“Monkey See, Monkey Do”
(A Message Inspired by Dr. Bill Bouknight)
READ DEUT. 6:4-9. As we begin, let me disclose that some of this message and illustrations are inspired by the former pastor of Christ UMC, Dr. Bill Bouknight.]
Again, Happy Father’s Day, fellas! Can you remember that feeling you first had when your son or daughter was born? I remember thinking, “Oh, my goodness! What do I do now?” Some of us may have told ourselves, “I better straighten up my act now that I have a kid to raise.”
Probably some good self-advice. So how have you done? If your kid(s) are grown, how do you think you did raising them? What would you do the same? Different? If we’re brutally honest, most of us would say that if we had to do it over again, we would spend more time with our children. At the end of life, nobody has ever been heard saying, “I wish I had spent more time at work and away from my family.” Just sayin’.
With two out of the nest and one flapping her wings, I confess that there is much I regret about how I’ve raised my children. Yes, I wish I had made family time a priority. Even when I was home, I wasn’t always “home.” My mind was back at the real estate office, or on the next sermon series. I haven’t always been focused as a parent. Some men will say, “Our family may not have quantity time, but we have quality time.” Guess what, our kids need both. Our spouses need both.
Some of us parents, and especially dads, will say that our lives are stretched too thin. Frankly, I think I’m one of those dads and husbands! I’m super excited about next week, but I’ll be so glad when it’s over! From all the planning and organizing to the physical improvements in preparation for the 175th—on top of the regular demands of ministry—I feel thinner than the skin of an onion! One major area of my life that has suffered lately has been my quiet time with God.
Bouknight points out that, thanks to his Texas friend, Max Lucado, he discovered four important words from Matthew 14:22: “Jesus dismissed the crowd.” This wasn’t just any crowd. This was about 10,000 people who had heard Jesus teach, had seen him heal the sick, had watched him produce enough food miraculously to feed them all. This crowd was ready to make him king. But Jesus dismissed them! Why? Read verse 23: “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.” He said NO to a good opportunity in order to say YES to a better one. It was a deliberate choice to honor his priorities. Jesus’ first responsibility was not to satisfy a crowd but to be faithful to his heavenly Father.
Maybe there are some things we need to start saying NO to in order to sit at the feet of Jesus, like his friend Mary. It takes determination and focus. It’s funny, we will make time for things we value—duck or deer hunting…SEC football…boating…our favorite TV show—but when it comes to time with the Lord, we justify that we just don’t have the time. “Ouch!”
Determination and focus. On another occasion Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek.” We don’t like that word “meek.” We connect it with weakness or being wishy-washy or wimpy…like a floor mat. Dads don’t want to be seen as weak! But that’s not what it means. The Greek word for meek used in the Bible is the same word used to describe a wild stallion that has been trained for the saddle. It means power under control, strength with direction. It means to be focused. Blessed are the focused, those who know their priorities and honor them.
Today’s text from Deuteronomy is a prime example of knowing our priorities and honoring them. Through Moses, the Lord is commanding the Israelites to love the Lord with all their hearts, all their souls, and all their might. How much is “ALL?” Right. “Here’s your priority, people of God: listen, love, learn…repeat.”
God tells us to listen to his Word…to love (meaning to be faithfully obedient to the commands of our heavenly Father as Jesus was)…then to teach God’s Word to our children (that’s the repeat part). This all begins with our focus.
I like what Solomon says about children listening to their fathers instruction in Proverbs 4: “Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, ‘Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and life.’” (4:1-4 ESV)
We are all instructing our children and grandchildren in some way, whether good or bad…even if we are aware of it or not. So Bouknight suggests three truths that may help parents focus on healthy, godly priorities.
A PARENT IS A ROLE MODEL 24 HOURS PER DAY. Parents communicate values by what we say, what we exalt, what we condemn, what we ignore, but even more powerfully by the way we live. Our children and grandchildren listen to our every word, watch our every deed, and draw their own conclusions. The adage has much truth: “Monkey See, Monkey Do.”
One afternoon, a busy mother picked up her five-year-old son from kindergarten before hurriedly running five errands on the way home. As often is the case when we’re in a hurry, this mom was driving too fast. That’s when she saw the flashing blue lights and became utterly frustrated.
