3 Crucial Life Lessons from a Father’s Failure

He fell off his seat backward, broke his neck and died. That’s how life ended for Eli, the high priest.

I’ve read the story of Eli, his corrupt sons, the routing of the Israelites by the enemy Philistines and the capturing of the precious Ark of the Covenant many times.

But today when I read it, it made me cry. For Eli.

Even though this God-appointed priest seems to have started out well, Eli’s forty years in that position did not result in the godly legacy that he might have hoped for.

Failed Fatherhood

Eli’s sons were priests like their father. But the Bible calls them sons of Belial – worthless, good-for-nothings.

They did not know the Lord.

They stole from those who came to offer sacrifices.

They defiled the house of God by laying with the women who served there.

It appeared that they did whatever lustful thing they desired, robbing and abusing the people who came to worship and serve.

How did these rebellious sons get away with their debauchery? Sadly, Eli didn’t hinder them. All he did was warn them that their behavior was deadly, saying,

“If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” (1 Samuel 2:25a).

But those words of warning did nothing to stop them and the Bible tells us why.

“But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for the Lord desired to put them to death.” (1 Samuel 2:25b)

Why did the Lord want to put them to death? It’s likely because Eli and his sons had been dishonoring God and the people for quite some time. Their time to repent was up.

God sent a prophet to rebuke Eli for putting his sons before God and making themselves fat with the choicest of every offering that the people brought to the sanctuary. God tells Eli that his bloodline will be cut off and his legacy ended in disgrace.

A Great Loss

Eli arrived at the end of his long life a weak, overweight, disgraced man. What sent him over the edge to death was the capturing of the Ark of the Covenant.

The enemy Philistines stole the precious presence of God from their midst. There was nothing left. Eli had been caring for the ark for forty years and now it was gone.

Now Eli was ninety-eight years old, and his eyes were set so that he could not see.  The man said to Eli, “I am the one who came from the battle line. Indeed, I escaped from the battle line today.” And he said, “How did things go, my son?” Then the one who brought the news replied, “Israel has fled before the Philistines and there has also been a great slaughter among the people, and your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been taken.” When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell off the seat backward beside the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for he was old and heavy. Thus he judged Israel forty years. (1 Samuel 3:15-18)

Eli failed.

He was gluttonous and greedy.

He raised sons who were lustful and treacherous.

He couldn’t protect the ark of God.

Eli lost.

He lost his opportunity to leave a legacy of holiness and fidelity to God.

He lost his sons who the Lord himself killed.

He lost the most precious object on the planet, the ark, the carrier of the presence of God.

He couldn’t control himself.

There are only a couple of times in the Bible that we read that someone is heavy. This is one of them. Eli ate more than the priest’s share of the offerings that the people brought.

He couldn’t control his sons.

Hophni and Phineas were adults, but they were ungodly priests whose behavior should never have been allowed to go on.

I never used to relate to Eli. I saw him as a man who make huge mistakes and paid for it. I saw him as weak but never anything like me. That has changed.

God’s Mercy in Our Weakness

Now that I’m older, and I’ve raised my two sons into adulthood, I see the story somewhat differently. I can relate to Eli’s mistakes.

Maybe I was too hard on my oldest son when he was a teenager.

Maybe I didn’t require enough of my youngest.

There were times when I lacked self-control and raised my voice.

Did I ever place them above the Lord in my heart?

It amazes me that God gives these tiny helpless humans to parents who are so imperfect. In our 20’s and 30’s we haven’t yet learned so many lessons that would make us better parents.

We still tend to be selfish, impatient and lacking compassion. It’s parenting that helps to mature us, but in the process our kids can get hurt.

It’s painful. The past can’t be changed.

I can ask for forgiveness. I can do things differently now. That’s all good. But I can’t alter the consequences that came from my choices.

My hope and peace come from knowing that God loves and forgives and works all things together for good for those who are called and who love him. (Romans 8:28).

I’m grateful for that promise because I need him to work out a lot!

As hard as it is to see my mistakes, it gives me empathy for people like Eli.

The Bible tells us about folks with less than stellar records on purpose.

We relate to their weakness.

We learn to ask for wisdom in our choices, so we avoid the same mistakes.

3 Life Lessons from Eli

  1. Love and honor God above everyone and everything. Eli and his sons put themselves before God.

Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,’ but now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed. (1 Samuel 2:30)

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)

  1. Don’t wait to turn around. Eli and his sons didn’t turn from their sins.

And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. (1 Samuel 3:13)

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

  1. Develop self-control. Eli and his sons didn’t restrain their lusts.

Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?’ (1 Samuel 2:29)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

There is Hope

Eli, Hophni and Phineas came to a terrible end.

Sadly, there are people all around us that go down the same road. We see it in the news and in our own backyard. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

If we will surrender our hearts to the Lord, he will give us the ability to love and honor him first and above all and not make our children into idols, serving them first.

The Holy Spirit will lovingly convict us of our sin so that we can repent and be set free from the burden and shame. One day at a time.

He will give us the fruit of self-control so that we do not fall into temptation.

There is always hope!

God sees, knows and cares. We can find encouragement in the fact that he will never stop working all things out for our good and for his glory.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. – Jeremiah 29:11-12

 

Hope for Unhappy Stay at Home Moms

You have the greatest job on earth and you know it.

Most days.

Other days, you’d rather just stay in bed and pull the covers over your head, screaming silently (or aloud!), “Leave me alone!!”

But, of course, you don’t stay in bed. Precious little ones are putting their adorable faces right up to yours and saying, “Mommy, I’m hungry” or your infant is crying.

