Is My Hand in the Cookie Jar?

You may have heard the jokes about preachers’ kids needing to be careful because anything they say can (and will) be used in a sermon illustration. There’s a lot of truth to that, but let me tell you that it also works the other way around. Here’s what I mean: When I’m preaching, I try to be honest about my struggles and the areas of my life in which I need to grow. I believe that’s the right way to communicate to God’s people, but there is a downside.
For example, if I preach on the importance of patience, and then I start whining and complaining when I get stuck behind a driver who travels 10 mph below the speed limit and hits the brakes before using his turn signal, my family can (and will) use my words against me. “Dad, remember how you said you want to be more patient?” Or, “Honey, God is giving you an opportunity to be more patient, just like you were talking about on Sunday.” This is the preacher’s version of getting caught with your hand in the cookie jar, the very jar you just told everyone you wanted to avoid.
In no area of life (at least in my family) has this issue appeared more frequently than in relation to the instructions of Colossians 3:21: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.” A while back, I made the “mistake” of admitting—during a sermon on a Sunday morning—that I struggle with this part of being a dad. I have this tendency to annoy my kids by interrupting them, repeating things over and over, and just generally bugging them beyond any reasonable limits.
The verse in Colossians essentially tells me, the dad, that if I continually find fault with my children, they will become discouraged and feel like they can never please me. I must say that I don’t believe my “exasperating” rises to this level; my kids would say they know I’m very proud of them and that I love being their dad. However, there are some principles in this Bible verse that I need to put into practice more consistently. God wants me to be fair to my kids, to avoid provoking anger in them, and to keep them from becoming discouraged.
As embarrassing, and even irritating, as it is to be called out for my failures, I actually do want to know when I’m bugging my kids too much, to the point that I cause them unnecessary anger or resentment. You may not have to admit your weaknesses and shortcomings as publicly as I do, but I would ask you to consider doing so with your own family. When you not only share your struggles, but you give those who love you permission to keep you accountable, something powerful happens.
What we read in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 applies to our families just as much as it does to our friendships and other relationships:
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. 10 For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. 11 Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? 12 And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.
Troy Burns