Midlife: A Portrait #2

Personal Interpretations and Your Children

In this
brief series of posts we are taking advantage of the excellent work done by
Paul Tripp in his book Lost in the Middle. One thing that Paul and Tedd Tripp have made
abundantly clear in their writings is that it is the heart that drives us as
people. This is true for people of all ages. Whether it is in mid life, in the
toddler years, in youth or in old age, humans are heart driven people. People
seek the treasures that their hearts long for. Christ clearly teaches about
this relationship between treasures and heart in Matthew 6:19-21:

19"Do not store up
for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where
thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for
yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where
thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your
treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Lost in the Middle delves deeply into this treasure
relationship within the heart. Parent, what you don’t want to miss is that the
same issues apply to your children. Listen to Paul Tripp’s thoughts about
personal interpretations from page 50 of this book.

This understanding of life’s events “…is really rooted in the
way people interpret the things that they see. In fact, it is more powerful
than that. Their interpretations actually determine
what they see and how they see it. As sinners, the problem with our
interpretations is that they tend to be narrow and selective. Remember, sin not
only affects what we do; it also affects what we think and how we see. In ways
that we often don’t notice, sin reduces all of us to fools. The way that seems
right to us can lead to death, and the way that makes no sense to us is often
the way of life and wisdom. That is why we all need the wise perspectives of
God’s Word. Midlife crisis is powerfully theological. It all balances on the
fundamental ways we make sense out of life. It is all about how our functional
systems of belief shape the way we respond to whatever God puts on our plate.”

These words
are challenging for those in midlife and you can begin to see how they apply to
the difficulties people face. However, these same truths apply to your
children. Adults are not the only folks whose sins color their life
interpretations. The Bible tells us that
your children were born sinners. This means that their interpretations tend
also to be narrow and selective. Actually, children’s interpretations are even
more narrow and selective than adults’ because their life experiences are so limited.
But the central issue driving these interpretations is still sin. This is why
selfish behavior may often be expressed so powerfully in a child.

Paul says
sin not only affects what we do; it also affects what we think and how we see. Stay with me on this one. In the last
post I talked about a young boy being upset that his younger brother has a toy
that he wants. Because he was born a sinner he may be unhappy, even angry, that
he does not have that toy. So, not only is the boy going to be showing anger by
yelling or pouting, his whole interpretation of life is (for this moment, at
least) screaming that a terrible injustice has taken place. He deserves to have that toy!

His world at
that moment is colored by his interpretation that he has been wronged. Now
imagine a parent who comes into the room and sharply tells this boy that
screaming about not having a toy is wrong. Furthermore, the child may be
disciplined for screaming. But the scream is only the symptom. The real problem
is a horribly flawed personal interpretation of the events of his world. Discipline that addresses only the scream
or only the pouting or only the anger
the mark.
This is why parenting must
be gospel based. Parent, you must point your children to Christ and his word to
address the problem of these wrong interpretations. Asking God to renew this
child’s heart is the only way to change his self-serving interpretation and worldview.
On the day-to-day level you must not focus on stopping the screaming only. Your
focus must be on bringing your child to the Person who can help him to know new

Let me know
your thoughts.


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