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The Big Four for Parents – pt 4 (of 4)

March 8, 2019

Luke says Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man (in Luke 2:52).  I wrote about favor with God last time.  This time I want to talk about “favor with man.”

I think the point of this fourth piece of what Luke describes as how Jesus grew up is that Jesus developed socially.

I wonder how Jesus was as a 12 or 13 year old boy.  Did He have the same awkward feelings I had at that age?  Did His body seem like His enemy, the way it felt to me?  Did girls begin to be attractive?  Was He as squirrely as I was at that age?

I think the answer is yes.  Adolescence is a recent invention, but being 12 or 13 isn’t.  My opinion is that God the Father didn’t shield Jesus the Son from all the things every other 12 or 13 year old boy has to get through.  How else could he be tempted in all the ways we are (Hebrews 4:15)?

My point is that Jesus had to develop in all the ways we do and did.  Including his social skills.

To think about this well, we’ve got to frame it up in the culture Jesus grew up in.  It’s very much NOT like the culture you and I grew up in.  He grew up in villages, not towns, and way not cities.  He grew up in a Jewish culture that was rigidly set in tradition.  The Synagogue was the center of social life.  That would be roughly the same as us making the church the center of social life.  Only more securely the actual center.  It was where corporate worship took place every Saturday.  For boys, it was where education took place.  The text books were what we call the Old Testament, which had been hand-copied onto scrolls that were kept in the Synagogue, and considered the most valued treasure in the community.

In the villages Jesus grew up in, and lived in later in His adult life, everybody knew everything there was to know about everybody else.  Little towns haven’t changed much in that regard with the passing of centuries.

Families generally stayed in one place.  Jesus’ family was a bit of an exception to this rule.  After the visit of the Magi, God told Joseph to take his little family to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod.  When they returned after the death of Herod, they settled in Nazareth.  This would not have been the norm for families.  Generally, families never traveled more than a few miles from their home, except for their annual trip to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.  Often, several generations of family lived in the same house, or at least on the same property.

Jesus would have been apprenticed by his carpenter step-father, Joseph.  He would have learned the craft and trade by daily work in the shop and at the work sites.  The normal course of life would have put the adult Jesus in Joseph’s business.  It would have been an expectation and assumption.

We don’t know at what point  Joseph passed from the picture.  By the time the gospel narrative records Jesus’ adult life, there’s no mention of Joseph.  But when Jesus was 12, and confounding and amazing the teachers of the Law at the Temple, Joseph was there.  There are many reasons to believe that by this time, Jesus would have been working along side him for several years, and would have been formally apprenticed at around 12, about the time of his bar mitzvah.

Jesus was socialized in a very tight and exclusive religious community.  He would have had what we would call a “male-dominated” culture modeled for him.  And according to Matthew 13:55-56, he had a large family with lots of siblings.

If you want to know more about the culture Jesus grew up in, there are lots of great resources out there for this.  But that’s not the point of this blog, even though I’ve waxed long about it.

The point is that one significant part of you and your kids’ development is the social part.  How we learn to relate to other people is huge.  And while much of this happens almost accidentally, there are some things you can do that will help your kid(s) grow and develop in this aspect of their lives.  I’ll offer just a few suggestions.

Believe it or not, I’ll start with teaching them to “be polite.”  Common courtesy isn’t so common these days.  So it has to be taught.  It’s best taught through MODELING.  Opening doors for people.  Saying “please” and “thank you.”  Saying, “yes, sir,” and “yes, ma’am.”  Treating other people the way you want to be treated.  Honoring people when it’s more fun to poke fun at them.  Sharing.  I could make a very long list of these things, but I think you get the picture.  Model these things and look for opportunities to teach them directly.

Here’s another thing.  Give them chances to socialize with people their age.  It’s by far not the most important thing about going to church, but one of the benefits of being part of a healthy church is that your kids will get to be around other kids.  I think one of the smartest things a parent can do is to volunteer in the kids’ or student departments.  This insures that you’ll be there, and it will probably insure that your kids will be there, too.  They need to be socially connected with church kids (who, by the way, are not perfect, so don’t think your kids will only get wonderful things from them…).  Sunday School and Youth Groups are a great way to give your kids a chance to develop socially.

But don’t forget that part of them developing socially is learning how to relate to people older and younger than themselves.  Church gives you a great place to give them experiences with people older than they are.  They’ll take their cue, generally, from how you relate to people older than yourself, so be alert and be smart.

School is another way your kids will be socialized, even if you home school.  Home schoolers usually are part of larger associations and groups that offer opportunities for kids to connect.  These can be natural contexts for your kids to figure out how to relate to other people.

Organized sports teams can offer another venue for this.

I have a caveat on all this, though.  If any one of these becomes the entirety of your kid’s world, it will be hard for them to become a well-rounded individual.  Even if the one social context is church.  Look for ways to help your kids have a dynamic social balance.  This is much easier said than done.

One more thing.  Structure “alone” time for them.  Not days of it, but some intentional time for them to not be busy, and not be connected to all their devices.  Unplugged time for them to let their mind wander.  Time for them to imagine.  Time for them to ponder.  You know, time enough for them to say, “I’m bored!”  I’ve got a pretty extensive body of belief about all this, but I won’t spend the words to flesh it out.  I’ll just say that part of being socially well-adjusted is knowing how to deal with down time.

And then one last thing.  You won’t be able to broker your kid’s social development.  By this I mean you eventually have to be able to step back and let them make most of their own choices.  When they’re young, you’ll pick their play partners.  But it won’t be too long before they begin picking their own play partners.  You have to walk a very delicate line between not being involved enough in this process and being too involved trying to control it.

There are people your kids will not benefit from by being around.  There are unsafe people.  As the parent, you’re responsible to guard your kids from as much of the bad stuff as you can.  But at some point, you have to let them make their own choices, even though there’s a huge part of you that wants to forbid their choice.  Some kids will want the relationships you forbid even more when you forbid them.  Sorry, but it’s a fact.  This doesn’t mean don’t forbid them.  It just means be careful about it.

I wish there was a template for knowing exactly when the point comes to turn these choices over to your kids, but there is no such thing.  Different kids in the same family will have different points for this.  Again, sorry, but it’s a fact.

Bottom line: you’ve got to call down God’s wisdom to walk with your kids through these formative years as they grow in favor with man.  I can’t give you all you need on this.  Nobody but God can.  Take God at His word and call on James 1:5.  If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  Funny how that verse keeps coming up.  Lean into this partnership with God and His grace, and thoughtfully do the best you can.




From → Parenting

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