Saturday, November 26, 2011

Discipling Boys: Addressing Selfishness

This morning at breakfast I began tweaking our use of prayer jars. Each person now has a personal prayer jar to draw from during corporate prayer, and during private prayer--with the girls receiving one-on-one assistance during their private prayer time.

I wrote out enough prayers to get the children started. They each took a turn dictating.

Peter, just shy of ten, dictated these prayers:

- I pray for more Carolina Wrens and that the starlings will stop fighting.
- That God will provide us each a present.
- Please help us to be able to afford inks (an art supply item).
- I pray that my Grandpas and my Grandma will become Christians.
- I pray that my headaches will go away.
- Please give me more house finches.
- May we have money to visit our sponsor children.
- Please save cousin Chris and give him a godly wife.
- Please help Uncle David's trustee work to go well. I pray for someone to buy his father's house.
- I pray for more chipmunks for Beth and me.

As he dictated, I noticed that most of them focused on himself--other than a prayer for his grandparent's salvation. After several "me" prayers in a row, I suggested, "What needs do other people have?"

Next it was Mary's turn to dictate prayers for her prayer jar. She'll be five in a few weeks:

- I pray that Raphael has a good meal.
- I pray that Stephanie marries a Christian.
- I pray that Peter's ADHD will go away.
- I pray that Divya will have nice meals, no more dirt floors, and an inside kitchen.
- I pray that Mommy's headaches will go away.
- I pray for Peter's OCD to go away.

Next came Paul, age eight:

- I pray that Raphael will have enough food.
- I pray that we can get more Lincoln Logs for Christmas.
- I pray that Peter will have birds.
- I pray that David's father's house will sell in the bad economy.
- May I have a new football.
- I pray that my relatives will know Jesus.

Now, Paul heard me praise Mary for thinking of others first, so after hearing that, he may have curbed the number of "me" prayers he'd originally planned.

I've noticed this same trend when I pray with my husband. I focus outward first; he focuses inward first. Though in his defense, most of his inward prayers involve his family to some extent, such as prayers for his vehicles.

Because men aren't designed as nurturers, I suspect they combat selfishness to a greater extent. A woman's burden is to nurture and serve; a man's is to provide materially (food, shelter, clothing). God gave us an outward focus, and men an inward focus--without which they would struggle to compete and take what they need for their families.

You might call this a big leap on my part, but it's my theory and I'm stickin' to it (to borrow a Collin Ray phrase).

What starts out as selfishness must be channeled in the right direction, so that God's ultimate purpose for a man is realized. We need to help our boys put a check on their selfishness--selfishness with their time, their money, or their possessions. Obviously, not all men are selfish in the same way (some buy a boat or other large "toy" they don't need, while others play golf and spend hours away from their families), but in all cases, loving as Christ loved the church--sacrificially--is a big leap for them. A challenge of a lifetime, in fact.

The other night my husband served the three younger children a small piece of the remaining chocolate cake. Peter would be happy enough with the leftover apple pie, husband surmised.

Unbeknownst to my husband though, Peter had his eyes on that cake all day. He had to listen to Mommy repeat four times, "After dinner."

Finishing his chore project, Peter scurried to the kitchen to fetch his piece of cake. Oh, my. It was ugly, folks.

Instead of expressing disgust at Peter's fit, what did Miss Mary do? She happily gave Peter what was left of her piece of cake--a small piece to begin with. And that girl loves chocolate!

God designed a mother's body to provide for her baby first. Baby's body gets first pick--the nutrients, the calories, the water--through breastmilk. Momma's body absorbs the leftovers (which is not a problem in first-world countries, where people rarely starve).

Miss Mary only did what came naturally--providing for others' needs first.

If giving is so unnatural to our boys--if selfishness is so ingrained--how do we prepare them to love sacrificially? The answer my own life taught me, is this: Thankfulness. A thankful heart is a giving heart.

First, we acknowledge and appreciate what God has given us. We say thank you. Eventually, that appreciation becomes the vehicle for sharing our blessings. Vertical love--Jesus coming down to be the sacrifice--becomes horizontal giving. God flowing through us and then out of us.

I offer the words of Ann Voskamp, who says it best:

And thanksgiving only becomes thanksliving when joy in the blessings given from above — overflows into the blessings given all around.
Thanksgiving only becomes thanksliving when the thanks for His vertical, coming-down grace — is expressed as a horizontal, reaching-out grace.
Thanksgiving only becomes thanksliving — when thanksgiving to God overflows into a joy of giving.
The joy of giving thanks – is ultimately expressed in the joy of giving.
Voskamp quotes taken from this post:

I submit this to you: To raise up sacrificial men, we need to raise thankful boys. God will do the rest. He will take our boy's thanks-giving, and make it thanksliving.

Next in this series, we'll discuss developing a thankful heart in our boys. How do we get there?

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