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Volume 15, Issue 1: Virga

Boot Camp

Matt Whitling

Bodies were scattered across the front yard: lifeless, prostrate, and still, with unflickering eyes gazing heavenward. A passing jogger slowed his worried pace to view this unnatural and tragic landscape. "Yes, Sir!" and instantaneously the five masquerading corpses exploded from the moist grass and sprinted toward the nearest tree. Each tree grabbed an extended arm and flung its partner back toward the front porch. The blur of feet sang a hurried tune of delight free from the prior appearance of morbidity. "Yes, Sir!" Now face down, the life had fled at the flipping of a switch. Confused starlings bolted for safer and more predictable hunting grounds, bothered more by the silence than the common activity. On and on ran this delirious sobriety, back and forth the dance of wild orchestration. Now sprawled dead amidst blooming dandelions, next crawling backwards on all fours with such vigor and human intensity that life itself seemed dependant upon the speedy return to the front porch. Puzzled, the jogger fled after the birds and for much the same reason.

Faithful discipline is primarily an exercise in imitation. Fathers are not called to invent or follow any new theory of child-training. Instead fathers are to copy what they see in the first person of the Godhead. One often overlooked element in raising children is the aspect of training. In I Corinthians 10:13 we find, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it." One way that our Father provides a way of escape for His people is through training them. God does this in many ways, and it will take more than one article to investigate the different facets of His training, but we will start by discussing the way that God uses hypothetical situations to prepare His children.
In Deuteronomy 13 we find God preparing the children of Israel for obedience in the promised land. God equips them hypothetically, "If there arise among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder . . . Thou shalt not harken unto the words of the prophet . . . If thy brother the son of thy mother, or thy son . . . entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods . . .Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor harken unto him: neither shall thy eye pity him . . . If thou shalt hear say in one of thy cities. . . let us go and serve other gods. . . . Then shalt thou enquire, and make search. . ." In each of these situations we find God preparing a way of escape for His people through "if. . . then" scenarios. These temptations have not arisen, but God is nevertheless training Israel how to respond once they do.
We see a similar preparation when Solomon trains his son in Proverbs 1: "My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood . . . My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path . . ." Solomon's son is not facing this temptation presently; it is a hypothetical situation. In this we see a father preparing his son for a temptation that he knows will be coming sooner or later.
One way to provide this hypothetical training is to have your kids practice obedience. If you want your son to obey your commands immediately and respectfully, it is a good idea to have him practice that obedience in a controlled setting before he faces real temptations outside your control. The most delightful way our family has found to do this is through playing what we affectionately call the Obedience Game.
The Obedience Game starts on the front porch, weather permitting, where Mama and Papa can view and preside over the activities from comfortable chairs. The children line up on the steps just off the grass, waiting for instructions. A quiver of excitement runs through the air as some of the older boys attempt to stretch and warm up. The younger siblings have tried to half-heartedly imitate some of these strange positions, but the purpose is far lost on them and anyway, Papa never does it. The rules of the game are as follows: (1) The game starts when Papa gives the first command. (2) Immediately after the command each participant must respond with, "Yes, sir" and then obey right away. (3) Papa is free to interrupt any action with a new command at any time (i.e. f the original command was to run and touch the tree, it is fair game to introduce a new command "drop on your face" when the contestants are only half way there). (4) Each command must be obeyed continuously until a new command has been given (i.e. you must stay on your face until you hear, "Bear-crawl backward to the porch!").
In this way we run the kids around the yard for a few minutes practicing immediate respectful obedience, and they think we're just playing a game, which of course is truer than most of us adults realize. One of our goals is to train our kids how to respond faithfully to their parents: hear the voice of your father, respond respectfully, and obey immediately, completely, and cheerfully. Of course, life is integrated—everything connects—and therefore, the lessons that our children are learning about obedience to their father will apply increasingly as they come to realize more and more who their Father is.

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