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If you’re new to the show, I want to welcome you and tell you how excited I am that you’re here.
We don’t really know each other very well, but here’s what I know about you simply because you’ve joined us today.
First, you’re likely a parent. Second, you probably would like to take your parenting to the next level. Third, if you’ve read any of our reviews or descriptions and still decided to tune in, you’re potentially a professing Christian who believes that God’s Word has something to say about our parenting.
Well, my name is Aaron, and I too am a parent and a follower of Christ. I also have the joy of having been a family counselor for the past 10 years as well as the surrogate parent for over 50 teenagers over the past 8 years.
However, I know that I still need to mature in my parenting, and I believe with all of my heart that the Bible, God’s inscripturated Word, is the best place discover God’s expectations for my parenting.
For that reason, TeamTLP and I are dedicated to unpacking Scripture and applying it to family life.
We’re also passionate about creating as many resources as we can to improve and enrich your household. To that end, we started TruthLoveParent.com.
Now, there are a lot of great resources you can discover there, but one of my favorites is the games section. My family and I love to play games, and I believe playing together as a family is one of the key ways we communicate affection for our kids.
If you check out our ever-growing list of games, you’ll find that we’ve included Amazon links for many of them. If you choose to purchase any of those games by using the links we’ve provided, TLP receives a commission from the sale.
It’s a win-win for everyone!
So, welcome to Truth.Love.Parent. I pray your time with us will be enriching and valuable.
By the way, we also have a blog called Taking Back the Family. Among other things, there you will find free episode notes and transcripts for the vast majority of our podcast episodes.
And that may be helpful as we discuss Parabolic Parenting.
Again, for those of you just joining us, today’s episode is actually a continuation of our last show. The focus of that episode was about the importance of us reconsidering one unique parenting strategy. We reminded ourselves that our parenting isn’t perfect the way it is and therefore needs to grow, we saw that — when it comes to communication — there’s no better example to follow than Christ’s, and we were reminded that approximately 1/3rd of His teaching utilized parables.
I personally have seen great success using object lessons and illustrations and metaphors and parables in my teaching and parenting and I believe humans resonate with them so well because God created us in His image. He is a God of story.
We naturally love to tell stories, and we naturally love to hear stories, and I believe He’s wired us to learn in a unique way from stories.
I used to teach in a Christian school. I taught 6th grade, but I also taught various subjects to 7th through 12 graders. And every single one of them, without an exception, has the same response to stories.
I would be teaching the lesson on English or Math or Science or History or Economics — sharing facts and making application — but when I would share the same information within the context of a story . . . students would literally lean forward in their seats.
We discussed last time how we’ll binge watch shows or stay enraptured in a three-hour movie, but struggle in Sunday school for 30 minutes. And I don’t think it’s simply the explosions and special effects that engage us.
I believe it’s the story.
So today’s episode is all about building the muscles necessary to make story-telling — and, specifically, parables — a more regular part of our parenting.
First, let’s review the nature of parables. Simply put, a parable is "a usually short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle.”
It’s not far-fetched to say that Jesus’ most famous parable is The Good Samaritan. Even unbelievers are at least familiar with the title — even if they’ve never heard the details of the story or knew that Jesus was the first to tell it.
The Good Samaritan tells the story of an abused man and his unlikely hero with the express purpose of answering the question, “Who is my neighbor?”
You see, in Luke 10:25-29 we read, “a lawyer stood up and put [Jesus] to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And [Jesus] said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” 29 But wishing to justify himself, [the lawyer] said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus could have answered the man’s question in any number of ways. He could have replied, “Everyone.” He could have been more specific and said, “Everyone, including the person you dislike the most.”
That really was the point Jesus was making. But Jesus didn’t say it that way. He simply replied with this 5 sentence story, 1 question, and 1 command: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34 and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ 36 Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?’ And [the lawyer] said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do the same.’”
And that short story has informed even the youngest children with the unarguable truth that love is a choice unhindered by ethnic, theological, or economic differences.
