. Without the second, he will grow up selfish and self-centered, assuming that everyone else’s agenda bows to his own. No doubt you know both sorts of men."
I whole-heartedly agree with Eldredge's words. Modelling unconditional love seems simple enough. It is often like a lightening bolt to my heart when I look across the room at my precious offspring. I love them so much it hurts. I tell them constantly how loved they are...and hope my actions, even when flawed, portray my love even more clearly.
Likewise, insuring that our children do not grow up with a self-centered worldview is a no-brainer on the surface. One of the lessons a family structure should teach children is that we must live in community. No one of us are the center of the universe.
The "how to" balance these two truths in practical daily application is where I am struggling. Lately I find myself on the tight rope of managing these two seemingly polar-opposite tasks. I love, love, love these little people--but that true love makes discipline necessary.
Love is often communicated through responsiveness and quality time, yet I don't want to train my children to believe their every want or whim will be granted. This means sometimes telling them I cannot play or read them a story or meet some other nonessential request immediately. Sometimes it is because I have higher priority tasks, like laundry, bill paying, food preparation, etc...Other times it is just because I am tired, or I just would rather do something else. I don't want to raise self-centered little people. Yet, honestly, my motive is too often self-centered.
Isn't it humbling how God uses us, in all our imperfection, to raise up our children for His Glory? One thing is for sure, I am a living testimony for my children of one who needs Him. All day. Every day.