“How many times do I have to tell you?!”
“Don’t make me say this again.”
As a parent I repeat myself a lot, and I frequently get exasperated that I end up sounding like a broken record.
Clean your room. Eat your lunch. Don’t hit your brother. Go to sleep. Get in and get buckled. Don’t lick me. On and on the list goes of things I say throughout the day. You’d think after a while the kids would start catching on and listen the first time. But no, I repeat and I nag until even I get sick of my own voice.
My purpose isn’t to irritate them, I am trying to mold them into functional, independent individuals. I am doing my best to ensure that when they become full-fledged members of society they don’t embarrass themselves (or me).
How does God feel when we don’t listen the first time?
So often I look at situations in my interactions with the kids and see correlation between them and my relationship with God. I am a child of God. He is my Father. Just as I’m guiding and teaching my children, God is guiding and teaching me.
The Bible and the promptings of the Holy Spirit are the guidebook for right Christian living. We read, we study, we determine to change a behavior and then we forget. Our intentions are good. We don’t mean to ignore Him, we just get distracted.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
In these instances, God doesn’t get fed up with repeating Himself to us. He is well aware of our faults and failures and patiently tells us again the way we should go.
He doesn’t throw His hands in the air in frustration and yell at us, “What part didn’t you understand?” He doesn’t get angry with us when we don’t listen and obey the first time.
Lovingly He reminds us. With untiring care He redirects us and says, “My child, try again.”
Do You Love Me?
How am I so sure that God deals with us this way? It’s in the Bible.
In John 21 there is a breakfast between Jesus and Peter that is highly significant. Impulsive, thoughtless Peter had betrayed Jesus. Despite Jesus’ prior warning, Peter had denied his Master (John 18:25-27). Imagine Peter’s feelings when he learned that Jesus was not dead, but had risen. Intermingled with his joy would have been shame and fear due to the knowledge of what he’d done.
Does Jesus come to Peter with a lecture? “I told you you would betray me and you did. What part of I’ll rise again didn’t you understand? Why do I have to repeat myself to you?”
No. Instead, Jesus speaks to Peter about love:
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.”
“Tend my lambs…shepherd my sheep…tend my sheep.”
Each time Jesus asks Peter about his love for Him. Never once is Jesus’ love for Peter questioned. Not only that, but Jesus confirms to Peter with each avowal of his love that He has a call on Peter’s life. Peter has a purpose and a mission that has not changed due to his failure.
Learning through Obedience
Learning is a process. There’s no point in me teaching my son how to read a book if I haven’t first helped him learn the alphabet. The primary lessons need to be mastered before he can move on to the next phase.
The same is true in our walk with God. Oswald Chambers highlights the importance of obedience in our Christian walk:
All God’s revelations are sealed to us until they are opened to us by obedience. You will never get them open by philosophy or thinking. Immediately you obey, a flash of light comes. Let God’s truth work in you by soaking in it, not by worrying into it. Obey God in the thing He is at present showing you, and instantly the next thing is opened up. We read tomes on the work of the Holy Spirit when…five minutes of drastic obedience would make things clear as a sunbeam. We say, I suppose I shall understand these things some day. You can understand them now: it is not study that does it, but obedience. The tiniest fragment of obedience, and heaven opens up and the profoundest truths of God are yours straight away. God will never reveal more truth about Himself till you obey what you know already.
Peter had to learn his lessons. I have to learn my lessons. My children need to learn their lessons. No one has it all together and no one gets it perfect on the first try.
If you read the book of Acts you see that Peter definitely learned the lesson of confessing his relationship with Jesus despite all odds. He endured persecution and eventual death due to that relationship.
God understands our weaknesses and knows the areas we still need to grow in. Sometimes we might feel overwhelmed by the abundance of them, but He’s dealing with them one at a time.
So today, don’t believe that He’s exasperated with you, wondering when you’re going to get it and how many more times He has to tell you. Instead, recognize the small steps you have taken forward and see them for the growth they are.
And now I’m gonna have to do the same with my kids.