And since the truth is presented in a story format, it helps us chew on the message, digest it better, and apply it to our lives with greater precision.
So, today I’m going to start from the standpoint that none of us have made parables a regular part of our parenting. I want to be a blessing to everyone today, so I’m starting with a worst case scenario. That way whether you’ve never used a parable in your parenting or you use them with frequency, we can all glean something today.
There was once a powerful wizard sliding through the woods on his morning constitutional. On this particular day he wandered into a part of the forest he had never explored. After descending into a significantly deep valley he heard the distressed cry of woman. Rushing to her aide, he discovered the woman hunched over the mangled form of her husband. The man had been felling trees and was crushed when his stack of timbers collapsed. But though the wizard was trained in the magical arts and could easily summon storms, create blinding light, destroy attacking hordes of goblins, and cause delusions in his enemies, he was not skilled in human anatomy. He didn’t know why the husband was dying, and he didn’t know how to help. The best the wizard could conjure was to give the dying man a pleasant delusion in which he slipped out of this life.
Do you see the point?
“I’m not sure.”
There’s an interesting dynamic to parables. The Bible says that Jesus sometimes used parables as a way of veiling the truth from people.
‘“Whoa, Aaron, hold on! I though object lessons would uncover truth for my kids, not obscure it.”
We’re going to discuss this particular point last, but parables are the needle that puncture the skin, while the explanation is the plunger that injects the truth into the blood.
Jesus frequently had to add clarification to his parable. I’m reminded of our “Four Children” series. In that study we learned how our children respond to Truth by dissecting the Parable of the Soils.
After sharing the initial parable, the disciples immediately began asking questions about the parable. In Mark 4:13, Jesus responds, “Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables?” He then went on to give the interpretation of the parable.
So, though we’ll talk about interpreting the parable later, I’m going to have to do it for us now.
In the story of the wizard, we have a very powerful man who runs to another’s aid only to find out that regardless of his great powers, he wasn’t equipped to do something that could have been relatively simple, and could have saved a life and a family.
1. To tell good parables, we must know our child’s spiritual need.
The Bible says that we are daily in a spiritual war. Your kids are under attack. The wizard was shown descending into a deep valley of an unknown forest to illustrate our children’s deep and significant spiritual struggles.
In the depths of this valley, the wizard discovers someone in need — a picture of our children. The wizard — just like us — could do many great things, but if we aren’t able to determine the real need of the moment, we won’t be very helpful.
I don’t know how many times I’ve witnessed children fighting, and the teacher or parent or camp counselor steps in with the sole intention of merely resolving the argument. The spiritual need, the heart issue, the adultery in their hearts that lead to their conflict was completely ignored. Yet, the authority walked away thinking they achieved some great feat of magic by helping these kids resolve the argument.
We recently asked “Why does my family argue and how do I stop it?” and we learned that the disagreement is absolutely nothing compared to the worship problem in their hearts. We argue because we love ourselves more than we love God and more than we love our neighbor — we’re all the worst people in the Good Samaritan. And yet, too many of us parents are blind to the real need in our children.
For this reason, in order to parent well in general and utilize this amazing form of communication in particular, we must know our child’s spiritual need.
When we know what’s wrong, we can better apply the healing Truth to the situation.
Moving on . . .
