Posts Tagged ‘authoritarian’

I was my parent’s problem child, which isn’t to imply that my brothers and sister were perfect.  We all went through our rough periods, but I was the one who consistently struggled, and routinely required a lot of parenting.  To be sure, my low points reached far greater depths than I ever would have imagined, and looking back, it’s a wonder that I wasn’t more permanently damaged by some of my woeful choices.


Those struggles were not a byproduct of passive or poor parenting. In fact, my parents were extremely proactive in raising all of us.  I was just the kind of kid who desperately needed an abundance of support, guidance, accountability, and ultimately strong boundaries; all of which my parents readily provided.  I knew what was right and what was expected; unfortunately, I frequently chose to forge an alternative path.


If folly is bound up in the heart of a child, I seemed to be born with a double portion to work through.  Because of this, it was essential that one of the earliest revelations of my father was that of an authoritarian.  Though he was loving and caring from the beginning, recognizing him as the ultimate authority was pivotal to my early development.  Had I not been forced to adhere to some external standard, which I recognized as being greater than myself, it is likely that I would have continued to live out of the futility and chaos that has so often reigned within my own heart and mind.  I guess another way to say it is that because my will had to bend to his will, I learned that my will (e.g. what I thought, what I felt, what I wanted…) was never the final word.  Undoubtedly, few lessons in my life have been more valuable than that one.


Though I did eventually manage to become a fully functional adult, I also continued to make questionable choices in my life, which I believe kept my father’s paternal guard up.  Though he treated me with the dignity and respect due a fellow adult, to some degree he still had to view me through the lens of his struggling child.  Though I didn’t recognize that at the time, it became evident to me, when some years later, it changed.


That change occurred when I was in my early thirties, and the life that I had carefully built crumbled before my eyes.  As I cried out to God, my will finally began to genuinely yield to His, and my life began to dramatically turn.  As those changes took root in me, I noticed that it also changed how my earthly father related to me.  He was more relaxed, less paternal and more like a friend.  A few years later, when he became terminally ill, we had some amazingly frank conversations about God, life, death… where he spoke in an unguarded way; like you would with a trusted confidant.  Though my father passed away shortly after my fortieth birthday, I will always treasure those moments of friendship that we shared in his final years.  Though I was honored to be called his son, it somehow seems even more profound that he might also have considered me his friend.


Ultimately, I believe this pattern of relationship reflects what God intends for His children as well.  He says that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  If we don’t begin by recognizing Him as the ultimate authority, and greater than ourselves, we never yield our will to His.  Though we may speak of Him highly, and even claim to be His, we live life on our own terms, guided by our own ideas, and going in the way that seems right to us (which the Bible says, “leads to death”).  When Jesus first gathered the disciples, they related to Him as Rabbi (i.e. teacher), which was a position of great authority in Jewish culture.  They called themselves His servants and referred to Him as “Master”.  It wasn’t until the night before His death that Jesus bestowed upon them the title of “friends”.


Unfortunately, modern philosophies on parenting favor the idea that parents ought to relate to their children as friends over the more traditional authoritarian approach; but in practice this generally creates dysfunctional family relationships.  Children raised in this manner remain self-centered, compulsive, demanding, and disrespectful.  As in so many other aspects, Western Christianity has mirrored the culture by frequently trying to introduce the heavenly Father as “friend”; but like the earthly counterpart, this does not produce a legitimate or functional family.


If we do not first recognize Him as Lord, and come through the cross of Christ, we have no incentive to die to ourselves and to live through Him.  We might call Him good, and look to Him for provision, but we live in our own strength, and by our own sense of righteousness.  Though I do believe that God ultimately wants to be able to relate to His children as friends, I also believe that this is a distinction that we must grow into over the course of time.  As it was with my earthly father, I would be forever humbled to one day be counted a friend to my Father in heaven.

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