Tag Archives: Parenting

Where to get help if you have a selfish, absent or abusive mother or father

Bible study that hits the spot
Bible study that hits the spot

Today, I want to say something this article about lambs in Scotland, written by Sheila Walsh in the The Stream.

She writes:

I am very fond of sheep. I grew up on the west coast of Scotland with sheep all around me, field after field of white wool and incessant crying when things seemed a little off.

[…]Of all the lessons I have learned from these defenseless, gentle animals, the most profound is the most painful. Every now and then, a ewe will give birth to a lamb and immediately reject it. Sometimes the lamb is rejected because they are one of twins and the mother doesn’t have enough milk or she is old and frankly quite tired of the whole business. They call those lambs, bummer lambs.

Unless the shepherd intervenes, that lamb will die. So the shepherd will take that little lost one into his home and hand feed it from a bottle and keep it warm by the fire. He will wrap it up warm and hold it close enough to hear a heartbeat. When the lamb is strong the shepherd will place it back in the field with the rest of the flock.

“Off you go now, you can do this, I’m right here.”

The most beautiful sight to see is when the shepherd approaches his flock in the morning and calls them out, “Sheep, sheep, sheep!”

The first to run to him are the bummer lambs because they know his voice. It’s not that they are more loved — it’s just that they believe it.

I am so grateful that Christ calls himself the Good Shepherd.

“He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice.” (John 10:3-4 NLT)

My older brother and I grew up with a mother who was very much focused on her career and earning and saving money for her retirement. We were both stuck in daycare very early after being born, so that she could go back to work right away. (Me after 6 weeks) My older brother has shown the ill effects of our parents (especially our mother) not having any plan for us, especially morally and spiritually. He dropped out of college after failing his first year, never had a career. Although he has normal intelligence and mental health, he never could stick in any real job.

Although there were early warning signs when his grades started to drop in Grade 5, my parents never took responsibility to make a plan to solve it. Oh, they would yell and scream at him at report card time, but just for a day or two, and after that, nothing constructive. My brother decided that he could just ride out the flak my parents gave him on report card night, and keep going with his plan of having fun and being popular. My parents just forgot about it until the next report card day, because they did not want to be distracted from their careers, hobbies and retirement planning. When dispensing rewards, my brother was always given the same as me, despite our different levels of achievement. And my parents considered this equal dispensation of rewards regardless of performance to be a great virtue, and excellent parenting.

I had the exact same upbringing as my older brother. He actually did pretty well until Grade 5 just like me, but then our paths diverged. From Grade 5 on, his grades deterioriated. He got tired of having to study and he was more interested in the opinions of his peers and conforming to popular culture. In my case, from Grade 5 on, my grades were always high-90s. I remember taking the same classes as he did, in the same high school, with the same teachers. He got a 44 in data processing, I got a 96 with the same teacher and won the award for the entire grade. Every class I went to, the teachers would speak fondly of my older brother – he was a nice guy, very popular with his peers, good at sports. But not a very good student. How was it that I was winning awards when he had scored so poorly. Was I really his brother? How could we be so different?

The difference is that in Grade 5, he got a Gideon’s New Testament and he read it and he didn’t put it into practice, and in Grade 5, I got a Gideon’s New Testament and I read it twice and I did put it into practice. That was the difference. I had the awareness of the moral law (i.e.- wisdom) that allowed me to judge my parents and judge my peers and judge my teachers and stand alone. When you cannot rely on anyone to lead you, be able to judge when others mistreat you is very important. That is what allows you to maintain appropriate boundaries and minimize the influence of friends and family who are teaching you self-destructive behaviors. Awareness of the moral law is what allows you to stop trying to please people who do not want what is best for you. On the other hand, God is always willing to give you wisdom if you ask Him for it, and you can find out all about him because he has left plenty of evidence concerning his existence and character for you to find. It is in knowing God as he really is that you can find your sense of value, purpose and meaning. The God of the New Testament is the God of people who are lost and need a Savior.

For me, Christianity was a simple matter of being willing to go along with what was true, and not insisting on having fun or conforming to peer expectations. The essential characteristic of my faith, in contrast to my older brother’s lack of faith, was this – I did not mind being different, so long as I never lost a debate about what was true. My obedience to Christ has never been conditional on things going my way, on being liked, or anything like that. The only thing that mattered was being factually correct. It never bothered me what other people were doing, or what other people expected me to do, so long as I was acting on what I knew to be true. And God helped me to find out what was true by motivating me to study, and leading me to him with good evidence, and good mentors. Thanks to Jesus’ death on the cross, the mistakes I made early did not count against me, and they never will. Jesus’ death on the cross gives me the imputed righteousness that I need to stand before God holy and blameless. This is what allows me to keep learning and keep trying no matter how much I fail on any given day.