Commitment and instinct rule the day and you drag yourself into the bathroom to start the all-too-familiar routine over again.

You brush your teeth, throw your hair into a pony tail, wash your face, don some jeans and a t-shirt and wonder when you’ll be able to fit in time for a shower. Taking a long, hot shower has become the extent of luxury in your life.

Before you know it, you’ve put in your first load of laundry, fixed a quick breakfast for the kids and now you’re sweeping Cheerios off the floor.

That’s how you begin another exhausting day of meals, cleaning, wiping rear ends and noses.

There is also another battle going on. The one that can’t be seen.

I chose this life.

I know it’s best.

I love my kids.

But…

I’m bored and frustrated.

I feel undervalued and unappreciated.

I feel guilty for taking it out on my kids.

How dare I be down when I’m so blessed?

I don’t want to give up.

I can’t give up.

But how can I continue when I’m so unhappy?

 

Our Challenge

Some days are easier than others. There are plenty of days when our hearts are full, and all is well. But even then, there can linger an underlying sense that we are missing out on something that a job outside the home would give us.

Many stay-at-home moms feel undervalued and unappreciated by society and maybe even by their family and friends.

Those who had a high-paying, prestigious job before deciding to stay home might miss the daily, positive feedback they received. There are no paychecks, glowing annual reviews, raises or Christmas bonuses for a stay-at-home mom.

For others, the unknown can be just as trying. “What if I had a career instead of this. Maybe I need to get out there and make something more of myself.”

There’s little positive feedback. That’s why leaving the home can be so tempting.

The Hidden Issue

I don’t think our choice of vocation or the lack of positive feedback is the real problem. Even moms that our culture applauds for succeeding as “go-out-and-work” moms can feel inadequate, and many do!

The cause of our discontent is not found in what we’re doing.

It’s found in what we think about ourselves while we’re doing it.

Long before we have children and decide to care for them full time at home, we can have an underlying feeling of not being good enough.

This year I’ve been looking at my childhood as I’m working through some negative self-perceptions that I’ve carried around all my life.

My dad was a fun-loving Irishman with a great sense of humor and he loved his family. However, I’m seeing now that he lacked the good communication and parenting skills that would have made me feel valued and important.

When I was four years old, my dad decided that I would no longer go with my mom when she went shopping. He thought I was getting spoiled.

My mom has a memory of me standing on our porch, crying as she drove away. It must have been hard for her, too. But she didn’t argue with my dad. I remember feeling scared, confused and alone.

If my dad had taken me inside and played a game or read a book with me, it might have lessened the sting of rejection. But he was not that type of dad.

So, I was left standing there on the porch believing I’m spoiled (I’m sure I had no idea what that meant), something is wrong with me and whatever was going on, it was all my fault.

Circumstances like this root deep into the minds of children who naturally lack the maturity to process them in a way that prevents those negative perceptions of themselves. They hear:

“I’m bad.”

“Something is wrong with me.”

“I have to be better so that dad will be happy with me.”

Those are the messages that we take with us as we grow up. We keep trying to prove our worth by performing to win approval. We hope it will make us feel better about ourselves.

We finally realize after wearing ourselves out, that no matter how well we perform, it doesn’t seem to take away the sense that we don’t quite cut it.

The Healing

I recently read a book called The Soul of Shame by Curt Thompson, M.D.  It’s full of insight into the areas of the brain, shame, unworthiness and how to heal.

Dr. Thompson explains how our brains are literally wired when we are children in response to the way we are treated. If we’re not validated by the people closest to us, even before we were born, we internalize shame and lack of self-worth.

The great news is that our brains can be rewired by replacing the negative thinking with the positive. It’s simple, but not necessarily easy and won’t happen overnight. However, it’s worth it!

One of the reasons that I love children is because they are naturally unashamed, full of love and free. I want to be that way, don’t you?

There’s hope! We can restore that childlikeness that makes every day an adventure and turns work into play. It’s never too late.

First, start by replacing the destructive recordings in our mind with these truths:

  • I am specially created by God.
  • I am and always have been worthy of love and appreciation just for being me.
  • I am and have always been more than enough.
  • I am a gift to the world.

Next, consider finding a qualified pastor or therapist to help you work through some of the shame and hurt in your life. It can hide just about anywhere and uncovering it can be the start of a life-changing healing process.

Third, consider getting these books to help you on your journey. They helped me and I know they could help you, too.

The Soul of Shame, Curt Thompson, M.D. Rewrite the story of your life and embrace healing and wholeness as you discover and defeat shame’s insidious agenda.

The Anatomy of the Soul, Curt Thompson, M.D.  An amazing journey to discover the surprising pathways for transformation hidden inside your own mind.

Shame Interrupted, Edward T. Welch, PhD. Look at Jesus through the lens of shame and see how the marginalized and worthless are his favorites and become his people. God cares for the shamed. Through Jesus you are covered, adopted, cleansed, and healed.

Healing the Child Within, Charles L. Whitfield, M.D. Healing the Child Within describes how the inner child is lost to trauma and loss, and how by recovering it, we can heal the fear, confusion and unhappiness of adult life.

A Gift to Myself: A Personal Workbook and Guide to Healing the Child Within, Charles L. Whitfield, M.D. Using numerous experiential exercises that the reader can do at their own pace, physician and author Charles Whitfield takes us on a healing journey into our inner and outer life.

Stay-at-home mom, you truly are doing the most important, valuable, impactful vocation there is on earth, no matter what anyone else says.

I wish you well on your journey, dear one, and I’m rooting for you!

Feel free to contact me directly by clicking the Contact tab or leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your stories.

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