by Craig & Barbara Smith
From Keystone Magazine
I am getting excited about promoting a concept that the late RJ Rushdoony expressed in “The Biblical Trustee Family” (view it at: http://www.chalcedon.edu/articles/article.php?ArticleID=2794) It is so exciting to read “The Biblical family is the primary force in the fulfillment of the Dominion Mandate and the Great Commission”. The Dominion Mandate is in Genesis 1:26-28 where God gave man the charge to take dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. The Great Commission is at Matthew 28:19-20.
What I would like to do now is show how this has not worked and then how it has worked in our family – living out each day and training up our children in the ways of God in our modern world. Craig and I were both trained up to have difficulties within our family. Craig grew up in a very matriarchal family. His father was never there. He left for work before the children got up, and he arrived home after they were in bed. Craig can remember every conversation he had with his very successful professional father. Craig’s grandmother loved to have a man around her…as a fashion accessory. Craig also watched a lot of TV as he was growing up. I had a strong beginning to my family: no TV, meals around the table, we all loved to help my Dad on the farm. But then at about 12, my parents, wanting to give me the best education they thought possible, sent me off to boarding school. There I began to pull away from my parents’ influence in my life. When I left school at 16, there was no questions about what to do – go to the big city for further training and work and pursue the social life that goes with it. The Lord converted me to Christ at 19. I then got involved with The Navigators, an organisation which was involved in evangelism and personal growth. In this organisation I was being trained for leadership. So my early life I was trained in emotional entanglements (the social life) and to be a leader, to be independent, self sufficient and other strong leadership characteristics which are great in themselves but not helpful to my role as a submissive wife and for building a strong family. (For more on dealing with marriage difficulties, go to http://tinyurl.com/3vnnp7 and look for: Keeping Going When the Going Gets Tough – Parts 1-3.)
Let us jump a few years to when we have four children. What did our family look like? From the outside it looked great. Craig and I were very involved in the community, we had four lovely children, and we were very busy. We were homeschooling the older children: Craig in the mornings and me in the afternoons. We had a family business which we both worked very hard in. We were concerned about socialisation, so I had set up a support group for home educators and had activities every week, sometimes several times a week. The children played sports, and I was often in the car taking children to practices or to games or swimming or field trips, etc. Craig was also setting up a national home education organisation, “ChomeS,” Christian Home Schoolers of New Zealand (later to become the Home Education Foundation) while I was fully involved in the Manawatu Home Educators. Not only that, Craig was on the Executive Committee of a Political Party while I was the Chairperson of a support team to a Fostering Organisation. We also fostered heaps of children, so many we lost count. Two would leave in the morning and then two more would arrive in the evening. We thought, “Isn’t this great? We are really involved in the community doing great work for the Lord.” Not only that, our children belonged to several clubs: Air Training Corps (ATC) where they met one night a week and would also have weekend activities and camps to go to. They would go to Rally one other night a week while Craig and I were out two or three nights a week. What did this look like? Monday night I was out at a fostering meeting; Tuesday Craig out at a Political Meeting; Wednesday was ATC; Thursday was Rally; Friday would have meetings for either Craig or me. During the day the children were having their activities. Saturday was busy with sports, and then on Sunday the children went to Sunday School during the Worship service. We were a busy household, and there was much to keep us apart as a family. Praise God, Craig had a conviction about having meals around the table. So we sat around the table for all our meals. And by God’s grace we didn’t have a TV. So most of our training of the children happened around the Dinner Table, both during family meals and while practising hospitality toward others.
Let’s look at this again in many typical families:
* The children go to school. * Mum or Dad are out 2 or 3 nights a week. * Children have school sports/music/drama/dance practices after school many afternoons. * Children have school sports/music/drama/dance com-petitions/performances on many Saturdays. * Children have social and hobby clubs 1 or 2 nights a week. * Children have homework nearly every night of the week. * Children go to Sunday School during the Sunday Worship Service. * Children go to Rally then Youth Group then Young Adults every year they’re at home. * There are weekend camps to take children away from home several times a year. * Then children want to go on overnight stays every so often.
That is not all. There is the TV, cell phones, computers, MP3 players, playstations, etc., which isolate the children and the parents from the rest of the family. Then if Mum has a job/voluntary work apart from and independent of her husband’s vocation/calling/ministry, the family’s home-focussed kingpin (mum) goes missing, and there is little holding the family together anymore. When do parents get time with their children with a calendar like that? And what quality is the time that they do get? Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Everyone is tired from all their activities. There is very little left of quality time for training children. Quality time comes out of quantity time spent with children. You can’t just bring on quality time. Quality time comes from having a good relationship with our children, from having their hearts. With the programme such as we had (and also the typical programme above), when do parents get the time to train up their children in the way that they should go? There will be things suffering in the family.
