A couple years ago I connected on social media with a relative that is a generation older but on the younger side of it, who was a child sitter for me on occasions prior to my ninth birthday. I say ninth because that would be when we moved as a family from the area where they lived. Parents hire sitters to watch over us while they are away or otherwise occupied and unable to provide us their direct care and watchful eye. As kids we need some oversight if for no other reason than as young ones we are still too stupid to know when to say no and without sufficient strength to help ourselves if we get hurt.
Children must be trained to become habitually well-behaved in a similar way we think of training our pets. I watched a former K9 cop that was a fellow employee at an appliance repair shop where I got my first job work a little with an unruly German Shepherd that belonged to the office secretary. He was trying to teach the handsome dog to heel in response to his voice command. Obedience that includes immediate response has to be learned and it is better that we learn it from a parent or in the case of this Shepherd through a skilled trainer. My co-worker took the dog up and down the parking area along the street and patiently gave the agreed upon command and then used the leash to enforce it. When the dog attempted to resist or lose focus and wander there came a severe yank to the tether to bring the animal back into submission. You may be taken back by the parallel I am drawing between your child and the training of a pet dog but you shouldn't be.
It was our intent to train our boys – we eventually accumulated four – in such a way as to expect their immediate response. At the first it was imperative for safety sake. We set out in our family adventure living in a lovely two bedroom apartment that was located fairly close to a street that led back into a growing neighborhood. We were close to the head of it so everyone that lived in the 'hood had to pass by our apartment units to get to their homes. Most seemed to want to do so quickly. If I turned my back on little Ben, our firstborn, he might wander out to the street where a danger he as yet did not understand was imminent. My commands were clear and sharp and we expected him to respond immediately if not sooner. Failure to come when he was called brought swift response from us in the form of a whack on his thighs. The thighs because his little backside was too well padded with a diaper for him to get the full impact of his education.
Each personality and temperament will offer a challenge to the methods we choose for training them but developing a basic consistent set of verbal commands and as well as a consistent follow-up as consequence to disobedience is critically important for a sense of fair play. Sugar is more effective than vinegar to draw flies, and to draw our children into compliance something positive might at times work well, but whatever augmentation is called for the very bottom line is we must "train up our children in the way they should go so that when they are older they will not depart from it."
An additional factor
Good parental discipline that leads to self-control is basic to human civility. It must be taught and taught early. If we are left to ourselves with no internal conscience for a moral compass or oversight to corral our passions and wanderlust we will run as if wild and behave badly. A well trained German Shepherd can eventually learn to walk beside its owner without a leash and only run from their side when given permission, but even then if off leash and separated from the owner they can become unpredictable.
On the avenue where we lived during my teen years there was a special family that lived a few doors down on the opposite side. They had a cute little grand-daughter that would occasionally visit while her parents were away. When she came over to stay with them she sometimes brought with her the family dog. It was also a handsome German Shepherd that was highly trained for show. By chance one day she was out walking the dog on a leash along the sidewalk across from our house when I stepped out to take a walk on my side of the street toward my friend Tim's house passing them as I went. All at once that well trained, normally well-behaved animal pulled free from the little girl's grip and bolted across to bite me in the knee! Even a well-trained dog when away from its owner can behave unpredictably and bite. Now, honestly and to be fair, the dog may have behaved instinctively to protect the little one from potential harm. What was it thinking? Perhaps you should turn your ear toward what I am about to write. Even behaving according to the impulse of our instincts may be at times be correctly regarded as bad behavior.
"People are not to live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."
We need a divine implant
From the beginning it has been the intent of our Creator to walk with us. In our rebellion, choosing to explore our options we fell away from that lofty ideal and have suffered the fallout ever since. We all have inherited the ingrained nature that fuels our tendency to break free from our restraints. We need a supervising factor that can be implanted, that remains a part of us and positively affects our behavior and attitude. James uses the term "implanted word (James 1:21)." Paul uses the term "filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:17, 18)."
"But if you bite and devour one another…" Galatians 5:15
They agree, Paul and James, Paul's Spirit of God is the author of James' implanted word which when He comes in to us through our call out to God for His salvation He brings with Him His message for our hearts to reeducate us and transform our attitudes. This, if we are obedient to it, will alter our behavior.
Paul goes on to point out in Galatians 5:19-22 that, "if left to ourselves (what he means by living according to the flesh), sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these (here we could truthfully include racism) will show up." To the list could be added entries from other lists of unrestrained bad behavior such as those found in Romans 1:28-32. But, in stark contrast, "the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit," permitted to have His way, transforming as He does our inner persons, "is love" - love that expresses itself in joy, peace, patience…and even self-control." All of which most of us agree is the best way to live. Without His inner shepherding and oversight we are not much better than a well-trained German Shepherd.