A mechanic had made a name for himself by being able to fix any car that was brought to his shop. He could diagnose any problem and fix it with speed and efficiency. This had resulted in his becoming arrogant and braggadocios. One day he received an invitation to an all-expense paid trip to the workshop of the greatest automaker in the world. Arriving in Europe the confident mechanic was picked up in the most exquisite example of the automaker’s work he had her seen. However, just as the vehicle pulled up to its maker’s house, it shuttered to a stop and died at the end of the expansive driveway. The arrogant mechanic, desiring greatly to impress his host, decided that he would use his precision handmade tools he brought with him from the states to fix the problem. Because of his extensive skill and experience he immediately knew the issue was a fuel problem. Assured his skills would let him address this complex issue there in the driveway, he popped the hood to see what he could see. At the same time, the world famous automaker — who had staged the event and had been watching the whole time — joined the young mechanic. The mechanics eyes were so fixed on what he assumed was the engine that he barely acknowledge the owner. The master automaker asked, “What seems to be the problem?” Staring intently at the pulsating blue tubes the mechanic could only guess contained the vehicle’s fuel, he replied, “I know it’s a fuel problem, but I don’t understand what I’m looking at.” The master automaker replied simply, “You may be able to diagnose the problem, but until you understand the maker, you will never understand the cure.” The confused grease-monkey turned his eyes to his host and asked, “How does understanding you help me fix this car?” The maker replied, “If you don’t know what I know, you’ll never understand my creation. If you don’t study with me, you’ll never be able to fix this vehicle.”
2. To tell a good parable, you need to know what the Bible says about your child’s spiritual need.
Modern psychiatry will fail every time because — like the argument-quashing authorities from our last example — without a biblical understanding of man’s basic sin struggle, no one can cure a person of their behavioral issues.
They may have an understanding of the problem. Through trial and error, they may even be able to make adjustments that appear to relieve the issue for a time, but without a deep understanding of the Creator — no one (no counselor, no pastor, no parent) will be able to understand what He created and how He created it to work.
These are the top two things you need to know in order to start using parables with your children: 1. You need to understand your child’s true problem, and 2. You need to understand what the Bible says about the problem.
Otherwise, your illustrations will be fraught with Failure Philosophies.
Growing up, most people were familiar with the parenting “expert” Dr. Spock. He popularized the idea that parents know more than they think they do. He was known to say, “The child supplies the power but the parents have to do the steering,” and “Trust yourself. What good mothers and fathers instinctively feel like doing for their babies is usually best after all.”
Of course, though there may be a kernel of truth in these statements, he also misses the much deeper realities that will unlock parenting.
More biblical instruction would be: “The child supplies the engine, the parents do the steering, but the Holy Spirit has to provide the power and the directions.”
Or, “Trust God. What mothers and fathers instinctively feel like doing in their parenting can be deceptively wrong. But what God commands in His Word is best after all.”
Once you have a working understanding of the real problem and the biblical cure . . .
3. To tell a good parable, you need to know creation.
“What, Aaron? No Parable?”
We’re going to run out of time if I keep up with the stories, especially because I’m not yet adept enough to shorten them to five sentences like our Lord did.
But I will use Jesus as an object lesson.
All of Christ’s parables dealt with His creation. In fact, each day of creation has its place in Jesus’ parables; nothing was left out. From light to animals to plants to people, Jesus shared spiritual truth with nearly every physical category available.
To tell parables well, we need to understand two things:
If I don’t understand how a branch from one tree can be grafted onto another, I’ll never think to use that as an example of being born again.
If I don’t understand the nature of new wine and the chemical effect it will have on an old wine skin, I won’t be able to understand how the ancient practice of fasting and its motivation compares to New Testament concept of fasting in light of the Messiah’s coming.
Most sighted people intrinsically understand the relationship between light and dark. Those illustrations are easier to use. But there are so many powerful illustrations in nature.
If you want to experience something truly exciting, I’m going to link a video to a small portion of Louie Giglio’s “How Great Is Our God.” It’s shorter than 6 minutes, but he shares with us something he learned about the human body that radically affected his understanding of his creator.
The link is in the description of this episode. Please check it out so you can better understand how your ability to understand God’s creation will enable you to better understand yourself and your children.
Your ability to fulfill the Creation Mandate well actually makes it easier for you to mature in Christ and parent your children to do the same.
Here’s a personal example. I’m a dog trainer. I also absolutely love tigers. I know a lot about them, including the fact that they are one of the only big cats that cannot be domesticated. I also watched my parents work with suicidal, rebellious young people for my entire life, and I spent nearly 14 years working with at-risk teens in a boarding school setting and as the Dean of Students at a Christian school.
