I have been slowly reading Ted Tripp’s book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart. Our homeschooling mom’s group meets once monthly to view a video and discuss aspects of the book and ways to apply what we are learning in our own lives. I like this “take” on child-rearing because it goes so much deeper than surface-area behavior. The book discusses ways that parents, using Jesus and God’s word, can look past misbehavior and into their children’s hearts. Why not just focus on the behavior itself?
That’s what I learned in college. I remember a class dedicated to different methods of “behavior modification.” As a teacher, I handed out stickers and compliments and made a big deal out of rewarding good behavior. The problem with this and most of the behavior “plans” out there is that they focus on the external and only work when the teacher/parent/caregiver is physically present. Kids learn to do the misbehaviors when our backs are turned! We need to teach our kids in such a way that they understand that the LORD is always present and always sees everything. We want to follow Deuteronomy 6:5-8 —
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
So…how to get from here to there? I am a practical learner. I like to have real tools in my toolbag. It turns out that I’m learning that God’s word has every tool that a parent could possibly need. My task is to find them, dig them out, apply them to my own life, and then teach them to my daughter.
What do you know about the book of Proverbs? Growing up, I knew that if I opened my Bible to the middle section, it would be there. I knew it contained wise sayings, but it hasn’t been until recently — through my study on how to shepherd my daughter’s heart — that I have realized the need to actually live out those wise sayings. How can I live them out if I don’t know what they say? How can I write them on the doorframe of my house if I don’t know what they are?
In typical type-A fashion, I’ve decided to do a character-study of the book of Proverbs. There are characters there, did you know? There’s the wise man, of course. And there’s also the wicked man. And the fool. And the mocker.
Today I’m going to look at characteristics of what the Bible calls The Fool…so I can, with God’s grace, repent of my foolish ways and incorporate them in my conversations with my daughter.
- despises wisdom and discipline (Proverbs 1:7)
- hates knowledge (Proverbs 1:22)
- his complacency will destroy him (Proverbs 1:32)
- will be shamed (Proverbs 3:35)
- brings grief to his mother (Proverbs 10:1)
- his chattering brings him to ruin (Proverbs 10:8)
- his mouth invites ruin (Proverbs 10:14)
- he spreads slander (Proverbs 10:18)
- he dies because of a lack in judgment (Proverbs 10:21)
- finds pleasure in evil conduct (Proverbs 10:23)
- brings trouble on his family (Proverbs 11:29)
- his own way seems right to him (Proverbs 12:15)
- shows his annoyance at once (Proverbs 12:16)
- proclaims foolishness (Proverbs 12:23)
- detests turning from evil (Proverbs 13:19)
- harms his companions (Proverbs 13:20)
- rips apart her family with her own hands (Proverbs 14:1)
- does not have knowledge on his lips (Proverbs 14:7)
- lies to himself about his own ways (Proverbs 14:8)
- mocks at making amends for sin (Proverbs 14:9)
- is hotheaded and restless (Proverbs 14:16)
- is quick-tempered (Proverbs 14:17
There are so many gems here just in the first fourteen chapters of Proverbs! I can see themes running through several of the chapters. For example, Chapter 1-3 seem to dwell on the “head” workings of the fool. In his heart, he hates wisdom of any kind…why? Perhaps because he wants to go his own way. If his own way happens to be unwise, he doesn’t want to hear it. Does that sound familiar? It does to me in my own life. For example, wisdom told me several months ago that it was time to say good-bye to my dog, Shiner. But I was a fool about him. It was my duty to take care of him, and I let my own love for him and desire to have him around get in the way of what was best for him. It hurts to say this, but I do think he really was suffering. I can’t bear to see the photos we took of him on his last days because the strain of pain is easier to see now that we’re removed from the situation.
Proverbs 10 talks about the foot-in-mouth syndrome. The Fool talks. A lot. His talk is ugly and slanderous sometimes. Sometimes it’s just silly and untrue and just flat-out, well, foolish. I hate to admit it, but there are times that I am this fool. I see it with much chagrin when I overhear my daughter repeating some of the comments I have made about so-and-so politician or government official. There is a difference between wisely DOING and foolishly running and complaining at the mouth. Yikes. I confess I resemble this Fool too much! I need Jesus to help me renew my mind AND my speech.
A know-it-all syndrome inhabits the Fool of Proverbs 12. Ever had a conversation with someone that became distinctly one-sided as she went on and on about her expertise in the field, and if you happened to disagree with her, she rolled her eyes or otherwise showed you scorn? I’m afraid many of our elected officials fall into this category. Those who cling to the “party line” without regard to right or wrong…those who are unwilling to listen to the other side. The scientists who black-list other scientists (even Nobel-Prize winning ones) when they acknowledge the existence of an Intelligent Creator are embodiments of the Proverbs 12 Fool. I confess that when it comes to education, I am sometimes The Fool. Newlyweds fighting over the “correct” way to load the dishwasher or fold socks are guilty of becoming Fools.
The children in chapel at my daughter’s private school had a favorite song with lyrics that warned against the follies of The Fool as found in Proverbs 14. They went something like this:
Be quick, quick, quick to listen
Quick, quick, quick to hear.
Quick, quick, quick to listen
Quick pick up those ears!
But be sloooww to speak…
Be sure you know what to say..
Be slooowww to speak…
That’s the righteous way
It’s important (and fun) to note that God gave us 2 ears but only 1 mouth for a reason! I’ve been The Fool in Proverbs 14 before. Some days I just get angry, short-tempered, and annoyed. Little things get under my skin and make me lash out with angry words. I’ve been known to slam a cabinet door or two in my day! I don’t like to be hot-headed or quick-tempered. I’d like to blame it on PMS (and actually there is some truth there), but still…God gave me these hormones and will give me the control I need to keep my temper in check, even on “those” days! (Lord, you know how much I need you to renew me and my mind on those days when I hurt so bad I can hardly function…thank YOU for being so merciful because I sure do need it!!)
The scary part about The Fool in Proverbs 14 is that she actually rips apart her own household. The Hebrew word used for “household” means a house, but it also means an established family unit. We moms have such a responsibility to keep the peace, don’t we? Ever heard the saying:
When Mamma ain’t happy, ain’t NOBODY happy?
That’s because we hold the key to our family’s hearts. Through our words, our gestures, and our actions, we can reinforce our family relationships or tear them down with our own hands. The word used in Hebrew for “tear down” also means to utterly destroy. The thing about it is, many times we deceive ourselves into thinking that our outbursts are necessary and good. We think that our kids will REALLY pay attention this time if we show them just how angry they’ve made us. So we go to extremes and act out in anger rather than in wisdom. Maybe we ground them for an entire month for something that really wasn’t that bad but that got under our skin. Or maybe we resort to emotional damage and wall them off and shut them out. If they can’t behave, then we won’t be available emotionally or be there for them when they need a hug. Have you ever done that? Or worse, said something that implied you wished you didn’t have a family? Those kinds of reactions to misbehavior teach our kids how to be Fools themselves.
Wow. There’s so much to learn here, and I haven’t even made it through the whole book of Proverbs yet.
There is hope for us, though, through the renewing of our minds by the Holy Spirit. For every proverb about The Fool we find in Proverbs, there is a contrasting one about The Wise. My next post will delve into the habits and thoughts and characteristics of the wise.
All this convicting information from Proverbs tells me that I NEED to be renewed. Over and Over, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Do you?
Check out this song by NewWorldSon. It’s a live recording, so the quality isn’t as great as I’d like, but it was enough to make me want to get an album!