Before I Continue

Before I continue I need you to ask yourself something. “Am I willing to listen to someone based upon principles and not experience?”

Why would I want you to ask this before continuing? Well, many of you that read my thoughts have children and I am posting at this point regarding parenting. While this question pertains to all of my posts (that you ask the above question), it definitely should be asked while I treat the issue of parenting. Why? Well, truth be told…I am not a parent. In fact, I have only been married for two years.

So the question remains…will you listen to what I have to say? Will you not simply because you will say to me, “Man, you don’t understand. Wait ‘til you have kids!” I was meditating on this line of reasoning people give when someone who is not in the same place in life wants to help with biblical principles to live by. I think much of it rests in pride. But perhaps sometimes people genuinely think that someone who has not gone through various experiences they have nothing to offer to the conversation.

I remember when people continually told my wife and I that we should wait ‘til we were married to make comments on things. In essence, they said, “After you’re married 10 years you’ll understand.” This rationale is malarkey (yes, I used that word…). The principles will hold true whether I am single or married for 50 years.

My desire for us to receive instruction with those who may not have the life experience is rooted in Paul’s instruction to Timothy. Timothy was pastoring the Ephesian church…which like many, was full of elderly people. However, within Greek culture wisdom and age were considered interdependent. “Wait-til-you’re-older-” thinking pervaded the churches. So Paul encourages Timothy that he can be confident of what he teaches because 1) he knows from whom he has learned the principles and therefore 2) he should not let anyone despise (or look down upon him) because of his youth.

However, the example should be lived out when life presents you with the opportunity. So, Lord willing, as we have children I will implement the principles that I mention here for the glory of God and the witness of the Bible’s sufficiency for parenting and all of life.

3 Comments

Filed under Family | Parenting, Interpretation, Theology

3 responses to “Before I Continue

  1. I can totally appreciate your point. My wife and I got married in college — I was finishing up undergraduate work and my wife was pursuing a master’s degree. We were also working. And we were heavily involved in our church including leading the Junior High youth group. We commented to several people that we were really busy and without fail they would say “oh, you think that you are busy now … wait until you have kids!” We both silently fumed when we would get this response. How dare they make judgments about how busy we were in comparison to them! And yet in many ways my anger was a result of pride, as you point out. I took a weird sort of pride in being busy and other people were trying to say that they were more busy. Now that I am a parent and see what they were talking about, I understand how they felt.

    But what I have learned from this is not that parents are really busier than non-parents or anything like that. What I have learned is that I should never assume that I know what someone else’s life is like even if I have lived in the same or similar circumstances. I should never assume that I know what is right and wrong in someone else’s situation.

    However, I think that there is a fine distinction between someone telling you exactly what is the best course of action and someone expressing a humble opinion. Parenting is a great example of this principle. Everyone has opinions on parenting issues regardless of whether you are married or have children. You see a parent dealing with a child’s tantrum in a store and you form an opinion on what you would do in the situation. It is not wrong to have opinions. It is not even wrong to express them gently, respectfully, and humbly (“we had problems with getting Junior to eat his peas and we tried such-and-such and it worked well. I don’t know if it will work for you, but it helped us.”). It is wrong to act as if you know what is right and another person doesn’t (unless it is a clear violation of scriptural principles). One of the things that I have realized in parenting is that all children are different. One parent has success with letting a child “cry it out” at naptime and assumes that I am wrong for what I go through to get my child to sleep (we tried crying it out with my oldest — after about an hour of solid, crib-shaking wailing we couldn’t take it anymore (did I mention that I have strong-willed children?)).

    I think that the matter really comes down to our source of truth. If we speak truth right from God’s Word (an infallible source of truth), we can have confidence in what we say and our age or life experiences shouldn’t matter. If we speak “truth” based on our own experiences or our own opinions, we really can’t be confident as we don’t know that we are speaking truthfully. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t value is advice that comes from experience, but it should be phrased in a way that indicates that we know that we aren’t a source of truth. Nothing turns me off to a preacher more than to have his opinions expressed as truth. I have no problem with him expressing his opinions as his opinions, even if I disagree with them.

    I look forward to hearing what you have to say about parenting and have no problem with you not being a parent as long as you recognize the distinction between truth and opinion.

  2. Great! Thanks for the reminder. Like you said, I oftentimes find myself looking at the crying child in the supermarket and roll my eyes and lecture the person in my mind that he should do such and such.

    My hope is that I will be presenting truth…but in communicating it, I am sure that there will be Matt Wireman clothes all over it. I hope to have friends correct me where I stray from Scripture.

    Any other folks want to help me before I move forward?

  3. Ha! You said “malarkey” …

    Seriously, though, I think experience can help with insight, but experience is not (necessarily) a prerequisite for insight. Biblical principals are biblical principals. They remain intact regardless of your personal experience of them.

    Besides that, I often find that folks outside of my current ‘life-stage’ often offer valuable insight merely by the fact that they are outside of where I am.

    Press on.

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