Lord, does your word support the idea of kicking our children out? How can I know if it’s the right thing to do?
We battled this decision with each of our children as we came to the point of feeling we were no longer helping them move forward into adulthood—and the cost of them remaining in our home was too high. That “tough love” part of parenting sure was heart-wrenching. Hard, but necessary. Never entered into quickly or thoughtlessly. Followed by hours … days … months of prayer, motivation questioning, and Scripture searching.
I suppose if we’d never second-guessed our boundaries, if we’d never wondered if we were too strict, then we’d probably been too weak—the lines drawn too softly.
As parents we should question ourselves at times. We do make mistakes, after all. Another look allows us to examine our child’s behaviors, objectively evaluate appropriate consequences, and review our own responses as well.
When in doubt, I found it helped to hold my discipline choices against God’s word.
Though a great example as a long-suffering father, God’s discipline wasn’t always pretty: pestilence, famine, sickness, and death. And, He did kick His children out, too. Several times. Starting with the Garden of Eden.
But this is what’s amazing to me. Sending His children into exile is part of God’s gospel story.
God knows we have to come to point of realizing that our sin is so wretched we do not deserve to even dream of His presence.
Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?
And who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood
And has not sworn deceitfully.
Psalm 24:3-4 (NASB)
There is none righteous, not even one.
Romans 3:10 (NASB)
It’s only when we reach a place of humility and awareness of our need, that we can turn to Him for salvation.
Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lip.
Isaiah 6:5 (NASB)
And only when we truly repent can we begin to experience the breadth and length and depth and height of His love.
…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:17-29 (NASB)
Our children need this too. They need to come to understand that we love them so much we’re willing to do the tough stuff in order for them to grow and have a fulfilling life.
Sometimes drawing a child close and holding them while they hurt is necessary. Sometimes guiding them through a maze of tough decisions is. But sometimes we have to put away the smiles, stand firm, and mete out the discipline.
And, sometimes, our absence needs to be felt.
The nice thing is, when we do withdraw, God remains near.
He may be quiet—a gentleman who refuses to barge in uninvited. But He’s there. Always.
And that’s why we can sometimes take a step out of sight. Sometimes we need to retreat to a place of rest. Sometimes we need to shut our ears to complaints. And as we do, we can be assured God is always with our children. He always has been—even before we came into their lives. He always will be—long after we’re gone.
“Can a man hide himself in hiding places
So I do not see him?” declares the Lord.
“Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the Lord.
Jeremiah 23:24 (NASB)
And you know what else? God is very, very patient. He’s not swayed by false pleas for reprieve. He’s not deceived by manipulative fake obedience. He will stand His ground and wait … and wait … and wait … until His child is truly repentant. And then He’s instantly there to scoop His children close, dry their tears, bandage their wounds, and lead them in His paths of righteousness.
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.
Acts 3:19 (NIV)
Even though we had to tell each of our children they had to move out, we always kept a door open for repentance. None ever moved back in to our home, but in time they each moved back into a loving relationship with us.
You see, sometimes love must be firm, determined, even fierce. But love endures all things because love always hopes (1 Corinthians 13:7).
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)