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Today we’re going to discuss a helpful metaphor that should give us an accurate understanding of the significance of parenting.
But before we do that, I want to invite you to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. I’m no online influencer, but I do post regularly about the things that are important to me, and I think many of you would be blessed by connecting with me on the socials. You can find the appropriate links in the description of today’s episode or at AMBrewster.com.
And don’t forget today’s free episode notes and transcript available on our blog, TakingBackTheFamily.com.
Okay, let’s talk about your kids’ bungee.
Earlier this year I was doing a Family Camp when the idea for this illustration came to me.
We were discussing the nature of parenting, and so often we view it like this:
Imagine your backyard has a fence around it. Parenting is so often viewed as teaching your children about the benefits of the backyard, the importance of the fence, and the dangers of leaving the yard. And the ease of our parenting is defined by how hard the kids try to get out of the yard.
Only when our kids are actively acting like terrorists do we think parenting is difficult. As long as they happily stay in the yard, parenting is considered easy.
But that could not be further from the Truth.
Well, the Bible talks about this thing that many theologians call the “sin nature.” Of course, those words are never used in Scripture like that, but the reality is there.
Consider the events of Genesis 3. Adam and Even chose to sin against God for the first time in history. And because of that, in Romans 5:12 we read, “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.“
Because of Adam’s choice, every human being ever born has inherited this sin nature.
Listen as Paul refers to this natures as a “law.” In Romans 7:22 he says, “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.”
Then in Romans 8 Paul uses the terms flesh and spirit to describe the same reality. In verse 5 God says, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”
It’s due to his own sin nature that Paul bemoans in Romans 7, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”
Paul’s sin nature was a continual problem. It wasn’t destroyed at conversion, it was present and active.
The same is true of your kids.
That means that the yard metaphor is too easy. If the kids truly had everything they ever wanted inside the yard, and if there were nothing tempting them to the fence, they would have no desire to leave. In fact, the image is actually ridiculous when we picture God giving our kids everything they would ever want or need within the yard and explaining to them the destruction that comes from leaving the yard, and yet our kids still make a break for the gate.
So, here’s a better metaphor:
Have you ever been bungee jumping or at least seen a picture or video of it?
The people who bungee jump have a massive elastic chord strapped to them. Now, imagine a gigantic brick wall, and secured to that wall is a six foot bungee. When fully stretched — and keep in mind that it takes a lot of effort to stretch the bungee — this elastic rope can just barely reach the opposite wall which is twenty feet away.
Now, picture that the day your child was born they were fastened to that bungee. There they were, as infants, connected to the bungee and completely incapable of moving it even when it wasn’t taut. As they grew older they built the necessary muscle to stand despite the bungee, and they even came to the point where they could stretch it an extra inch.
Of course, as they’ve grown we’ve told them about the joys of “the other wall” and we’ve told them about the destruction that comes from staying next to the wall on which their bungee is fastened.
And we’ve constantly and consistently educated and reproved them, and sometimes our kids have responded and participated in our counseling and training.
But here’s what we need to see in our mind’s eye — this is the beauty of this metaphor — imagine your child physically and literally strapped to a concrete wall, and they are pulling against the bungee, and — let’s say — they’re doing a good job stretching it an extra foot. . . there is no way on earth they’re going to stretch it the remaining thirteen feet on their own. They’re simply not strong enough. No matter how hard they try in their own strength, that bungee is going to win.
And the harder they try, the easier it will be for the bungee to win.
Try this. Pick up your phone and hold it in front of you with a slightly bent arm. How many minutes can you hold it right there? I experimented with this. I was able to hold the phone still for a little over 15 minutes.
I wasn’t able to hold an iPhone in the air for even half an hour!
Now picture your child trying to fight against that bungee all day long.
So, let’s get a little more specific with this illustration.
The wall is sin.
Psalm 51:5, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
The bungee is our sin nature that keeps us returning to the things we hate like a dog returns to its vomit.
Isaiah 59:2 says, “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”
Good parenting is not a parent and child lounging in the backyard together without the kid trying to jump over the fence.
Good parenting is you (as the parent) standing next to your child who is straining and fighting the pull of their bungee, and you are helping them take that next step, stretch the bungee another 6 inches.
Of course, this only works if the child is working with you. If you’re teaching them and reinterpreting life for them, but they refuse to even pull against the bungee, there’s nothing you can do. You will not be able to drag them over to the other wall.
But when they finally acknowledge that they need to make it to the other wall, and they’re working with you, not against you, then you can lock arms and strain against the constant pull of the flesh.
