Be wise, my son, and bring joy to my heart; then I can answer anyone who treats me with contempt. Proverbs 27, verse 11.
For a long time I’ve said that I thought the greatest compliment a child can give their parents is to become independent. It’s a testament to the blessings of God’s grace and the talents of parents if children move out into the world and become independent people capable of successfully living on their own. With two of three kids now launched, I saw no reason to think otherwise. After reading this verse, though, I think I now believe that the greatest compliment a child can give here to their parents is to be wise in the love of the Almighty, because that brings joy to my heart.
It really does, you know. I love my three kids. I’m the guy who wasn’t ready to have kids 20 years ago, the young man who was wrapped up in himself and what I wanted who didn’t recognize the miracles set before him. A stupid young man is what I was, and though I have always loved them unconditionally, I didn’t fully appreciate my kids.
The older they get the more joyous I feel when I see real wisdom in their choices and lives. I feel joy when I see my son standing up and taking punishment for serious things that have happened to him, only some of which were his doing. I feel joy when I see my daughter struggling to find her way, pay her bills, discover who she is and say no to the temptations of being young and available and to do so testing the boundaries of the wisdom she knows deep inside to be true. I feel joy when I see my other daughter working hard, finding her voice, learning to stand up for herself and become someone. I feel joy when I see my son-in-law becoming a mighty man of God, the kind of man you are honored to know and even more honored to welcome into your family. They bring joy to my heart as I watch them learning about God, wrestling with belief in a hard old world. I feel joy when I see evidence of abiding faith, even though it’s sometimes fleeting, because I know it took root where it matters most.
Because of that joy, because of their wisdom, I can answer anyone. No weapon formed against me shall prosper; good words that I’ve been hearing a lot and contemplating a lot lately. One of my friends emphatically states this as her mantra and she powerfully means it! They are true words and this verse is a way of emphasizing them. I can answer anyone who treats me with contempt, from the churchgoing wife who looks down on me because I was a cheater to the ex-friends who hold my sins against me while refusing to acknowledge their own. From the hypocrite who talks smack and gossip to the person who slays you with a smile, nothing they say or do can matter because no weapon formed against me shall prosper. Nobody treating me with contempt will get far because I have joy, God’s joy exemplified in my family, living in my heart.
That’s a powerful thought; it really is. It’s more than just Schuller’s smarmy power of positive thinking. It is something tangible, real and gently superb that contains the force of a nuclear blast coupled with the grace of a kind word. God is telling us in yet another way “my grace is sufficient for you.” He’s saying “I’m always with you” and “don’t ever give up.” Nothing this world can conjure will be able to stand against you with such joy in your heart. If you think about it, doesn’t your day go so much smoother when your mood is better? Doesn’t your outlook become “I can” when you feel “I love” in your heart? Don’t you feel the most confident when you know good people have your six?
There’s no coincidence in that. God doesn’t do luck or chance or coincidences. God does love and grace. The evidence is His word living in your reactions, even in your emotions. Perhaps this is a point where the maxim of “trust your feelings” has merit. Perhaps our confidence comes from the joy because the love we know for others is reason to trust that God is at work in our lives. Because of the love I have from God, I can answer anyone who has ever treated me with contempt. No sauce needed, folks: I really am ten feet tall and bulletproof.
Yes, for most of my adult life, I believed that the best way a kid could show they loved their mom and dad is to go out and make a success of themselves. Don’t get me wrong: I still love that concept, and I still believe it is a great compliment, one that we should strive to inculcate into our kids. After today, though, I’ll remember that watching real wisdom, God’s real love, at work in their lives is better evidence of successful parenting and a far better indicator of the potential for long-term success. With that wisdom, His love, in their hearts, both they and I can’t be defeated by anything this world throws against us. Ditto for all of us, my friends. Ditto for you.