On this fifth Tuesday of the month, with Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas ahead of us, I’m returning to the basics of Intentional Parenting: discipling our children. Enjoy these three metaphors for the Christ-life found in God’s creation. Like a potter shaping a vase, God leaves his fingerprints all over His creation. These everyday images are endless! Read through these, then share your own at the end.
Calluses/A Hardened Heart
My son plays guitar. The tips of his fingers on his left hand have calluses from pressing on the strings to make different tones. I don’t play guitar, but I sat down to play around with his one day. Because I was pressing my fingers against the metal strings of his guitar, it only took a few minutes for the skin on the ends of my fingers to turn red and hurt. Why? Because I don’t have calluses.
You can press on a callus with your fingernail, and it doesn’t hurt. Sometimes, another person can touch your callus and you won’t even realize it.
For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. -Matthew 13:15a
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts… -Hebrews 3:7b-8a
When you love Jesus and you want to make him happy, we say your heart is tender. Any small sin will press up against your heart, and you’ll feel the pain of that sin until you confess. But if you choose to ignore the pain instead of addressing it, you will probably sin again in the same way. But the second time, it won’t hurt as much because the area is already inflamed (like a blister). Over and over you press on the same spot, and that’s what creates a callus. While calluses are good on a guitar player’s fingers or on the middle finger of your writing hand, they aren’t good on your heart. They make it harder to know what Jesus wants and to respond to his gentle direction. Confessing your sin and pushing it away means it can’t press against your heart anymore.
Salt/The Kingdom of Heaven
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. -Matthew 5:13
This one’s straight from Scripture, but here’s a good tactile method of explaining it.
Make some popcorn (in a pot, not microwave). Separate it into two bowls. Salt one bowl but not the other, then ask your children to taste each. The one with salt tastes so much better! This is what we’re called to be in the world: unobtrusive difference-makers. You can’t really tell which popcorn has salt until you taste it, but it makes all the difference. (Salt has preservative properties and other uses, but let’s keep this simple.) If the salt wasn’t salty—if it didn’t make a difference in the popcorn—it wouldn’t have any use. As Christ-followers, if we don’t bless the world with Christ, we don’t have any use either.
Ask your children how believers can make a difference in the world. Answers may range from smiling at a sad person or picking up litter to starting a charity or sharing Christ with a friend. Remind your children of one way they made a difference in the past week, emphasizing their unique personalities. Challenge everyone in the family (including parents) to share one way they plan to intentionally “be salt” in the coming week. Write SALT on a big piece of paper, on a white-board, or on the bathroom mirrors (with dry erase markers) to remind everyone of the challenge.
For more on popcorn, check out one of my previous analogies.
Pebbles in a Stream/Unconfessed Sin
This one’s not original with me, but it’s so good that I thought you should hear it.
Every time you sin, it’s like throwing a pebble into a river. One doesn’t really make a difference, but over time, the river will become dammed by the accumulation of pebbles.
Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” -John 7:38
The Living Water cannot flow from you if it’s blocked by unconfessed sin. Even though we try not to sin, we all do it. When we ask God to forgive us, however, He removes that pebble from our “river of life” so the water keeps flowing.
Parents, you could make this very tangible while playing outside in the rain. Just find a flow of water and start dropping small rocks into it at a certain spot.
So I pray these are helpful to you in Intentional Parenting. Remember, just look for opportunities and experiences to bring up spiritual things as a natural part of your day. Like Deuteronomy counsels, Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up (Deuteronomy 6:7).
I’d love to hear some of the creative ways God has shown you to understand theology. (That’s what this is, you know.) Please share in the comments. Maybe I’ll post a collection of other parents’ images at a later date.