But, our metaphor still isn’t that accurate. Here’s why. Your child may be able to stretch the bungee a foot on their own, but they’re still on the sin side of the room! And even with your help, they won’t be able to necessarily cross the centerline of the room because we must not forget that you have a bungee strapped to you too!
Romans 3:23 teaches us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
I John 1:8-10 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
Yeah, you’ve had more practice, and you’re — hopefully — spiritually stronger, but you’re not only trying to help them fight their bungee, you’re having to fight yours as well.
So, there you are pulling against these massive bands trying to reach the other side of the room together.
Is this helping you?
Parenting is hard. Discipleship is hard. It’s no yard; it’s a moment by moment fight to glorify God in all we do.
But we have to be a little more honest with ourselves. Working all out, your child and you are likely only going to be able to stretch our bungees about three feet. And that’s only if you’re helping one child at a time.
Have you ever felt like you were trying to help one kid fight their bungee while another child was pulling on both of you in the opposite direction?
So, as we fill out our picture, we also see that the devil and the world system are trying to do their best to pull your child as close to the wall as possible.
And every time we allow our child to be influenced by unbiblical movies and music and friends and teachers and politics ideologies, you’re basically inviting more people to grab your child’s bungee and pull her back toward the wall of sin.
So, there you and your spouse are (if you have one), and some of your kids are so young and immature that they can’t even bear the weight of the bungee when it’s not stretched. And some of you have older children who are still incapable of walking their bungee out to its full length. And some of you have kids who can stretch their bungee to seven whole feet, and some of you have kids who should be capable, but who aren’t even trying, and some of you have kids in nearly every category, and you’re trying to fight your own sin nature while you also help each other and your kids fight their sin natures, and then you have the world and the demonic forces actively trying to pull your whole family back to the wall of sin and death . . . and potentially for the first time in your life you now have a biblical view of what it means to be a parent.
It’s impossible to be a successful parent.
The picture I’ve painted is impossible. There is no way you’re going to reach the other wall, twenty feet away, let alone help even one of your family members get there.
But — thankfully — there’s one more element missing from our metaphor.
And it’s God.
If we are born again then Philippians 2:13 tells us, “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
We can’t stretch our bungees over the middle line, but God can.
When temptation comes, the only way we can pull against the external temptation of the people yanking at our bungees and fight against the internal temptation of the bungee itself is God. I Corinthians 10:13 teaches that “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
So, here’s the thing,
God the Holy Spirit is in this room with us, and He wants us to glorify the Father by reaching the other wall. And He’s waiting for us to acknowledge our needs, be grieved by it, and humbly ask Him for help.
Then He’s going to come over to us in our need and take us by the hand and comfort us and empower us in a way we could never work up on our own. But we have to participate. He’s not going to drag us kicking and screaming.
But the Holy Spirit also wants to use us. As He’s helping us cross the room, and we’re sweating as we cooperate with Him, He wants us to be teaching and interpreting for and counseling and training our kids. And those counseling and training roles are going to require us to link arms and help our kids step onto the Christ-honoring side of the room.
And hopefully we’re building community in our lives that will be helping us and our kids.
This illustrates us doing the right thing in the right way for the right reasons in the right power. Then and only then is it true obedience.
But, we need to remember that the Holy Spirit is not going to help our child cross the center of the room if the child is unsaved, and there’s nothing we can do to help our child cross the center of the room if they’re unsaved.
They have to have a relationship with God and be working out their “salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
Is it impossible without God? Totally!
Is it possible with God? Definitely!
Is it a walk-in-the-yard? Never.
Parenting is a fight against our very sin natures and the temptation of the world and Satan. And — even on a good day — it takes an act of God in our lives to do it well.
Now, please understand that this wasn’t designed to discourage you. It was designed to give you an accurate view of the spiritual reality of your call to be an intentional, premeditated, Ambassador parent.
In Matthew 19:26 we read, “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”
You can be a successful parent by the power of God. And — as a followup to today’s study — check out episode 87 to learn what successful parenting is.
And share this episode with your friends so they too can have a biblical view of parenting.
It doesn’t matter if we have terrorist kids, zombie kids, hard-hearted, rocky-hearted, or thorny-hearted kids. It doesn’t matter if our kids are soft-hearted and growing, parenting is impossible without God.
I hope this episode has reminded you how very badly we all need God, His Word, and His strength in order to glorify Him.
To that end, I’ll see you next time.
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