“Feed My lambs.” John 21:15
As a parent I know I am also called to my feed lambs, or rather, feed the children God has placed in my home. But, over the years I have learned that feeding them is much different from making them eat.
Two years ago we adopted 3 lambs whose mother had died. And, feeding those lambs was by far the toughest part of caring for them. We tried the bottle method, but they will not suck. We tried giving them various forms of nutrition; feed, hay, electrolyte solution, and milk replacer in a bowl, yet their eating was still not as enthusiastic as it should have been. In feeding those lambs I did my part to put food before them so they can make wise choices and fill their need for sustenance. But in the end, it was up to each individual lamb to take what I have given, eat it, and let the food do its work in helping bring nutrition to his/her body.
I feel in the same way, we parents need to feed our children. Our job is to set the lessons before our children, make sure the lessons are hearty (based on truth), and are presented in a way that allows the best digestion and integration into the child’s life – is spiritually nutritious. Our child’s job is then to accept our feeding. But, just as our lambs, our children do not always see the need for eating what we feed them.
In these types of instances I have to admit that force feeding is a rather tempting method to resort to. I know what my child needs, and yet when he/she will not take in what I am offering in love it can be one of the most frustrating life experiences. But, force feeding our children will only lead to enabling because even though instant feeding may go a little way, the drive to consume highly nutritious food from an internal motivation is not at play in the child’s heart.
The painful truth at times is that we need to watch our children starve a bit. Watching, waiting, praying, and letting the hunger develop until the child is ready to take in what is offered. In feeding lambs the starvation is physical and therefore feeding is a little less complicated. For our children, the starvation to build a strong appetite for truth is a little more complicated. Each child is different and so for each child we must trust in God to show us how to bring each child to the point of realization that what you, the parent, are feeding him/her is what will take away those hunger pains.
Do not get down on yourself if your child is not taking in what you are offering. Instead, keep on feeding, trusting in God, relying on His guidance, and staying strong in providing your child what he/she needs to grow strong in the Lord.