Sometimes they bite.
Grace today y'all
The M/V Golden Ray turned on its side in the midst of the Brunswick River near St. Simons Island, not far from the Atlantic coast of the state of Georgia in 2019. Apparently it has been determined the cargo was not properly balanced by sufficient ballast and before the normally stable cargo vessel traveled from its mooring more than a short distance it lost its balance and turned on its side.
Nothing has been reported about sea worthiness of the design. The fault lay in the loading and counter measures for balance that are necessary to keep a vessel upright especially in poor weather conditions and high seas.
What of the Ark?
Reading a recent news spot on the progress of cleanup from the shipwreck, thoughts of the Ark of Noah's construct with its unstable cargo began to bob to the surface of my early morning, coffee invigorated mind. Questions like how the limited numbers of animals – which meant they couldn't spare any - and the small eight person crew - also non to spare - manage to survive the tumultuous waters of the primeval flood? The heaving seas and opposing forces surely tested the design and likely caused growing anxiety over whether the ship would capsize in a manner not unlike the modern design tested Golden Ray.
We usually assume there was no other such vessel anything like the Ark built up to that time in our young history. Mathematics, useful in ship design, were apparently in use, but some inspiration of original nature must have attended the genius mind of the patriarch.
By the time of Noah's commission to build we are told the human state of affairs had reached a level of perversion that called for judicious response. Humanity had capsized and gone belly up. Too often the God of the Bible has been criticized for not managing His creation more closely. How could he possibly allow evil into the world, and having done so, whatever His reasoning, what is His current thinking on the pervasive nature of it we experience today?
The Golden Ray had a great design, not unlike many other ships just like it currently in production and use. The problem was not in the design. The boat was made for use in a variety of applications and outfitted to be put into service according to the will of the owners. Perhaps we should back off the accusations of flawed design a bit and focus more on uses and abuses. The flood in Noah's day was an effective eraser to wipe clean the slate of human corruption and start over. This time it would be by way of a family man carrying the library of human achievement and divine revelation in the hold of his rescue ship. Whatever evil's intent, it cannot win. The Ark's job was to convey the truth that had been nearly lost in the confusion of human mythology to the other side of the flood waters.
"For the proper attitude and response of God has been revealed against those that suppressed the truth in injustice…"
Romans 1:18 [paraphrase mine]
How did Noah's family manage to outlast the year-plus long high seas adventure, stopping leaks and rearranging loads, closed in with little exposure to the fresh air and the constant noise of the animals - suicide anyone?
Does it sound at all like your life this year?
The answer is Divine providence and supervision. He kept them safe for the sake of His larger purpose to fulfill in good time the promise to Adam and Eve, of a champion from a human family with the ability to crush the exasperator of evil and provide a new creation for us. Noah could not have done it without Him. The miracles of His interventions and providence made the passage of the Ark and its precious cargo possible. Noah knew it. He is recorded as paying immediate tribute to the Lord's oversight bringing them to safe lodging on the Ararat range.
"When the appropriate time had come, God sent out his Son, born of a woman, born under the [supervision of divine] law…redeemed us"
"For when we were yet impotent to help ourselves it was then Christ died for the ungodly…demonstrating His love for us in that while humanity remained in its perversions Christ died for us."
Romans 5:6, 8
The purposes of God are in play
Untying from its berth at the Port of Brunswick, the Golden Ray embarked taking into account that every trip is a risk on many levels, but worth taking if the factors are all weighed. How many of us have travelled miles and miles over wet roads or icy conditions, with blurred vison and wear compromised tires. Even our success rising from the moorings of our beds each new morning should not be taken for granted. The purposes of God are in play. The best of designs can fail due to innumerable factors, so it is on us to implement them with care. The Golden Ray capsized due to an unbalanced load, and human error that is under investigation. The Ark, by the miracles of divine providence, made it to the safety of its new mooring. All passengers and cargo safely disembarked. One might say, with more than they left with given gestation and a fair amount of recyclables, perhaps useful in planting new vineyards.
We can make it too
The new heavens and new earth with the glories of eternity are a promised destination. Whatever happens that may make it seem like life has turned on its side the Lord by way of His careful attention will see you through to His prepared place. The Lord works all things in life together for good to those that love Him and are called according to His purpose. If you are not yet one of those enfolded in His special purpose make your break with self-determination and place the full weight of your trust in Him. He that "works all things according to the counsel of His own will" will give us buoyance.
Grace today y'all