|Part 3 Gods Plan for Raising Children
Session 5 Responding to Our Children as They Mature
In the book of Ruth are some important lessons on how to help our children as they get older. Of course Ruth was an adult, but many of these same ideas can be applied to parents of children as they are growing up. Naomi had come with her husband Elimelech and her two sons to the country of Moab. This occurred during a time of famine in Israel. Her husband died and her two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, married Moabite women. Ten years later her two sons also died and Naomi was left destitute and without means of support. She heard that the harvest was good back home in Bethlehem of Judah, so she determined to return to her home a sad and discouraged woman.
7 Therefore she went out from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah.
8 And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go, return each to her mothers house. The Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me."
9 "The Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband." Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.
vs 7-9 Was it to Naomis benefit for her daughters-in-law to continue the journey with her? Whose benefit was she looking after? How do you look after the best interests of your children?
We learn a great deal of the kind of person Naomi was from these verses. The first thing we see is she cares for the welfare of her daughters-in-law more than for herself. It would be to her benefit to have younger people with her as she makes this long journey home, and as she will have to figure out how to survive without any economic means of support. But she doesnt consider her own feelings. She only is looking out for whats best for Orpah and Ruth.
As our children mature, we need to learn to be selfless. We may still want to have family times together, but we need to consider our childrens priorities. We need to be sensitive to our childrens schedules when planning family activities. It may not seem to us that our childrens scheduled visit with a friend is that important, but to them it is. Naomi cared for Ruth and Orpah so much that she was willing to suffer her own discomfort that they might have better lives.
10 And they said to her, "Surely we will return with you to your people."
11 But Naomi said, "Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?
vs 10-11 Why would the daughters-in-law want to follow Naomi? What kind of "reality check" is Naomi giving to her daughters-in-law? How do we sometimes have to give our children a "reality check"?
In verse 11 we see Naomi insisting that they stay behind with their family. She knew what was best for them, and she was not going to be dissuaded from her decision. As parents, do we only make a feeble attempt at doing whats best for our children, and then are easily talked out of it? Or do we insist on only the very best for them, no matter how much it may hurt or inconvenience us?
Naomi stood her ground. There are times when we are dealing with our children, and we have to stand firm. We cannot give in to their pleadings. We know from experience the best thing to do. Our children have not learned the hard lessons that we have had to learn. So there will be times when they will not understand, but we must be resolute and not give in.
Naomi reinforced her lesson by giving her daughters-in-law an economic reality check. If they went with her, they would probably remain widows, and live in poverty. I believe its good for us sometimes to let our children know the consequences of their actions in economic terms. They need to realize that if they dont do a good job in school, they may not earn enough money to get that sports car theyd like!
14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
15 And she said, "Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law."
vs 14-15 What does verse 14 tell us about the kind of person Naomi had been to Ruth? Why is it important that we show love to our children?
We see that neither daughter-in-law wanted to leave Naomi. Naomi had freed them from any family obligation they might have felt, but notice verse 9 tells us, "they lifted up their voices and wept." And then in verse 10 they started arguing with her. They genuinely did not want to leave Naomi. Naomi must have treated them with love and concern as if they were her own children. They cared about Naomi. They didnt want to leave her alone to fend for herself. Naomi had probably not only been a mother to them, but also a friend. She cared for them and they knew it.
We need to let our children know that we love them and that we are proud of them. The hardest thing for me to learn to do was to tell my sons that I love them. When they were little it was OK since I understood they needed to know that I cared for them. But as they grew up, I realized that I had stopped doing it. Our children, no matter how old they get, need to know that we still care for them, and that we are proud of what they have become. The only way for them to truly know this is for us to say the words. Naomi had obviously shown her love to her two daughters-in-law. Now they returned that love.
16 But Ruth said: "Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.
17 Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me."
18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her.
vs 16-18 Why did Naomi cease arguing with Ruth? When is it good for us to stop arguing? How will this help our children?
Orpah returned to her home, but Ruth was the stubborn child. She insisted on going. Notice that verse 18 tells us that when Naomi saw that Ruth was determined, she said no more. This is hard for parents to do to say no more. We want to treat our children as if they were still 10 years old. So we keep on harping at them. When they were younger, they had to listen to us and obey us. But now they are old enough to make their own decisions. Some of their choices will be bad. But we must learn when to say no more, when its time to back off and treat them as if they are young adults even when they may still be acting like children.
