What does first-time obedience look like in your family today? After teaching GFI parenting classes for over 20 years, this is the question we began asking parents that were part of our Growing Kids God’s Way class. First-time obedience may look differently in different families. This became very apparent to me years ago when we were teaching a GKGW class. One of the families in the class was a blended family that had ten children from three different marriages. Children 9 and 10 were from the current marriage. The children ranged in age from a few months old to 16 years old. The parents in this class were also all in different places in their spiritual walks. After first-time obedience was introduced, the parents were very frustrated as they struggled to get their children to obey the first time. Couch time was in place and they were doing their best to implement what they were learning, but they could not get first-time obedience.
As I prayed for these families, I realized through the guidance from the Holy Spirit that these parents were also dealing with rebellious teens, stepchildren that were only living with them on the weekends, and children who had years of learned behaviors that were very difficult to unlearn. In my prayer time I felt the Lord ask me, “How often do you obey Me the first time when I ask you to do something?” My pride wanted to say, “I obey whenever you ask,” but when I really looked at my heart, I realized that was not always the case. Sometimes God had to ask me twice or even repeatedly for years before I did what He asked. My own rebellion, fear, and arguing had kept me from being obedient to my Lord the first time. This did not mean I couldn’t change; I have gotten much better at obeying Him the first time, but this realization gave me perspective for these families. It helped me consider context in requiring first-time obedience.
When we met with these families again, the Lord showed me that our rigidity in requiring a high standard of obedience immediately could exasperate those who were just learning this important principle. So we began to set goals for the families that were attainable. Goals that gave them a hope and a future. We had been teaching first-time obedience for years and our standard with our own children had been that they would come at the call of their names eight times out of ten. Some of these families were overwhelmed with that. Instead, some of them set a goal for themselves of one time out of ten; some said three times out of ten. We helped them see that even something called first-time obedience is a process and that the context of their family situations must be considered. They came back to class with excitement! Reports of four times out of ten were shared. The family with ten children that started with their goal of one out of ten became three times out of ten consistently by the end of the class. We would celebrate every milestone with them.
Remember that the fruit of legalism and rigidity is always hard and unsatisfying, but the fruit of grace and patience is sweet and good. Set your first-time obedience goals with context in mind and remember that it is a process. So I finish this blog asking the same question I started with. “What does first-time obedience look like in your family today?”