“I will instruct you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.” Psalm 32:8-9
I once heard that the way to teach a circus elephant to stay serenely tied to a little stake in the ground is–when the elephant is a baby–to tie it to a tree it cannot move. Try as it might, the elephant learns that what holds it cannot be moved and stops struggling against its ropes.
As humans, we–like this baby elephant–often feel that authority is a bondage. Though anyone, who can see the result of complete anarchy in world history, knows that authority is necessary and that in every situation there is an authority. Like it or not.
The Bible tells us though that all authority is established by God [Romans 13:1], and that He Himself is our ultimate authority. As such, we are to submit to authority. But show me a rebellious adult, and I will show you a childhood in which the child was not subject to parental authority.
Godly parenting means discipline, not necessarily corporal punishment, but developing disciplines in your children. It means setting boundaries as the authority and instructing and correcting your children. It means that we do each of these things in love.
You see, I tell my kids not to do things that I know will harm them, and anytime they disobey they usually find themselves hurt. As a matter of instruction, as I tend to their hurt, we review:
1) Were you supposed to have done that?
2) Why not? *It’s against the rules*
3) You know Mama loves you and I gave you rules because I know which things can hurt you? *nod and sniff…sometimes when they’re young and not yet furious that they’re not in charge*
4) You know God gives us rules for this same reason? Because He loves us and He knows which things will hurt us. But He also gave us parents to teach us how to obey so that we will learn to obey Him too.
And that’s the truth. God established all authority and expects us to submit to parents and teachers, and eventually bosses and police officers and on up the chain of command, to His glory and honor. When we learn first to obey our parents’ authority, we learn–like the baby elephant tied to the tree that later becomes a tiny stake–to obey the other authorities to come and, ultimately, God.
Through the Psalmist, God cautions us not to be one who does not learn this lesson. Because then we have to be controlled like animals with bit and bridle–and many who disobey authority find themselves in just such bondages [time out chairs, detention, suspension, juvenile detention, prison] where others get to make decisions for them.
But God made us to be more than animals. He made us in His own image with the ability to reason, understand, learn, and develop healthy disciplines based on these. As parents, we need to foster our children’s growth in each of these aspects, ensuring always, a right understanding of who God is–our heavenly Father who loves us.