So, I once was in a counseling scenario and I made up a comparison on the spot using my knowledge and experience of those topics. Praise God it really resonated with the parent. Nearly a year later, that same mom asked me to share the illustration with someone else.
We were discussing parents with terrorist teenagers who — perhaps — haven’t been equipped to deal with their unique struggles. I explained that you can have a man who is a professional dog trainer — he can train any dog to do anything — but put him in a cage with a wild tiger, and a few things are going to be true: 1. He won’t be able to teach the tiger anything. 2. The tiger will make short order of the dog trainer, 3. The dog trainer need not feel ashamed that he doesn’t know how to train a tiger, and 4. The dog trainer would be wise to elicit the help of an experienced tiger trainer.
I then explained that many parents are fantastic with submissive children. Even if the child is only outwardly obedient, most parents can manage just fine. But when a child is an absolute, rebellious terror, most parents have absolutely no frame of reference. They don’t understand their kid, they don’t get what’s going on, they feel absolutely lost, and the child holds the home in a state of continual anxiety, depression, and confusion. However, the parent often feels very uncomfortable asking for help. Far too often the parent won’t seek help until it’s become so bad they have absolutely no options left.
This is often motivated by a misplaced sense of responsibility, pride that they may be judged for their parenting, and the feeling that they should be able to parent this child out of this behavior.
But how foolish would it be for the dog trainer to enter the tiger cage out of a sense of embarrassment that his friends would think him incapable of training a tiger? How ridiculous would it be for the dog expert to risk his life to avoid judgment no one is passing? How foolish would it be to risk my safety and the wellbeing of the tiger simply because I can’t bring myself to ask for help?
Don’t be ashamed if you’re an amazing dog trainer but you don’t know how to train tigers. Get help for your tiger. Find someone who can use God’s supernatural word to help the tiger transform into a dog, and then jump back in and help that dog be the best dog it can be.
Well, how about I learn to train tigers? That’s a great idea, and I highly recommend you do that. That’s why we have so many episodes about terrorist and zombies and cutters and rebels. We want to equip you to train tigers because one day you’ll likely have on in your house.
But if someone opened my front door right now and dropped off a tiger, it would be in my best interest not to try to make the thing submit to me. I should get help for that.
Too many parents think they can become professional tiger trainers in the time it takes the tiger to leap from its multicolored pedestal and pounce on the parent. That’s not good planning. In situations where you’ve been blindsided or you’re not prepared enough, the best thing you can do is turn to your parenting community, turn to your pastors, turn to experienced biblical counselors and say, “Help!”
Anyway, that was a rabbit trail, but it illustrates how knowledge of creation and knowledge of the problems and knowledge of God’s Truth about the problem can help you craft an illustration that resonates with the person to whom you’re ministering.
4. To tell a good parable, you need to know how to tell a story.
I took a class in college called “Storytelling.” Now, for you STEM people, that may sound super softcore and potentially pointless.
Keep in mind that I was an acting minor, so it may make a little more sense.
That class was extremely helpful for me because — along with my other acting classes and my writing classes and my literature classes — I learned so much about what makes a story compelling.
Now, we don’t time to discuss even the basics of storytelling, but let me be practical.
First, your parables don’t have to be original to you. In fact, it would probably be better if they weren’t.
Use Jesus’ parables. I prefer God’s illustrations over my own any day!
Use morality tales and sermon illustrations . . . just make sure they correctly communicate God’s expectations.
Start by telling other’s stories; this will both communicate the necessary information, but it will also help you better understand how a story is formed. The more you tell, the more with which you engage, the better you’ll be at creating your own illustrations and object lessons and parables on the spot — the better you’ll become at drawing out metaphors.
First, start by using God’s parables and any valuable stories that teach truly biblical lessons.
Second, use simple point-for-point comparisons as a starting point. I can’t help but smile as I think about Flint Lockwood and Earl Devereaux from “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” Earl confronts Flint for being a “shenanigan-izer” and says, “You see this content lens, Flint Lockwood? This contact lens represents you! And my eye represents my eye.” And as he lays the contact lens onto his eye, he finishes with the foreboding line, “I’ve got my eye on you!”