I believe this is one of the hardest things for parents to do. In our minds, our children are still acting like children. But in their minds, they are acting like mature adults. If we always treat them as if they are immature and irresponsible, they are going to build up resentment against us. We must learn to back off and assume that they will be capable of making the right decisions on their own without our help.
Naomi knew when it was time to say no more. Do we know when its time to say no more, or do we keep on nagging until were blue in the face? We need to learn restraint. Our children may indeed be acting as if they are still ten years old, but we need to show them the respect as if they are becoming a mature adult.
Naomi and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem. Naomi is so discouraged that she tells her old friends and relatives to not even call her Naomi, but rather call her Bitterness because of all the bad things that have happened to her.
1 There was a relative of Naomis husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech; his name was Boaz.
2 So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, "Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor." And she said to her, "Go, my daughter."
Do you think it would be hard for Naomi to let Ruth go out on her own? When is it important for us to let go of our children?
Ruth was all that Naomi had. Ruth decided to take on the responsibility of helping out both of them. It may have been difficult for Naomi to let Ruth go. From Boaz instruction to his workers it seems there may have been some danger for a young woman to be alone in the fields. But Ruths desire to provide food for the table overcame any fear of danger she might have to face. Ruth was responding in a mature and responsible way to help herself and Naomi. Sometimes our children may be doing something that we are concerned about. But we have to be willing to let them go. I remember when my son got his drivers license, I limited the distance he could drive from home so he could gain driving experience in stages. He could only drive locally for a few months, and then only an hours drive away for a few months. But then the time came when he wanted to go further. I realized it was time to let go of these restrictions, but still as a parent you worry for your childrens safety. But if we never let our children accept responsibility, they will never mature into the kind of young person God wants them to be.
1 Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, "My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?
2 "Now Boaz, whose young women you were with, is he not our relative? In fact, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor.
vs 1-2 How does Naomi appeal to Ruth so she will listen to her? How can we appeal to what our children want?
Naomi appeals to Ruth by voicing her concern for Ruths security. This is probably something Ruth would be interested in also. We can help our children greatly if we can appeal to their desires and wishes instead of just our own. For example, our teenaged children may not want to clean their room just to make their parents happy, but they may want to do it so their friends wont think poorly of them. I believe its important for parents to be concerned with whats important for their children. It is too easy to dismiss what our children want as silly or unimportant. But it is not unimportant to them.
3 "Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.
4 "Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do."
5 And she said to her, "All that you say to me I will do."
vs 3-5 Naomi was helping Ruth from her knowledge of the customs of Israel. How can we help our children from our experience?
You may think this sounds strange. MacDonald comments, "This may seem very irregular to us in our culture, but actually it was the accepted practice in that day and there was nothing evil or suggestive about it."
Naomi is instructing Ruth in an important custom of Israel. The process she describes is the accepted form to ask a close kinsman for protection. If he grants her request, he will become her protector and purchase back the family plot of land that Elimelech sold when they left for Moab.
This is one of the most important things a parent can do for their children help them through the mazes of life. Due to our own experience, we better understand the complexities of finance, business procedures, government red tape, and even spiritual pitfalls. Naomi did not tell Ruth these things beforehand. She waited for the appropriate time. She knew Ruths heart, and from the abundance of Boazs help, she sensed he would be willing to become involved with their plight.
She stepped in, not to force Ruth into doing something distasteful; but rather to help Ruth achieve what she really wanted in her heart. If we can learn to be silent when our children are not ready for our advice, and then be quick to help when they are ready for our assistance, we can be a great help and blessing to our children as they grow up.
18 Then she said, "Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out; for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day."
What do you think would be Ruths natural inclination on this day? How would Naomis words help Ruth to settle down? How do you get your children to not be nervous or anxious over something?
What a beautiful example of how a Mother can help her children. Young adults always want to be doing something to make things happen, but there are times when they just need to wait for God to work out his will in their lives. Naomi could sense in the actions of Boaz what Ruth did not see: Boaz had fallen in love with Ruth. Naomi assures her daughter-in-law and gives her wise advice.
Sometimes when our children are excited about something thats occurring in their lives and are impatient to make it happen, we can come along side them and help them to learn to wait on the Lord. There will be times when we will see things in their lives that they cannot see. Its at those times when we can give them wise advice which will help them through those emotional roller-coaster times of their lives.
This study on Gods Plan for Raising Children © 1999 by David Humpal. All rights reserved.
All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the New King James Version © 1984, Thomas Nelson Publishers
MacDonald: Believers Bible Commentary, Old Testament volume, pg. 291, © 1992, Thomas Nelson, Publishers