How has this affected me? Well, this is the second thing I wanted to say about the bummer lamb analogy. Since I was a victim of this hands-off, me-first style of parenting, it’s caused me to be extra sensitive about being a good spiritual leader to others in the same predicament. The people I mentor can see it in the way that I treat them . I treat them the opposite of the way that my older brother and I were treated. I care what people read. I care what courses they choose. I care what they eat. I care how they feel. I care about their finances. I care about their plans to serve God. I care about their romantic relationships. I care whether they get recognition for doing good. I care whether their life is going in the right direction. One person I mentored who once considered taking her own life wrote to me when she graduated from a STEM program, and she said this: “I wish you could have been here at my graduation. My parents only paid for this degree. You were the one who got me through it”. We have never met in person, but she is going to continue to make a huge difference for Christ and His Kingdom going forward.

I think when you have been a bummer lamb, you are extra careful to make decisions that will enable you to be a good shepherd to other lambs. Being a good shepherd does not mean being pious, spiritual, mystical, etc. Being a good shepherd does not mean making the lambs feel good about making bad decisions. Being a good shepherd means understanding what God has done to lead you, and then reflecting that love back to others in practical, self-sacrificial actions that solve actual real-world problems for other people who want to know and serve God. If you are about to jump off a cliff, the last thing you need is someone with no wisdom or experience telling you that God is OK with you doing whatever feels good to you. What you need is someone practical and competent to give you good advice, however much that advice may make you feel bad, or block your pursuit of fun.

One of my friends proof-read the draft of this post and told me that it made her think of 2 Cor 1:3-5:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,

who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

Nothing else I do in life matters to me as much as taking care of the people I mentor, especially the ones who are lost and lacking guidance and care. I have good health, good education, good career, and great finances. But by far the most important thing I do is following the example of the Shepherd by caring for other lambs.

What are some of the arguments against gay marriage?

A family praying and reading the Bible
A family praying and reading the Bible

Here are 10 from the Family Research Council.

The list:

  1. Children hunger for their biological parents.
  2. Children need fathers.
  3. Children need mothers.
  4. Evidence on parenting by same-sex couples is inadequate.
  5. Evidence suggests children raised by homosexuals are more likely to experience gender and sexual disorders.
  6. Same-sex “marriage” would undercut the norm of sexual fidelity within marriage.
  7. Same-sex “marriage” would further isolate marriage from its procreative purpose.
  8. Same-sex “marriage” would further diminish the expectation of paternal commitment.
  9. Marriages thrive when spouses specialize in gender-typical roles.
  10. Women and marriage domesticate men.

The eleventh one they missed is that a husband’s leadership is beneficial to a woman because it gives her direction and balances her emotional highs and lows. It’s not politically correct to say what women need from men in marriage, but it’s true. Just like men, women have weaknesses that can be corrected and compensated for by the opposite sex. The twelfth one they missed is that same-sex marriage is incompatible with religious liberty, as recent court cases have shown.

Anyway, here are the details on #7:

7. Same-sex “marriage” would further isolate marriage from its procreative purpose.

Traditionally, marriage and procreation have been tightly connected to one another. Indeed, from a sociological perspective, the primary purpose that marriage serves is to secure a mother and father for each child who is born into a society. Now, however, many Westerners see marriage in primarily emotional terms.

Among other things, the danger with this mentality is that it fosters an anti-natalist mindset that fuels population decline, which in turn puts tremendous social, political, and economic strains on the larger society. Same-sex marriage would only further undercut the procreative norm long associated with marriage insofar as it establishes that there is no necessary link between procreation and marriage.

This was spelled out in the Goodridge decision in Massachusetts, where the majority opinion dismissed the procreative meaning of marriage. It is no accident that the countries that have legalized or are considering legalizing same-sex marriage have some of the lowest fertility rates in the world. For instance, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Canada have birthrates that hover around 1.6 children per woman–well below the replacement fertility rate of 2.1.

I chose this one because I wanted to comment.

I think it’s common today for men and women to not put the production and development of children at the center of their marriage plans. They are not working a financial plan to prepare for children. They are not developing the skills they need to mentor and nurture others. They are resentful of any demands placed on them that restrict their freedom. And they want marriage to be about fun and self-fulfillment. This is not compatible with children, however. And that’s the point. The more we redefine marriage to be about adult selfishness – first with no-fault divorce, then with same-sex marriage – the less emphasis there is on the pre-marital preparations for making and raising children.

If you want to know what you should be doing with your life before marriage, then think of the process of having children and raising children. Think of how much it costs, what skills you will need, and how your character has to be trained. Many of the things that you see young people doing these days – binge drinking, hooking up, running up debt, cohabitating, avoiding things that are hard to do – are not preparing their character for the responsibilities, expectations and obligations that people face when they have children.