After pulling her over and asking for her license, there was a long silence while she searched for it. It was then that a little voice was heard from the backseat saying, “Mama, he doesn’t look like a turkey to me.” Our children hear everything we say. We are role models for them constantly.
If we utter racial slurs as we listen to the evening news, our children will form conclusions about people of other races. If our child hears us use God’s name carelessly or profanely, they will draw conclusions both about God and our relationship with God.
Listen: None of us is perfect. We sometimes show our worst sides in front of our children. Confession time: How I wish I could rewind the clock and get a second chance at the way I sometimes behaved in front of my family. Not only did it scare them at times…it also “scarred” them emotionally in some ways. I fear that all three of our girls have some anger control issues that I was at least partially responsible for. Thank God for honesty, repentance, and forgiveness, but how much better would things be for all of us if I had remembered that children are not only sponges to absorb knowledge, they also absorb emotions and pain. Parents, we are role models 24/7!
2. A SECOND TRUTH FOR PARENTS IS THIS: NOTHING CAN SUBSTITUTE FOR OUR PRESENCE.
I touched on this earlier. Dad’s, just because we are “home” doesn’t mean we are “present.” I love this little story: A first-grader asked his mother why his Dad brought home a backpack full of material each night. She explained that he had so much work to do that he couldn’t get it all done at the office. The child thought for a second and then asked, “Well, why don’t they put him in a slower group?”
Here’s a Bouknight quote: “If you can’t say NO to some claims, your life will drip away like a leaky faucet. You won’t make much of a splash anywhere.” I like that. And if you need help saying “no,” may I suggest taking the Boundaries class the next time Diana Skufca leads it?
3. FINALLY, A THIRD TRUTH ABOUT PARENTING: NO ONE CAN LEAD A CHILD TO GOD BETTER THAN A PARENT
If the parents fail, chances are small that the church or a grandparent or a friend can make up that deficit. One of the most quoted statements in all of Proverbs is probably this: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
How do we go about that? Kids are pretty bright. If they sense that the Bible is not a vitally important book in your life, chances are that it won’t be in theirs. If they seldom see you pray, they will not take prayer seriously.
If children sense that Sunday worship is a drudgery rather than a treasured privilege, they will stop attending as soon as they get a chance. What would you think about a mother who faithfully takes her dog to obedience class each week at considerable cost, but fails to bring her little daughter to worship and Children’s Church even though it was free? One day God may ask her, “Why did you care more about your dog’s obedience than about your precious daughter’s relationship with me?”
And what about the dad who takes his son or daughter to deer camp every weekend of the season, but fails to bring him or her to worship or Wednesdays the other 39 weeks? God may say to the man, “Glad you’re child can drop a buck at 100 yards. Why doesn’t he know me?
Friends, there is a reason why God made men the spiritual head of the household. It is a great responsibility He has entrusted to us so that the family unit may be strong and may thrive through the generations. But somewhere along the way, we men have failed our families. We have relinquished our responsibility as spiritual shepherds—and even in some cases, as fathers and caregivers—to single moms (God bless them), grandparents, foster care systems, you name it. We did this, men, because WE decided to be the captain of our own souls…WE know best how to run our lives…WE find our happiness on our terms, through worldly pursuits.
Morally speaking, I’m convinced that our nation is in the shape that it is in, largely, because of the breakdown in the family unit and the lack of godly men as husbands and fathers. But, of course, I’m not speaking about any of you, am I? We all have done our part in training our children in the way they should go, right? [pause] I, for one, do not feel I’ve lived up to my responsibility.
CONCLUSION: Today is Father’s Day and I am thankful for my dad. He isn’t perfect, by any means. He could have been a better example when it came to showing me his love for God’s Word and his relationship with the Lord. But he did make sure I was regularly in the environment where I heard the Good News. And my parents wouldn’t miss worship for anything.
My dad also taught me the importance of honesty, hard work, and integrity. Your word is supposed to mean something and he taught me to give and keep my word. He taught me to treat all people fairly. For these and many other lessons, I am truly thankful.
I would love for our fathers and grandfathers to be laser focused in our priority to love God with our whole being and demonstrate that love for God in the way we live before our young people a godly example 24/7…in the way we are available for our children/grandchildren/kids from the community…and in the way know and teach God’s Word to the generation coming after us. AMEN.