Children in the Land of Dragons
For millennia, man has been intrigued with the mythical dragon. These fascinating reptiles were noted for their ability to terrorize. They could shake the earth with their thunderous roar and burn entire villages with one blast of their fiery breath. Nightly they would raid farms and stables in search of prey and eat huge amounts of villagers whenever they got the chance. Children were considered delicacies.
Just unique creatures of legends, you say? Dragons no longer exist? Marshall Shelley, in his insightful book, Well-Intentioned Dragons, contends that every church has a few. "Often they are well-meaning, deeply loyal to the church, convinced they're serving God -- but they undermine the church's ministry and breed discontent among the members." In every ministry there lurks at least two or three of these fire-breathing, wing-flapping dragons. They make personal attacks and power plays, intimidate, and control. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes disguised as friends, helpers, elders, and deacons -- all spiritual servants of God.
In ministry, scaly-legged monsters go with the territory. Does that preclude it being a healthy climate in which to rear children? Not at all! In fact, it is a strategic arena in which to teach Biblical principles on how to deal with difficult people and situations. After all, it is not so much what happens to us that matters, but how we respond to what God already knew was going to happen. It is life among the dragons that develops the qualities God expects in His children. The question is how do we teach our children to survive and prosper in a land of dragons? Let's go to the war room and lay out some tactics.
Tactic One: Pursue a Right Perspective
Teach your children that "God is the blessed controller of all things" (1 Tim. 6:15). When our wily opponents grab for power and cause all kinds of havoc in the church, remind them that God has not been caught napping! His purposes cannot be frustrated. Lead your children to surrender to a Sovereign God who has a right to their lives and in whom they can put their complete trust. It may take time for God's plan to unfold before their human eyes, but encourage them that God does not lose battles. Then, when the thunderous footsteps of the dragon shake the very foundations of the parsonage, they will be confident that their God is still in control.
Tactic Two: Hang on to Hope
Along with many of you, we have been deeply hurt in ministry. We have been seared by bolts of fire spewed from dragon's lips, and cruelly crushed by his cunning deceit. Yet through it all nothing thwarted God's plans for us. Difficult dragons didn't stand a chance of winning against us in the face of God's strong promises: He promised He would "work all things together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28). He promised His faithfulness in "not allowing us to be tested beyond what we were able to handle" (1 Cor. 10:13). He promised "mercy and grace to help in every need; that He would constantly intercede for us before God the Father; that He fully understands our weaknesses" (Heb. 2:18, 4:15-16, 7:25). He promised He "would never devise evil or harm us but rather make good plans for us" (Gen. 50:20; Jer. 29:11-13).
Communicate God's promises to your children repeatedly. They will be there for them to hang on to when the dragon strikes.
Tactic Three: Don't Become a Dragon
"When attacked by a dragon, do not become one," recommends Marshall Shelley. "If I become a beast in order to overcome a beast, all that reigns is beastliness." A godly warrior keeps his wits about him and resists the first impulse to strike back. Children find strength and stability in the fact that we show good judgment in the midst of conflict. Our son shared how he felt safe in the midst of conflict because he trusted his father. He knew his father to be a fair, just and loving man and that he would deal with dragons in a godly way. Our son relied on his father's good character.
Godly character forgives. It does not allow a root of bitterness to spring up and destroy others (Heb.12:15). Godly character also shows love for enemies. Love is not something we feel, it is something we do. We must choose to love difficult people, even dragons.
Tactic Four: Profit from Processing
Children can be very perceptive and sense when things aren't going smoothly in the ministry. They recognize when the dragon is on the prowl. As our children grew more mature, we did not discuss everything behind closed doors. We processed some things openly with them. They felt it a privilege to be a part of the team. They learned that ministry included hardships, but with God's help we could handle whatever the dragon threw at us. Together we processed the difficulties, hurts and disappointments. In processing, we arrived at a higher place, a place of acceptance and then laughter. What a relief it was to laugh! As we would relive our most recent skirmish, we would laugh and marvel at the glorious victory God had accomplished in us. We had escaped the noxious breath of the dragon; and through our tears and laughter, the children saw that everything was all right.
Tactic Five: Run the Race
There are always plenty of reasons to throw in the towel, but what example will that be for our children? Daniel Hahn in his book, Teaching Your Kids the Truth About Consequences says, "Clearly, the only way our kids will know how to race is by watching us. If we don't race, neither will they. And if we do, we can be sure they will be watching how well we run, and in which direction, and for how long, and how we feel about it all and what we do when we fall down." Staying power is the example we need to demonstrate for our children. Never give up early. Focus on the finish line.
Once upon a time, a righteous and glorious King clothed in pure white raiment, met a warrior returning home from the dragon wars. He was accompanied by a small band of people. Seeing the King, the warrior fell to his knees in worship. "Who are these that are with you?" inquires the King. The warrior, tired and worn from his battles answers, "These are my children, Lord, the ones You entrusted to me. I have faithfully kept Thy commandments and we have all arrived safely home." Removing His gleaming two-edged sword from its sheath, the great and mighty King touches the warrior's shoulder with its tip, conferring on him a great honor. "I now dub thee knight because of thy great service unto me and to these your children. Enter into thy reward." And they all lived happily ever after. The End.