Suppose you have a friend who is not good at driving a manual transmission car or not good at weight lifting or not good at doing apologetics – are you able to help them do it, or are you incapable of taking responsibility? If you can’t take responsibility for helping an adult, you certainly can’t take responsibility for a child – children are much less capable. Now are you able to say no to doing things for your own happiness? If you are not able to give up your own happiness – and this is a thing that gets easier as you practice more – then you’re liable to look on your duties to your children with resentment – that you are being “manipulated” into it. You don’t suddenly learn how to put up with children just by walking down the aisle at a wedding. It takes training to get good at being generous with your time, money and effort. It takes practice.

In fact, a smart man who is courting a woman would be trying to get her to practice the behaviors of a wife and mother before he marries her. And the same for a smart women who is being courted by a man. For example, a man has to comfortable giving things to the people around him – he can’t be resentful about it. Even when he doesn’t particularly like those people, he has to focus on their needs, think about where he is trying to lead them, and then work a plan to provide for their needs so they get where he wants them to go. If a man doesn’t like the feel of caring for others who may not be grateful – or who may even hate him – then he should take steps to prepare his character to learn to like it. When a little kid says “I hate you!” to his father, who is paying thousands of dollars for him to grow up, it’s not an easy thing. Always being selfish before you marry is not good preparation for what children will demand of you. This is something I struggle with personally – being content to invest in others who turn out to be ungrateful, and even destructive.

So I think this focus on parenting is a wonderful way for people to work backwards from the goal (healthy, happy, successful children) to the interim tasks and required skills. It helps us to get away from thinking that marriage is about us – our happiness, our needs. Unfortunately, not everyone who runs around telling people that they want to get married “some day” is really taking steps to prepare for marriage and parenting right now. Marriage is a commitment to self-sacrificially love another person – however much they change – for the rest of their lives, and to love any children who appear, too. People don’t like to read about marriage and think it through. But just saying “I want to marry someday” is not a proof of preparation for marriage, as the divorce rate attests. To get married, you have to train yourself to think of others, and to do hard things that don’t make you feel “free” or “happy”. There is no path to a successful marriage that does not involve responsibilities, expectations and obligations for husband and wife. It’s not “happily ever after”. It’s hard work!

Baby elephant in China cries for 5 hours after being stomped by his mom

Baby elephant rejected by his mother
Baby elephant cries after being attacked by his own mother

From the New York Daily News. (Printable version linked)

Excerpt:

Little Zhuangzhuang, a newborn elephant at a wildlife refuge in China, was inconsolable after his mother rejected him and then tried to stomp him to death.

Tears streamed down his gray trunk for five hours as zookeepers struggled to comfort the baby elephant.

They initially thought it was an accident when the mom stepped on him after giving birth, according to the Central European News agency.

Employees removed him, cleaned him up and treated his injuries, then reunited the baby with his momma.

But she was having none of it, and began stomping him again.

So the game keepers stepped in once more and permanently separated the two.

“We don’t know why the mother turned on her calf but we couldn’t take a chance,” an employee told CEN.

“The calf was very upset and he was crying for five hours before he could be consoled,” he said.

“He couldn’t bear to be parted from his mother and it was his mother who was trying to kill him.”

The petite pachyderm, born in August, is now doing well. The zookeeper who rescued him from his violent mother adopted him and helped him thrive at the Shendiaoshan wild animal reserve in Rong-cheng, China.

I found another photo of the baby elephant here:

Baby elephant's birthday is supposed to be happy
A baby elephant’s birthday is supposed to be happy

So, in this post, I wanted to take about the duty that parents have to their children.

I guess a lot of my views on ethics are rooted in the obvious needs that children have. When I look at an unborn baby, I can tell what it needs. So, I am careful not to cause a pregnancy before I can supply its needs. The needs of the little unborn creature are driving these moral boundaries on me. And the same with born children. I oppose gay marriage because when I look at little children, I want them to have a stable environment to grow up in with a mother and father who are biologically related to them (in the best case). I permit lots of arrangements, but I promote one arrangement over the others because that’s what’s best for children. Anyone can look at unborn and born children and see that, just like anyone can look at a crying baby elephant and understand – “I have to govern my behavior so that I don’t hurt you”. If that means cutting off the premarital sex and making decisions that are likely to produce a stable marriage, then that’s what we should do.

Children cry too, you know. They cry when we hurt them. They cry when we make bad decisions and when we don’t provide them with what they need. Children need mothers and fathers who care about them. Making a safe environment for a child isn’t an accident. It isn’t random and unpredictable. We have to control our desires before we have children, so that we provide children with what they need. It would be nice if men and women were more thoughtful and unselfish about children and marriage before they started in with sex.