Repetition. It’s how we learn. It’s how we grow and build habits. From the time we are born we start trying things over and over again. Beginning with trying to grab something to getting on our hands and knees then learning to crawl, then walk, then run we try things over and over until we get it right.
We repeat the alphabet, often in song, over and over until it’s memorized. We chant the times tables over and over until they become a part of us. (Do they still do that in school?) We are told/taught over and over how to do chores around the house until we have our own place to live. And then we begin the whole process over again with our own children. Telling them time and time again to stop biting, stop hitting your sister, pick up your toys when you are finished with them, rinse your dish please….
When we begin giving our children rules to live by there are almost never arbitrary reasons for those rules. Pick up the legos off the floor is so that we can know where to find them again and also because they hurt like crazy when you step on them. Clean your room isn’t because you purely like a clean house, it’s so that if there’s an emergency I can get to the bed and rescue the kid without falling over the piles and it also keeps the mice in the walls and the attic where they belong.
Our children don’t learn to follow the rules when you just say them one time. They need to have the rules repeated over and over. There are consequences for not following the rules. Sometimes those are natural consequences and sometimes they are imposed by the parents in order to teach a lesson about the importance of following the rules.
We begin with simple things when our children are tiny. Don’t crawl on the table – because you’ll fall off the other side. Don’t climb the bookshelf – because a) it might fall b) you might fall c) the stuff at the top isn’t for you. Don’t touch the stove – because it’s hot.
As the kids grow the rules can sometimes become more complicated or more difficult to understand why it’s a rule. Sometimes even as parents we have rules for our children because we know it’s for a good reason but we have a hard time articulating that reason beyond, “Because I said so.” Sometimes this doesn’t feel like a good reason but sometimes it has to be for the sake of obedience/respect for the parent.
Often as we grow and are obedient to the rules our parents set there are benefits that come by earning that trust. The benefits are more than just not getting in a car crash or not getting into serious trouble with our friends. The benefits are that we have more freedom to make choices. We can take a day off of school to do something fun because we have worked really hard on our homework and so missing one day won’t set us back terribly. We can pick up our friends on the weekend to go to a movie or a party because we haven’t crashed the car and we have come home on time for curfew.
As I’ve thought about all of these things I’ve recognized how our little families here are just a place for practicing for eternity. We learn to set rules and lovingly correct our children. We learn that it is important for them to feel the consequences of their actions whether they are positive or negative. We learn as families to get along with other people and begin to understand how true charity (the pure love of Christ) works and can be applied in different situations. We begin to understand that as we have set rules that might be difficult for our kids to understand the reasons behind that perhaps our Father in Heaven also has good reasons for setting the boundaries He has set.
Sometimes our children can’t imagine what harm could come from doing something you’ve asked them not to do but because of your age, wisdom and experience you can see the possible outcome, hurt and even heartbreak that can come from certain behaviors. Even though it may be hard to describe these consequences to someone who hasn’t experienced it you hope that your children will follow and be obedient.
So let’s come at this a different way. Rather than thinking about all of the danger that we are avoiding let’s look at the advantages that we can bring to our lives. The beautiful thing is that there are so many blessings that come from staying on the covenant path and following the example that Jesus Christ set for us. I think some great things to concentrate on while on that path is not what you may feel you are missing out on but instead to look at the abundance of blessings flowing into your life because you have put yourself in a place to receive those blessings.
Let me give a small little benign example from my own life. Last night we went to senior awards night for local scholarships so that Maggie could receive an award. Ryan did not want to go along. The obvious point of him going along was to support his sister and cheer for her in her success. That’s service. After the awards were over, Maggie asked if we could get ice cream and so we did. Ryan did not get ice cream because he wasn’t there. He didn’t put himself in a position to receive the ice cream blessing. Did he realize what he missed out on by not going? Nope. He has no idea. Would he have had more fun and joy if he had been there? yep.
Blessings are often like that. I wonder how often we decide to not do something because we’re busy or it’s inconvenient or we just don’t feel like it and there is some kind of great blessing waiting for us if we show up. Our life isn’t worse because we didn’t do the thing but we didn’t get the opportunity to improve it because we didn’t put our self in a position to receive the blessing.
I wonder if this is making any sense to you.
Hopefully as we develop a deeper love for our Savior, follow the rules the Lord has set for us, and remain on the covenant path we begin to see the benefit of those rules and guidelines in our lives.
In October 1977 General Conference, Elder Delbert Stapley said:
Keeping the commandments of God is not a difficult burden when we do it out of love of Him who has so graciously blessed us. The Savior has implored us to “take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:29–30.)
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