“How to Simplify Life: Climbing Trees”

We started a new series at Gateway in Austin called “How to Simplify Life.”

It’s both a parenting series, and it’s a re-parenting series.

We all have a family of origin that affected how we grew up. Understanding what God intends for kids to grow up to discover helps us evaluate the experiences that shaped us. Even as we grow into adulthood, we can enjoy the joys of being children in God’s Kingdom.

Discussion Questions

Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.

Next Steps

Message Video:

Message Notes from John Burke:

Remember being a kid?

Childhood was so simple—your main goal was to explore, try new things, find new adventures, play dress up or make believe, test your new finger painting skills on mom’s new furniture, be a superhero who could fly off the couch. 

There was a wonderful freedom and innocence and joyful, playful, simplicity to life that God intended us to experience as children.

But then life hit, and for many of us adults, we lost that simplicity.

We lost that ability to dream, imagine, create, be playful, try new things, explore, grow.  But were we supposed to lose those things? 

I mean sure, we can’t just act like children play all day (we don’t want to become a Will Ferrell character who never grows up).

We grow up and we have to deal with things like jobs, doing things we don’t like, taking responsibility for our own children—to provide food, shelter, clothing and smartphones—the necessities of life. 

But many times, as adults, we grow up so much we lose what God intended to develop in us as children and keep as adults. 

Jesus’ View on Children

I think that’s why Jesus said this, when parents were bringing their little children to Jesus to bless them, and these kids were being kids—they were yelling and laughing and jumping up on Jesus, tickling and playing, and Jesus disciples were too old for all that unimportant child-like stuff.  So they told the parents, “Hey—get your pesky kids out of here, Jesus is busy—He’s important. He’s the Messiah for goodness sakes, he’s got a world to save, he doesn’t have time for children and their silly games.”  Okay—that’s not exactly what they said, but pretty close. 

But look what Jesus says—very instructive for parenting and for our own emotional/spiritual growth

The disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.14 But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” 15 And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left. Matthew 19:13-15.

Interesting—so children need to grow into adults, yet many of us adults also need to grow up into children again. 

As GK Chesterton said remarking how children can enjoy the simple moments, the little things of life, over and over—in wonder, delight, excitement—he says:

“It may be that [God] has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

-G.K. Chesterton

Children need to grow up into adults, and adults need to grow up to be young again.

That’s what we’re talking about in this series.  God wants life to be simpler than we sometimes make it. And that is true in how you parent if you have kids, but it’s also true in how you continue to grow up emotionally and spiritually as an adult. 

So today we’re talking about Origins—how God intends parents to raise kids, but also, because there are no perfect people, so there are no perfect parents—which means you and I still have some growing up to do. 

Looking at Climbing Our Family Trees, your story and how you were parented in light of what God intended, can help you parenting your children (if you have them), and it can help you see where God wants to re-parent you to be young again – full of the simplicity of wonder, freedom, playfulness of life.

Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people. Luke 2:52.

We all grow in stature, but growth in wisdom and the ability to relate favorably with God and people—that’s not automatic. 

God intends parents to help guide their kids in developing character—if you simplify it down—Character development is your number 1 task Parents. 

Character is wisdom about life, God, yourself, and others. 

Dr. Henry Cloud is a Christian Psychologist, and in his excellent book Raising Great Kids he identifies what Scripture and child development experts define as the essentials of character development.

(By the way, another great book by Henry Cloud is called Boundaries. Jamie is leading a class through Boundaries in Marriage. A healthy marriage absolutely helps your children grow up to have their own healthy marriage. Not a guarantee but a huge help. Go to gatewaychurch.com/restore to sign up before it is filled up).

As I quickly go through these today, evaluate in 2 ways: 

First, how was I developed in these areas—this may give insight into ongoing needs for growth so you can be young-at-heart and free again. 

And if you have kids, or want to one day, think about how to instill this in your children:

Connectedness: You are loved by God and us.

This is the most foundational developmental task of parenting. Child psychologists call it Attachment. It’s the foundation to be able to accept love and express love to others. 

Jesus reiterated “God is love, and to love God and love other people is the core of life’s purpose—Jesus even said the Bible are summed up in these two—Love God and Love People. 

And so God put parents in kids’ lives to help them establish loving connection—how to receive it and give it.

This starts in infancy. As you give you baby loving touch, comfort, as you meet their needs you are creating a bond—an attachment, connectedness. 

A study reported in the Journal of Pediatrics found premature babies who had their back massaged 15 minutes a day gained weight 47% faster than infants fed and cared for but not touched, and those touched developed faster and left the hospital 6 days earlier.

