16 May 2008

Some views on Authority

(Warning: Specialised Meanderings on Scripture and Faith included that some of you may happily skip over, dismiss, or come and have a lively debate with me about.)

We are parents, and we have authority. We can either embrace it or deny but either way it's there - we have amazing influence on what (and how) our children think, and how they are shaped as adults. What we don't have is a licence to bully and a right to unquestionning obedience.

Our authority is a privilege and a responsibility, it is a description of how our role is worked out in every day communication with the children we care for. We are powerfully influential on their lives (whether we like it or even deserve it)! It is not something we wield, like a weapon, it is something we use with great care because whatever high ideas we may have of ourselves we are falliable and heaven help us if we get it badly wrong.

It isn't being in charge, in control; it isn't ruling through fear or otherwise, forcing our children to grow up and do it the way we want. It isn't a position we are in OVER our children. It doesn't tell us to think of ourselves as superior.

Authority means being the "head of the household" in a very old and out of fashion sense, not as boss but as the person who has to make the final call when dealing with the outside world. One who protects, safeguards, nurtures, and brings the rest of the family into the fullness of what they can be. This is another reason why doctrines on Submission get so badly misunderstood, that we have been taught for a long time that to be "head" of something means "emminent in importance", rather than "primarily responsible for gently tending growth". We all fight for that position sometimes, one way or another. To be "better" than someone else. It's time to give it up and lay down weapons.

The Bible makes it pretty clear that the position of authority just mentioned (ie Man as Head of Household) comes with some pretty hard sub-clauses in the contract and that in fact, he is being asked to put her needs first. So welcome to the idea of submission that not all churches teach - it's called MUTUAL submission. It doesn't mean equality, in the sense of men and women being the same and having the same roles.

It's hard to describe the difference in the roles of mother and father as it is to describe the differences between male and female - though the biology provides the most on-the-surface obvious bit. The role of mother certainly includes the aspects of pregnancy and nursing that a father isn't equiped for. That doesn't make her more important, or make her role somehow more special.

I firmly believe that children need both male and female role models and both male and female nurturing (whether by a blood relation or other responsible person). We are equal in value, but not in function (and we don't need to be in order to have a happy fulfilling marriage or be happy and fulfilled parents - no matter what the formula companies tell you)!

OK that's getting off topic a bit. But actually while I'm talking about the morality of the Bible, under Christ our children are considered our equals. Heard the term Disciple? That's what we should treat our children as - we are experienced and have knowledge and understanding they want, so they work alongside us and "learn our trade" as it were. We bring them on, support them, but we don't have the final say over their choices once they are old enough to understand the consequences of a given action.

All this leads me back to reaffirming my initial two principles of discipline. Know what really matters to you, what you need to actively protect your children from and what you need to help them to do. Live it with respect and understanding. Are there really any other hard and fast rules aside from that? Are those two rules themselves even worth stating? Surely, on an even more basic level when you look at it, both of those things could be summed up by the second most important commandment (Love your neighbour as yourself) and my children are certainly my neighbours in the most immediate way I know.

Love. Responsibility IN Love. That's what "authority" means.

PS - Yes, this post may seem a little hypocritical after a few demonstrations of rubbish parenting from me, but just because I don't always do what I know I ought to doesn't mean the ideas are wrong.

In fact, since I'll readily admit how human I am, they probably carry a tad more wieght than your Genuine Perfect Motherhood Guru (who is definately not me). I believe that it's impossible to help growing up alongside your children, and that nobody is actually done with getting maturity and wisdom and knowledge until they die. So no apologies for being on a journey, not sitting on a pedastal looking down. ;)

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