"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

09 August 2005

Pleasing People; Pleasing God

The boy has had a wonderful attitude about his schoolwork lately. We started his semester formally last week, and he’s worked hard and been quite cheerful. The other day he asked me, “Have I had a better attitude this year?” I’d complimented him on it several times, but he can always use more affirmation and I’m glad to reassure him. I want him to know that I’m pleased with him.

A couple of weeks ago he told me about a Sunday School occurrence. They had visitors in class and the teacher asked him to bring them up to date on the discussion they’d been having. He said his classmates laughed at the request, apparently thinking he wouldn’t be able to do it. I was glad to hear that he was clearly proud that he proved them wrong, and proud to have pleased his teacher.

This morning I was praying for him, asking the Lord to remind him to retain that cheerful attitude and the desire to please his authorities. And a little voice said accusingly, “So, you want him to be a people-pleaser?”

It’s a question to consider. We’re told to do our work to the Lord, not as to men, to be God-pleasers, not man-pleasers. But . . .

How do we learn to please the Lord? He places authorities in our lives, mainly our parents and then certain teachers and other adults. We are expected to obey these authorities with a good will, and often (sadly, not always, because it’s a broken world) we will receive the reward of their pleasure.

I think this reward is intended to be our taste of divine pleasure, to prepare us for understanding the Lord’s pleasure in our cheerful obedience when the pleasure of man is nowhere to be found, when obedience to Him brings silence, mockery, or persecution. The child who does not experience the pleasure of adults in his attempts to please them will surely, sad to say, struggle more to understand this, though through God’s grace all things are possible.

I have a friend who grew up being told she couldn’t experience problems because problems meant she wasn’t right with the Lord; thus, the fear of those around her – the fear of losing God’s pleasure, even His grace for salvation – precluded any real rest in Him, any picture of His pleasure in her. She now walks with Him in a lovely faithfulness which awes me. But perhaps she could have been spared at least a few of the extraordinary struggles to trust that she’s experienced if she’d been allowed the freedom to be fallen along with true simple pleasure in her efforts to “get it right,” however successful or flawed those efforts might have been on any given day.

Oh, I know the Lord is sovereign, and even when we sin He is still in control (and it’s a good thing, too). He has used my friend in ways that would otherwise have been impossible because of those very struggles she has endured. Still, knowing that He can bring good from even our sin doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to get it right in the first place.

May we have the grace each day to let our pleasure in our son lead him to desire obedience, even when we must correct him. And may his delight in our pleasure help him to understand and experience God’s pleasure as he learns to walk with and for Him instead of us.


Lisa (Froggyhead) said...

I think this was less an issue when more of the people in authority were God-pleasers themselves. He is blessed to have as his immediate authority folks who are humble and obedient to Christ.

It must be very confusing to kids to be asked to respect their elders when their elders (I'm talking mostly public figure elders here) are so often not worthy of respect. How does one go about pleasing such authority?

I think you are approaching it perfectly. You want him to desire to please his authorities but you have also set before him authorities who desire to please God. As he matures, he will learn to seek those people out. He will also know that there is an ultimate authority and that sometimes in pleasing God, we must displease men.

At 40 years of age I am still trying to find that fine line and teach it to my children. So easy to skip straight to rebellion for rebellion's sake.

This parent stuff is tough.

Pamela said...

As always, your insight touches me deeply. Thank you for exercising your gift of words.