So hugs, rocking, soothing a baby when crying—it’s building a foundation.  And as they grow, responding to need for loving comfort and security or just holding them is doing something.

But maybe as you grew up, you didn’t get this sense of connection–hugs and kisses, comfort and words.  Being told how loved you were, it teaches children about God’s perfect love for them.

If parents used or withheld love, affection, validation if children make a mistake, or misbehave, connection gets tied to performance. If told “You’re worthless” Or when you do wrong, or if love was replaced with abuse—connection to God or others may suffer?  If so, God will reparent you to be young again if you let him.

To internalize that God never withdraws his love.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:8.

God’s love is unconditional, let Him reparent you here.

Well, Once Connection is laid down as a foundation, the other character traits can be instilled.

Are you letting God love you? Care for you? Meet your deepest needs?

Responsibility: You are Responsible

Now at first, children are dependent. Parents are responsible to feed them, clothe them, change their diapers, but you don’t want to be changing diapers in High School, right? 

So it’s a gradual process of teaching children to take responsibility for what’s theirs to own. God’s given every human free will to rule over what is yours—your actions, your thoughts and emotions, your decisions.  

So we teach children “your actions and choices are your responsibility.” 

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a person sows, this he will also reap. Galatians 6:7.

This is an important spiritual law.

  • God’s love is not conditional on our actions or choices, but our choices do have consequences. 
  • I can be fully loved and accepted by God, eternally secure, but if I overindulge in alcohol, I can become addicted. 
  • If I cheat on my taxes, I can go to jail. 
  • God doesn’t save me from the consequences of my poor choices or actions, though he does save me from eternal separation from God’s love.

So as a child grows, parents have to reinforce unconditional love and value, while also allowing lessor consequences of wrong choices to be felt, so that the child learns to be responsible for good choices.

  • At first, it may be a time out to think about what they did wrong.
  • As they’re older, it may be removing privileges as consequences of poor choices.
  • And tell them why—so they’ll start to learn.
  • If children grow up without consequences, they probably will have no self-control.
  • As they grow into teens if parents always bail them out when they do wrong, they’ll end up with increasingly more painful consequences. 
  • So it’s loving to teach the spiritual principle that you do reap what you sow—there are consequences to our choices and actions, so be wise about them.

You’re responsible, but where this can go wrong is if children feel responsible for the actions or feelings of others. 

  • You can have boundaries—you’re not responsible for what others do, feel or think.
  • But many grow up feeling responsible if mom is angry, or dad is depressed, or their parents fight and divorce—and those are all areas God wants to grow us up to be young again. 
  • We aren’t responsible for everything or everyone—just ourselves, in healthy relationship to others. 
  • Did you grow up overly responsible? 
  • Or did you grow up feeling like other’s emotions were your responsibility (our Boundaries class can help).

Let God grow you young again if so.

Competence:  You have gifts and abilities to develop and use to enjoy and to bless.

Parents instill a confidence in kids as they help them see they have unique gifts and abilities—and it’s not in comparison to others—it’s unique. 

And parents help their kids develop their gifts, doing it with them until they can do it.

It instills confidence in kids and teens as you show them they can do it. 

And parents teach the value of work.  My dad instilled a strong work ethic in me.  I didn’t always like it, but I’m grateful for it now. As I grew up into middle school, he would have me do certain chores, help with the yard, and he would reward me with a salary. 

Now there are ways it can go wrong as well. 

Thinking your worth or value is because of your competence or your gifts or abilities—that’s dangerous thinking. 

Some parents spend all their time and energy developing abilities—little league, soccer, dance, school—but neglected spiritual development or emotional development, and gave the message “You are what you’re able to do.” If that’s what you got, let God grow you young again to value your own gifts and abilities, but not overvalue them.

Morality:  You can choose right from wrong.

Making choices requires guidance in our fallen world. What’s right? What’s wrong? Who determines? God gave us 2 things—His moral law in scripture, and he gave us all a conscience.

14 Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. 15 They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. Romans 2:14-15.  

God’s given His word and our internal moral compass.

But you can help develop a child’s conscience or watch it become callous.

Teaching children God’s moral law, but under the framework of love—why it is not loving to lie instead of be honest?

Now, sometimes morality can have a harsh, shaming edge—and that’s not God’s will. Did you get the message “you did bad, so you ARE bad?”

Let God grow you young again.  This is not God’s truth.

