Once upon a time, our family took the concept of Sabbath very seriously. Probably too seriously. During that time, our daughter recorded these heartfelt prayers in her journal:
“God, please help CJ not try to be Joshua and I’s parent. And help him not to be silly.”
“God, help Joshua to be strong and courageous. And help him not to be silly.”
We had a good laugh when Jordan read her journal to us, after rediscovering her Sabbath journal three years later, as we prepared to move across China.
Those once-serious, now-humorous prayers prompted a discussion about how our family practiced Sabbath in that season when our kids were 10, 11, and 13. We would devote the entire day to prayer, worship, listening to sermons online, reading God’s Word together, and getting time alone to hear from Him. Those were all good things. But we didn’t see the value of bringing fun into our Sabbath.
At one point, our family even did an entertainment fast for one and a half weeks. And all three kids talk about that time now as a horrible experience. Our motivation was to help them put God first in their lives and to recognize that games and entertainment can become like idols. But I think it must have made them feel like God always carries a frown on his face. Instead of imagining Him smiling at the pranks they played on each other (which He probably was), our stiff Sabbaths brought a sense of condemnation so that they felt they needed to pray the silliness out of each other.
Maybe it was a bit much for us to study Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” sermon together.
In trying so hard to honor the holy and to help our kids grow in godly character, we regretfully took the fun out of our family times.
Does God actually consider silliness a sin? We used to think so.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man, I put my childish ways behind me.”
(1 Corinthians 13:11)
This verse spoke loudly to our parental hearts: that our main responsibility was to ensure that our kids put their childish ways behind them. As soon as possible. So that they could grow into mature God-followers who didn’t need entertainment or games as much as they needed the Word to penetrate deep into their hearts and minds. Then they would talk, think, and reason like the men and women God had made them to be.
I think in our zeal, we forgot the times that Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me,” and “Whoever wants to enter the Kingdom must become like a child.”
He so deeply loves each one of the children He has made and is in no hurry to turn them into adults.
God, in His goodness, has blessed us with three now-adult children who are courageous enough to let us know where we could have improved in our parenting.
And God, in His sense of humor, has given us two adopted Chinese boys so that we can attempt parenting all over again.
During their first year with our family, one of our boys told us that he thought his life was better when he was in the orphanage and that he would be much happier if he could watch TV and play video games all day (which we did not allow him to do).
Fortunately, Joshua helped us see his little brother’s complaint in light of our family values: “I can understand where he’s coming from. There’s a lot of focus in our family on building character. But not a lot of focus on having fun. And that’s what’s important to him.”
Instead of a full day of prayer, time in the Word, and worship, we decided to include frisbee and soccer games on our Sabbaths. Dance parties. Ice cream. Friends and games. Afternoons playing in the park.
Our ongoing prayer is: God, help us not to take the fun out of life as we help our kids become adults, and once they become adults. Help our family to enjoy you as a fun God.
There is a time for everything. And Silliness is definitely included.
How do you find the balance in building character and having fun in your family?
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