I simply wanted to have a little time of family prayer. For that to happen, it required for our kids to get their pajamas on and brush their teeth. I told them to do that, then sat down and studied my Hebrew vocabulary, since I am in seminary right now.
Our youngest came back to the living room after 10 minutes, without having brushed his teeth, since he can’t on his own yet. The older ones weren’t to be found. I was a bit frustrated, so I went to their rooms to see what was happening. When one of them was half pajama’d (but with teeth brushed) and reading a magazine, I responded with more frustration, and our family prayer time needed to start with confession instead of thanksgiving.
When we talked as a family that night about how the whole “getting ready for bed quickly” affair went down, I realized that I had done nothing to help them. I simply said, “Get ready quickly and come back to the living room.” Usually, getting ready for bed takes a good 15-20 minutes and is filled with distractions of various kinds, but it doesn’t matter a ton. We usually allow for that amount of time and it isn’t a problem. I wanted that accelerated that night, but I simply told them to go faster, but did nothing to help. That night,
God very clearly told me, “You did nothing to help them. Your job is to help them, not simply tell them.”
I think my tendency as a parent is to fail to be a paraclete. This is the Greek term for the Holy Spirit that we find in John 14-16. It can be translated “Counsellor, Helper, or Advocate.” It means one who comes along side. That night, God showed me that part of my job description as a parent is to come along side, not simply command. It is to come along side the little ones as they are putting on their clothes, brushing their teeth, making their beds. I have the expertise, the strength and the dexterity to reach up to the top bunk. Yet so often I am passive, or more often, busy. So I tell them to go do things and make them do it in their own strength, teaching them the exact wrong things about what the Christian life is all about.
God does not give us the commands of the Bible and then expect us to do them with the feeble strength and wisdom that we have in ourselves. He wants us to look to Him and lean on Him. He gives those who have received Christ the Holy Spirit to dwell inside them to give them the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. God is our paraclete.
I want my kids to see me as a paraclete. I want them to see me as paraclete in these early years and that it would continue into the years to come. I want them to ask me to help, and I want to jump up and help, no matter what I’m doing. That’s part of my job description. I want them to want me to walk along side them when they are navigating making their bed, learning to ride a bike, winning and losing at sports, making friends in the neighborhood, learning how to adventure, camping and backpacking, entering junior high, entering puberty, learning about boys and girls, the scary world of high school, driving, adolescence, applying for college, picking a major, and entering adulthood. I want to be along side them that whole time, and I think part of it lies in learning how to let the dishes lie undone for a while, and letting the studying wait. It’s both bringing them into my tasks and teaching and training them in those, but also entering into their little world as the one who can train them and come along side them, to be a paraclete, one who comes
along side them, to help them make it and succeed.
I think if I can do that, those family prayer times will go a lot better, both because they will get ready for bed faster, but also because we will be in relationship as we head into those prayer times in the first place.