At the same time, if you had no sense of moral limits, let God grow you up to truly love by doing unto others as you would want done to you—as Jesus taught. The final character trait is

Humility:  Good and bad can coexist in you and others.

It’s an Imperfect world, with imperfect people—which means we must all stay humble, and give grace to grow, just like God gives us grace to grow.

That is a reality that children must learn to navigate. 

We all have to be able to admit faults, weakness, imperfection or else we grow up to be harsh and demanding—on others or on ourselves.

Or we won’t let God continue to grow us.

So Character is grown with Connection, Responsibility, Competence, Morality, and Humility. Read Raising Amazing Kids, Dr. Henry Cloud for more.

Now—because there are no perfect people, and no perfect parents. 

Genogram

Our family of origin sewed into us ways of living life, some that align with God’s design, some that conflict. 

All parents pass on blessings (good ways of doing life), but also curses (broken ways of doing life). 

And what happens if our parents never grew up emotionally or spiritually into the adults God intended?

Well, then they likely passed that emotionally unhealthy way of doing life on to you.

It’s common to observe patterns from one generation to the next such as divorce, alcoholism, addictive behavior, sexual abuse, poor marriages, anger issues, anxiety, distrust, teen pregnancy, broken relationships, etc.

Scientists and sociologists have recognized these patterns and have debated for decades if this is a result of “nature” (i.e., our DNA) or “nurture” (i.e., our environment).

The Bible doesn’t answer this question. But in giving of the Ten Commandments, God warned us of this reality:

I lay [observe, number] the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands. Exodus 20:4–6

You may say “Why does God do this? God is mean!”

Actually, this is God giving us free will so we can love God and people, but lovingly warning us of the way Reality works with free will. It’s not mean if God says, “I cause people who step off high cliffs to fall and get hurt.”

He “causes” it in the sense that God created Gravity and it’s consequences.

If we don’t respect God’s laws, of nature, or God’s will and ways it hurts us and passes down, but we can change what gets passed down because of free will.

You see this in the Bible. Abraham and Sarah were blessed by God to be a blessing to the whole world—He was called “A Friend of God” and that blessing passed to Isaac their son, to Jacob his grandson, and Joseph (greatgrandson), but there were also family curses/sin patterns that passed down. If you draw what’s called a Genogram of Abraham’s Family to 3-4 generations, you see this.

For instance, Abraham out of fear twice lies about Sarah being his wife (he never turns from it). So His son Isaac inherits this practice of deception and repeats the same thing. Issac’s son Jacob is called “The liar”—deceives everyone. Then Jacob’s sons lie to him about selling their brother to slavery.  Abraham showed favoritism to his son Isaac over Ishmael (favoritism is destructive and not God’s will)… Issac favored Jacob (over Esau—caused sibling hatred), and Jacob favored Joseph which seeded hatred and deception among 12 brothers.  Abraham sleeps with Hagar and has a child hurts his marriage. Isaac has a terrible marriage with Rebecca, and Jacob has 2 wives and 2 mistresses. 

See the pattern?

But that’s not the end of God’s story.  Because with the 4th Generation, Joseph feels the pains of these generational sins and turns to God and stops the lying and becomes a man of integrity, resists sleeping with Potiphar’s wife when she comes on to him, Joseph becomes a blessing to the whole world as Pharoah’s CFO saving lives from famine.  No matter what generational sins and patterns have passed to you, you have a new hope to break those chains and pass on better.

Your Story Matter Workshop in Sept. 2021 – gatewaychurch.com/connect.

The interesting part of this Origin’s work, discovering patterns God wants to change. 

When you’re hurting those you love, God gives you warning signs that something’s not right—you need to pray and ask.

You may need to go back to move forward. 

Jesus said when you know the truth, it will set you free, right? 

But often we stay stuck when lies are buried in our subconscious from our families growing up. 

What messages did you get about your worth or accomplishments growing up?” 

For me, I felt totally built up by my dad and mom.

If I charted it on my Genogram a blessing passed down “Belief, Loved, You can do it.”

My dad really valued work.  Taught me to change the oil in my car. Got a dent in my car, we were going to fix it. “Work Ethic” was a blessing passed down. Then I remembered something else. 

I lived subconsciously afraid of ever measuring up.  That’s why I could never do enough.  Overachiever/overly responsible.

You can be a great parent and still wound your kids who will one day need counseling. (By the way, we could all benefit from counseling).

Even if your kids are older or grown, it’s never too late to let God grow you and heal them of generational patterns.

God put you in your family that you might find Him and bring hope to all who are older than you and all who came after you.

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