Jesus, God, and the Helicopter

When my oldest son was about three, he did something I will never forget.
We were avid church-goers.
And, one day, my son and I were messing around. And he started singing. “Je-sus.” In his little sing-song voice. “Gah-ah-ad.”

My mother’s heart was thrilled. All that Sunday school, paying off in deep spirituality. In a three-year-old.
He kept singing.
“Je-sus. Gah-ah-ad. And the heli-cop-ter. Vroom. Vroom.”
I wanted to cry. Then I started to laugh. And then, I laughed until I cried. It’s so easy to put expectations on our kids. To want them to be the next prophet. Or president. Or astronaut. And to think that singing about a helicopter is way below-the-mark, compared with singing about Jesus.
But to a three-year-old boy, putting Jesus in the same category with helicopters means one thing. Helicopters are pretty cool. And therefore, so is Jesus.
Little boys can love helicopters. And they can love Jesus. For their age. And their stage.
And that’s fair.
So I dialed it back a notch.
God is always fair. And He parents us according to our developmental stage. (Although sometimes we expect things far beyond it from each other, which is another post entirely).
And today, I’d like to take a look at God. As a parent.
And what we can learn from it.
As parents, yes.

But also as His children.

So, let’s look at the first time God’s children disobeyed Him. You probably know that He had put them in a magnificent garden. And He only gave them one prohibition. Oh, He gave them more than one instruction. They were supposed to be fruitful. And multiply. And take dominion. And replenish the earth, and subdue it.
In short, to develop what they were given. To be so blessed and prosper so freely that everything around them was affected. For the better.
But there was only one thing that they couldn’t do.

Genesis 2:15-17 The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”

And of course, they did it.

So let’s look at how the ultimate Father handled the first act of disobedience.

1)God wasn’t afraid to let them make choices.  Even wrong ones. Many parents today are terrified to let their children take a chance on…making a mistake. So they “hover” over their children. And if they see something even headed the wrong way, they jump in, take over and keep that child from making that choice. They “rescue.” And “hovering” and “rescuing” are the actions of a Coast Guard emergency helicopter. So, they have been dubbed “helicopter parents.”

The world is very aware that many Christian parents are terrified. Of mistakes. And it is fairly well-known that a lot of our kids don’t get to make any decisions for themselves. And that we often live in denial of the lives they have away from us. And, worst of all, that in order to breathe, as adults these kids frequently separate themselves from these parents, and the faith they blame for suffocating them.

But God, Himself, didn’t do any of that.

Fear-based parenting is not the role model.

And (shocker here) Adam’s mistake didn’t end the world or stop God’s plan.
It really didn’t.

Let’s look at what God didn’t do.

He didn’t keep the tree (and therefore the choice) from being present in the Garden. He didn’t rope off an area, and keep Adam away, so that he couldn’t possibly mess up. He didn’t hover. (Scriptures implies, incredibly, that he wasn’t even there when it happened. He had trusted Adam to make good choices). And He definitely didn’t jump in front of the tree, and shout, “Baby, don’t do it! You’ll hurt Daddy’s feelings! You’ll embarrass the Family!” He didn’t “rescue.” Not before the fact, anyway.
2) He gave them clear instructions, including consequences.

Genesis 2:15-17 The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”

God tells us, over and over again, in the book of Proverbs, to teach our children. While we walk, when we get up, when we lay down, while we work. Constantly. And he role-modeled it for us, by walking with Adam. And teaching him. Adam clearly understood what he was doing. And he knew the implications.

3) He gave them a chance to repent.

Genesis 3:8-13 And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

God knew what had happened. He didn’t ask them where they were for His sake. He was giving them a chance…to repent. He called a family meeting. And, on that fateful day, these two “children” made very different choices. Adam had a choice. He chose to blame Eve, and by implication, the God who had blessed him with her. Eve, a separate, individual human being, made a different choice that day. She credited herself and the devil. But God had given them both a chance, and space, to make another choice. To choose to confess and repent.
4) He enforced the consequences, but their repentance affected the severity of the consequence. (And he helped them through the consequences). The Father now had to treat his two children very differently. They had responded differently to opportunity. And Eve, although she has been vilified through the centuries for being duped, actually did admit her guilt. Adam didn’t; certainly not at the same level. And, interestingly, it was to the woman that God would give the promise of bringing forth a Deliverer. To avenge her. Of her adversary the devil, and deceiver.  Because she had repented.  Adam got the consequence straight up, although being in a family with Eve meant he would be blessed with her promise. Food for thought.
And then, God killed the first animal and clothed them. In fur and leather. Not doing away with the consequence, but helping them to survive and cope with it. And showing He still loved them.

