I have never used the word obedience that much in conversations with my children as I have parented them. It might be because the authoritarian go-to phrase Because I said so! never worked with our first-born, even when he was a toddler. He always mentally dug deeper, looking for an underlying reason that would warrant the desired behavior if he were alone on a desert island without a Mommy to bark orders at him. On the plus-side, though, if I could give him a deeper and valid reason such as point out a Scripture besides “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right” ( I used it sparingly as my bottom-line, back-up plan) I could count on the kid to make the same decision regardless of peer pressure, amount of sugar in his system, or the sparkle-content of a looming immediate gratification.
My children never really had alter-faux personalities that they learned to turn on for their grandparents or the pastor. I just always believed as a mom I had a choice: to teach my children how to fake empathy towards others or to model for them how to feel real empathy. The only way to do this in the presence of my intelligent and shrewd babies was to minimize my own acting upon issues and circumstances I honestly cared very little about. Most importantly, I had to win the fight against making my own children feel as though they weren’t important to me because I was too busy Mother-Teresa-ing the entire neighborhood for Christ. Sometimes, in an attempt to make friends in my evangelical church where often world-missions, tract-passing, showy prayers, and the right oil-painting on your mantle are valued over the obedience of a whispering holy spirit, I failed. How often did my own children walk into the house and see a pan of freshly-baked brownies and ask the question, “Are you making these for someone else or can we have some?” God would convict me on the spot that many could answer the calling to provide food for someone else, yet only I could mother these children. It took years of reading and prayer and contemplation for me to see that just because the church as a whole isn’t answering quiet calls, doesn’t mean I have to pick up the Holy Spirit phone and take the message for the self-absorbed in my church-midst. So I began to make two pans of brownies, and if I only had the ingredients for one pan, then my own would get first dibs.
I recently read the results of a 2014 survey which stated that evangelicals prize obedience and manners over creativity and curiosity. When I studied the results of that survey, a light bulb came on for me. No wonder I have always felt sometimes out of place as I have raised my children in evangelical churches.