[This is the second half of a two-part article. You can read the earlier post here.]
Charlotte and Danny on parenting
Having the privilege of parenting four sons was one of the great blessings of our life. Often we were flying by the seat of our pants doing the best we knew how but not certain it was. We visited numerous emergency rooms and had our assortment of broken bones, but it was a wonderful experience and we would not exchange it for anything. Several principles and precepts of Scripture influenced our style of parenting. While this list is certainly not exhaustive, it summarizes what guided us as we sought to develop godly sons who would love Jesus and live for Him.
First, we always tried to see life from their perspective. God entered our world through His Son (John 1:14; Philippians 2:6-8) and showed us He loved us, and so we tried to get into the world of our sons as well. I call this “incarnational parenting.” We tried to weigh their age, maturity, interest and challenges, and gain their viewpoint about what was going on. Doing this is easier said than done, but it is essential nevertheless.
Second, we have worked at being good partners. Good partners almost always make good parents because seeing mom and dad love each other 1) brings security into the world of the children and 2) it models for them a healthy marriage.
Third, we disciplined them. In our family we tried to provide a big playing field not a small one. Why? Because kids are kids and, if the box is too small they will break the rules constantly and you will probably not be consistent in your discipline. We always told our boys they would establish the size of the playing field. If they were faithful, truthful and trustworthy, the playing field got bigger and bigger. If they were unfaithful, untruthful and untrustworthy, the playing field got smaller. We also adjusted the way we disciplined as they grew older. We believed spanking, in moderation and always under control, is both biblical and effective when the children are small (e.g. Proverbs 29:15). However, as they grow older, unless the situation is extreme and exceptional, the rebuke and restriction is a more effective way to mold and shape their character and behavior.
Fourth, we tried to love them with our eyes and tongue (see Proverbs 20:12; James 1:19). We have come to understand the power of both. With a look of the eye we can build up or tear down, communicate love or contempt. Words, of course, are powerful weapons. They can bless or curse. Parents will often say things to their child that they would never say to a stranger and seldom to a dog. We all fail far too often in this area, and it is something we must constantly work at.
Fifth, we learned that love is a beautiful four-letter word. It is sometimes best spelled T.I.M.E. When the boys were small, Danny traveled much less. As the boys got older he was in the churches more often. We missed him when he is away, but we were glad to share him with others. Still, he worked hard at being at important events in the life of the boys. He put football and basketball games on his calendar at the earliest possible date, and he was faithful to not let anything replace them. When Nathan and Jonathan were seniors in high school, the four boys together played more than 70 basketball games! We saw almost all of them, and our boys more than once told us how much it meant to them.
Sixth, we made it a habit to hold, hug and kiss them. “Love touching” took different shapes and forms through the years, but it has always been a healthy and vital part of our family life.
Seventh, we tried to make life and our home fun. Indeed, making our house a fun house, a place where the boys would be glad to bring their friends was always a top priority.
Eighth, we tried at appropriate times and in appropriate ways to push them out of the nest and let them develop their own wings. After all, we knew that one day it would be just them and the Lord.
Ninth, we invoked seven magical words in English whenever it is needed: “I am sorry (or “I was wrong). Will you forgive me?” We are not perfect and our boys know it. Why lie about it and lose their respect? When you blow it admit it and ask their forgiveness. This is a sure way to raise the respect factor.
Finally, we prayed for their salvation and continually talked to them about Jesus and the things of God. In His mercy and goodness, God has saved all four of our sons. Today each is involved in or preparing for ministry. Nothing this side of heaven has meant more to us as parents.
Putting leadership in the home to the test
In December, 1995, Al Mohler contacted us about the possibility of coming to Southern Seminary as Academic Vice-President and Dean of the School of Theology. Well, this came out of nowhere and was quite a surprise. We were extremely happy at Southeastern Seminary where we had served since 1992. Danny had been working alongside Paige Patterson, his father in the ministry, since 1988, and really never thought of ever being anywhere else. Furthermore, we had only been in a new house, which we had built, for just over a year! Well, Danny traveled to Louisville, met with Al (and also his better part, Mary and the kids!) and it seemed that God was in this. We both remember a Sunday night phone call from Louisville back to Wake Forest. Charlotte somewhat playfully (!) said if things had gone well with Al she really did not want to hear about it. Danny responded by saying, “Well, I guess we don’t have much to talk about then.” God, to Danny’s great surprise, knit his and Al’s heart together almost immediately. What were we to do? And, what about the kids?
Both of us have noticed through the years that some sad and unhappy families sometimes show up at seminary. God has called Dad and we must go, end (actually it never began) of discussion. To even raise a question would be a clear evidence of sin and rebellion against God. So, off they go, confused, hurt, whatever. This is not godly leadership in our judgement.
As the God designated leader of our home, I (Danny) believe I am to lead not drive. Furthermore, I think there is great wisdom for every husband and father found in Proverbs 12:15, “a wise man is he who listens to counsel” and in Proverbs 11:14, “but in abundance of counselors there is victory.” As a husband I have always sought Charlotte’s counsel, her perspective. We have always made “we decisions” in our marriage, and also in our family. Big decisions like moving from Wake Forest, N.C. to Louisville, KY (and then back to Wake Forest in 2004!) should not be made dictatorially, autocratically or solo. I was sure God was leading us to a new assignment, but Charlotte and the boys needed to know and believe that too. For several weeks Charlotte and I talked, and often, about this decision. We prayed together and individually. Because of the many lessons God had taught us and His consistent faithfulness, we were united on one thing: find and obey the will of God. In January 1996, we took a trip to Louisville to visit and it was then that God made it crystal clear to both of us: Louisville is to be our new home. I again want to emphasize, this joint decision was reached over several weeks not several days, and it was one in which I allowed God to work in Charlotte’s heart without forcing the issue.
Now we turned our attention to the boys. When they first heard that we might be moving they were not thrilled. They loved Wake Forest. All of their friends were there and they were at an age where a move was not on their radar screens. Again, I did not push and neither did Charlotte. We prayed and we talked with the boys individually and together and usually in a casual kind of context. For us that has always worked best and fits my style of managing one’s own household (1 Timothy 3:4). After a couple of months had passed, I remember we were riding in our van somewhere when, I believe it was Jonathan said, “Dad, we’ve (the boys) been talking about moving to Louisville and we’ve decided if that is God’s will then that is what we should do. We’re not real excited about it, but if this is what God is telling you to do then He will take care of all of us and we’ll be fine too.” As a father, I cannot tell you what that meant to me; that my sons had that much confidence and trust in God, and also in their dad. I must confess that this approach to leadership was foreign to me earlier in our marriage. Like far too many Christian men, I misunderstood the Bible, believing that leading meant barking out orders and giving commands. This “my way or the highway” mentality was not only unChristlike, it was sinful, hurtful and ineffective. To lead you must set an example worth following. To lead as a Christian you need to follow the example of Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1).
We have come a long way in our marriage and family. We have both matured in our roles as husband/father/granddaddy and wife/mother/grandmother. We have not arrived nor do we expect to this side of heaven. That will not, however, keep us from pressing on ” ’til death do us part” or Jesus comes again. Godly leaders keep their word. By God’s grace we intend to keep ours.