Posted by: fatherof11 | May 20, 2008

Realistic Expectations – Patience

The need for patience with children is not unique to the older adopted child. However, because they have not been taught from birth to honor their parents and to respect others, the offenses they give may be more painful and more numerous than a child raised from birth.

The good news is that with patience and the work of the Holy Spirit, we can teach even these kids to honor their parents, obey God and be pleasing to him. In the process, God can use the refining fire of their dishonor and offense to make us more like Christ.

1.     Wait on the Lord’s Timing

Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret–it only causes harm.
For evildoers shall be cut off;
But those who wait on the LORD,
They shall inherit the earth. Psalms 37:7-9 (NKJV)

When the Bible speak of patience, it has several aspects. The first aspect to consider is that of waiting on the Lord. The Bible teaches clearly that God is sovereign over all the affairs of men. Yes this includes your rude or disobedient child! We need to not lose sight of the fact that God is using us to instruct them in His ways and, we hope, bring them to a saving knowledge of Christ. At the same time He is using them to conform us into the image of Christ through whatever difficulties they bring into our lives. We need to keep in mind that He is not just working on them through us, but He is working on us through them at the same time.

When we encounter difficulties with a child that seem to go on for a long time, it is important to ask what God is doing in this process. Clearly He has a plan and that plan will not be thwarted. We need to look for what lessons He is trying to teach our child and then cooperate by being one of the means by which He brings about change. If things are not going according to our schedule, it means that He has more lessons for our child to learn.

We also need to consider that perhaps the child is ready to move on to the next stage. However, God may still have things to teach us! Maybe, it is not the child that is being slow to learn – it may be us. Of course, patience cannot be taught quickly. If you are like me, you would order a book on patience and have it sent over night express! However, James 1:3 tells us that the testing of our faith produces patience. How long the test takes is most likely based on how much patience we need. We need to wait on the Lord. This is where patience truly comes from.

One place where we can get off track when waiting on the Lord is to start looking at “the wicked man.” That is to say we need to not judge our circumstances on how God is dealing with others. This is a common pitfall with adoptive parents. They look at other children of the same age and think something is wrong, because their children are not like the other ones they see. This can be particularly harmful to an adoptive child when they are compared to a biological child. The biological child may have had every advantage of a good Christian home, and to compare them to a child who was abandoned at birth and spent their first ten years in an orphanage is cruel at best.

To counter this, we need to keep in mind that God has a unique plan for each child. The timing for events is as unique as the child is unique. Even with biological children we cannot set a schedule of maturity and expect them to follow it. All children are different with varying strengths and weaknesses. When you add in all the difficulties these children have seen, the delays they have experienced academically and otherwise, to expect them to progress on the “normal” schedule can even reach the level of cruelty.

We need to wait on God’s timing and take each child as they are. We need to be patient with them, encouraging them to achieve where they are able and being patient with them where they struggle. God is patient with our infirmities, even with our willful disobedience. We ought to be likewise to our children.

2.     Longsuffering

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; … bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13 4,7 (NKJV)

Another aspect of biblical patience is the idea of longsuffering. We need to consider that longsuffering implies more than suffering through long extended trials. It also means suffering through all of the little trials that go on day to day.

Many of these children will have some very deeply ingrained habits. Some will be cultural in nature. One culture may think something repulsive that others consider ordinary. For instance, some Arabic cultures consider it the height of rudeness to show someone the soles of their feet. Can you imagine a child coming from our culture into theirs? They would constantly be rude by showing the bottoms of their feet.  However, they would have no concept that this was in any way wrong.

Many of these children have had little interaction with adults. They simply do not know how to respond. One child we have dealt with argued with adults constantly. She was very bright and thought she was always right. Though this is common in many children at one age or another, proper parenting will soon teach them that there is a right and a wrong way to point out to an adult that they may be wrong. As you can imagine a child like this can seem very rude to an adult. They can be a test to a parent who expects them to “honor their father and mother.” Certainly we must teach and correct them in this regard. However, in the mean time, we need to be the model of loving patience.

You need to be prepared to endure such behavior for some time. It may be an ingrained habit and take a long time to train out of them. It may also not be the most important thing to work on at one particular time. Thus, you may have to suffer through this “rudeness” for longer than you care to. This is an area where we may have to let love cover the offense, even though this apparent disrespect can be a real irritant for some parents.

3.     Denial of Self on Behalf of Another

We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:1-5 (NKJV)

The difficult part of patience is that we must give up on our own desires for the better of another. We must give up our schedule, we must give up our pride, and we must sacrifice our own desires and wait for God to work in someone else’s life. This is at the heart of patience, and the hardest for us to achieve.

In order to do this we must examine our own hearts, looking for idols of the heart. We must look for those idols of the heart that keep us from waiting on God and seeking the best for others. For some parents, the idol may be that they want to be in control rather than God. For others it may be that they are such man pleasers that they cannot tolerate a child who is not ideal for fear that others will think ill of them. Yet, for others it is pride that is offended by the disrespect of a child.

Of course the first step with dealing with such idols is to recognize them. Having recognized them we need to seek God’s face and repent of them, asking for help in overcoming them. If we have lost patience with the child, we must seek their forgiveness. Likewise we must learn to grant them biblical forgiveness, often letting love cover the sin while we work on their sins in other areas.

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