Now that was a helpful metaphor.
And lastly . . .
5. In order to use parables well in your parenting, make the connection for your children between the story and their lives.
During the “Parent’s 5 Jobs” series we discussed the importance of being an Interpreter Parent. Your children do not think well naturally on their own.
You need to teach them to take facts, understand them the way they were meant to be understood, and apply them to their lives. You need to teach them to reason and be analytical and logical.
Using parables helps your kids not only understand the spiritual reality you’re trying to teach, but also models for them how they are to understand creation, how to think through a complex concept, and how to better understand metaphor.
All throughout “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” Flint’s dad kept lamely attempting to use fishing metaphors to parent his child. And all throughout the movie they returned to the joke, “Dad, I don’t understand fishing metaphor!”
Unfortunately, this was the dad’s fault. He never was able to help Flint apply the illustration to his life. Of course, it wasn’t really that hard. Anyone watching the movie could make the connection, but whereas Flint was lacking in his ability to understand abstract comparisons to fish, his dad was no good as parenting his son to that next step in his maturity.
Back in Mark 4 we read, “As soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables. 11 And He was saying to them, ‘To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, 12 so that while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven.’”
This illustration contains a hard truth for another time concerning why Christ seemed apprehensive that some people would be forgiven, but the main point I want to make is that parables can be confusing if you don’t then take the opportunity to explain the connection.
“But why? I’ve just taken at least three times the amount of time to illustrate my point and then explain my illustration. Why would I do this?”
I think that question perfectly exemplifies our hesitancy to use parables. But — if we’re being honest — it also reveals our heart concerning parenting in general. We don’t view parenting through difficult situations to be the most beautiful calling God has bestowed on us. It’s something to be avoided, something at which to be annoyed. We want to get in, get done, and get out as quickly as possible so we can move on to not having to parent disobedient children.
The previous question reveals that someone may not yet understand that the combination of parable and interpretation is what makes the parable so powerful. The lesson likely wouldn’t be learned as well had we just shared the interpretation or merely shared the parable. But the combination can cement to truth far better.
This is one of the reasons Jesus used parables in the first place.
Please allow me to close with a perfect example.
But before I do that, don’t forget to watch Loui Giglio’s discussion on laminin. It will significantly impress upon you the importance of knowing your child’s spiritual need, knowing the biblical Truth that can meet that need, and then taking the creation and weaving it all into a story or illustration that communicates the Truth in love so you children can grow up into Christ.
Here’s my final illustration. You may have heard it.
There was once a little girl who loved her plastic beads. They were her favorite toy. She wore them like a string of pearls everywhere she went. One day her father asked her for her beads. But she couldn’t imagine parting with them. She refused to give them her father. Day after day her daddy would request the beads, and day after day the little girl would refuse. One day, out of the blue, the little girl ran sobbing into her daddy’s arms. Through tears she said, “Daddy, I’m sorry. I love you more than I love my beads!” She placed the plastic necklace into her daddy’s hands, and he said, “Thank you. Now I have something for you.” And he took a little blue case from off his desk, opened it up, and bestowed on his daughter a genuine string of pearls, infinitely more beautiful, valuable, and precious than her beads could ever be.
My friends, God has strategies for our parenting that are infinitely better than our own. Whether it be parables or the importance of reproof, whether it be parenting like the Holy Spirit or Evangelism parenting, God has the best plans.
I recently tweeted that “I try to be original when it comes to biblical parenting, but I find God has already said the best stuff!”
Trust His plans and be willing to try new things when we encounter it in the Scriptures.
Please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets, check out the awesome games at TruthLoveParent.com under “Family Fun,” and remember, if we want our children to grow up into Christ, we must parent in truth and love.
To that end, join us next time as we ask “Should Your Kids Celebrate Valentine’s Day?”
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