5) He never used a Guilt Trip. This has two very implications for us, which is really the point of this post.

Firstly, God never uses a guilt trip. Ever. He takes no joy in making us feel condemnation and unworthiness.

He just doesn’t. Why? Mainly, because the price for sin was paid by Jesus. From the foundation of the world. We don’t have to do penance. Sometimes we have to live with consequences, but that is a very different thing.

But God also refuses to use “guilt trips” because, quite simply, He is not afraid. Of our mistakes. Or our shortcomings. He sees the big picture. And He has a plan.

And the upshot of all this is that if someone is trying to “guilt trip” you, it isn’t coming for God. It’s coming from them. Oh, the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin. But never with condemnation. Or hopelessness. Or worthlessness. Never. It’s not the language of heaven. So, if someone (or yourself) is trying to invite you to take a guilt trip, politely refuse. Your Father didn’t plan the trip.  It won’t be any fun.  Or get you anywhere.
Secondly, (and this is very important), we can’t wait for an inward guilt trip in order to know if something is wrong. I really think a lot of Christian people (including me) have made major mistakes because they didn’t feel…wrong. God had told Adam very clearly not to eat that fruit. It didn’t matter how Adam or Eve felt about it. It didn’t matter that the Father didn’t jump in front of the tree and stop them. I really think that regarding decisions, say, like sex, or debt, we often reason that because we didn’t feel bad or guilty when we made choices, they weren’t wrong. And that is absolutely not true.
God loves us. And He’s really, really smart.
He’s given us His Word as a roadmap for life.

No, He’s not throwing lightning bolts from the sky. Or condemning us.
Not even criticizing.

But, if two people wait until marriage to explore their sexuality, they get all of the fun, without most of the problems. Teen pregnancy. STD’s. AIDS. Child support. Court. Wage garnishment. Jail. Cancer (really–check out HPV).
God loves us enough to save us some trouble.

And, if a person, or a family, chooses never to borrow money, they will never have a negative net worth. Think about it. And the Bible is also clear on this.

 

Romans 13:8 Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.

 

But taking His advice is absolutely  voluntary.  When we borrowed money, as a young couple, for a new microwave it didn’t feel that wrong. And when I was kissing my college boyfriend a little too much, ti didn’t feel bad. I had to remember what God had told me, beforehand, to be able to make the right choices.

The buzz on helicopters.

Helicopter parents take…guilt trips. And they drag their “rescued” kids through the waves, in their rescue harness, with them.
And, if you see yourself in this, please take a good, long look at how you see the Father. How we treat our children is an amazing mirror of what we really believe.  And He wants us unafraid.

And if you were raised like this, you can re-learn.  God loves you.
Even when you make a mistake. And He’s the best parent and teacher there is. He can “”re-parent” you.

So… put away fear. The Bible says “Fear not” 365 times, I am told. Enough, incredibly, for every day of the year. Mistakes are not a reflection of bad parenting. Let your child learn from them, when he is young, and the stakes are small.
Many of you know that I once found myself in a Christian cult. (From which I have been thoroughly and miraculously healed, thank God). Many of my fellow cult members ended up there because all they knew how to do was obey.

And when they got to college, they had to find someone else to…obey.
Now, obedience is absolutely part of Christian parenting. It starts when you’re about two. But, if we never go on to empowering our young leaders to learn to make good decisions by trial and error, we are setting them up for failure as adults.

Mistakes are part of the learning process.
Without them, there would be no science.  It’s a fantastic, organized, disciplined process of…trial and error.
Most of our greatest inventions were…accidents. Really. And science, real science, absolutely positively can’t be done if the scientist is paralyzed by the thought of making a mistake.
And, in parenting,  God’s design is to let kids learn from mistakes while the consequences are small. Painful, but small. And to figure out how to make better choices as the stakes get higher.
Hey, don’t blame me.
God set it up.
And He doesn’t freak out.
He modeled it for us.
And it didn’t always work out well for His family, either.

(And He still didn’t freak out).

But the alternative is actually a type of bondage. No freedom.
There is no freedom if we are not free to err.

And free to learn from the consequences of our error.
So let’s beach the parenting helicopter.

And save helicopters for the real search-and-rescue missions, where they belong.
And, maybe, for the songs of a sincere little boy.

God loves us.

And it’s all going to be OK.
Really.
Peace.

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