When our children are little, they are lovely and sweet. We have the odd rebelliousness, but that is easily dealt with. But let me tell you that as our children grow up, they hide their rebelliousness very well for a number of years. We think our family is sweet; then quite suddenly we have huge problems on our hands, and we don’t know how they arrived or what to do about them. Not only are our children and our marriages affected but also our health. (I have struggled with bad arthritis and other pain for a long time, probably from taking on more than I should have.) So as mothers in the 21st century who constantly have the pressure on them to go out to work, to get involved in the community, to help their husbands in their dominion work and to disciple their children, we need to look at what is realistic. Yes, we can do all those things, and often women can do it all better than men.Often an opportunity comes along (well-paid job, unique ministry opportunity), and we are very tempted to accept it. We can talk to our husbands and present the opportunity very excitingly in such a way that he gives his blessing. While he suspects it will drain her and take her attention away from her home and children, his thinking is that he wants to please her, to let her find some personal fulfilment “just for her,” and that when she does, somehow then she will be happier to concentrate on homemaking, helping him out, training the children in a more refreshed way. This is a lie of Satan, the same kind of deceit he used on Eve (see 1 Timothy 2:14). While we can do most things, and most things all at once, we cannot do everything well and do it all at once. Something will suffer. In our case it was the children, our marriage and my health. What are the most important things to me? Yes, my marriage, my children and my health. So…….Skip ahead 10 years, and we now have eight children; the three oldest have left home, so we have five in the nest at the moment. Our journey to where we are now has not been easy, and we have been misunderstood by many, and we have also had other issues take up a lot of our time like the anti-smacking bill. When Genevieve was 21 and Zach 19, they left for a two-year trip to the States, the first year working for Diana Waring. The second year they began working for Rainbow Resources in Illinois. Meanwhile back in New Zealand, I travelled the country speaking on home schooling with Above Rubies. When they asked me to speak on “Holiness, Righteousness and Purity in Youth,” I was forced to do a lot of study on the subject which led to the compiling of the booklet “Training Children and Youth to Be Pure” (http://hef.org.nz/2007/training-our-children-to-be-pure/). So the Lord was working on Genevieve while she was in the States, and He was working on Craig and I back here in New Zealand. I gave up the leadership of the Manawatu Home Educators (MHE) to help Craig with building up CHomeS and later on with the formation of the Home Education Foundation. We went from part-time voluntary work to being contracted full-time to The Home Education Foundation and being nearly fully supported by donations from home educators. So that meant that Craig’s work load was decreased: he was no longer trying to make an income as well as do all the voluntary work in helping home educators getting started, dealing with the MoE and ERO, putting out a bi-monthly Keystone, a monthly TEACH Bulletin, etc. Next I gave up my roll in the fostering organisation. Giving up this and MHE were two of the best things I have done for my family. I was capable of doing both of these and did a very good job of both, but I could not see at the time how much it robbed me of my family and robbed them me. When I look back now, I can see how it kept me from having good interpersonal relationships with my children. I know some don’t believe this, but we are convinced that no matter what age they are, our children crave a good, very close personal relationship with us their parents. Once this is lost, it is very hard to gain back. Even though our children crave it, they don’t know how to get it from us. All they usually understand is that something is not right. In fact, instead of coming to us to talk about it and draw us out (wise actions of a mature person, not a child), our children will often resort to rebelliousness to gain our attention (more in keeping with a child’s lack of maturity). Then we think that they don’t want to spend a lot of time with us. It becomes a vicious circle.
Genevieve came home from overseas to work for her Dad for no pay instead of going and working for a lawyer. Charmagne also gave up her part time job working as a doctor’s receptionist to come work at home for nothing. Their objective in doing this was to strengthen our family as a unit and to improve interpersonal relationships. We wanted to pursue family values as opposed to individual agendas. Other things we changed: we pulled the children out of ATC. We did’t have the boys playing soccer any more. (It was one of the worst sports dividing our family: practice one night a week then games at different fields and sometimes different towns on a Saturday. Then our boys were not available for the team tournaments on a Sunday. That was always a problem.) Our children don’t go to Youth Group or Youth Camps, kids clubs, Sunday School during the worship service. We don’t watch TV, our children don’t have cell phones, there are no playstations or computers in their rooms, and we screen what the children read and listen to, etc. “Oh, my!” you’ll say. “What do they do?” We love to celebrate birthdays. But we don’t have a lot of the same age children coming to the party. We invite families over. Or we might have a father/son sports afternoon or a high tea party for mothers and daughters. We entertain a lot but love to do that family to family. We will watch a video occasionally as a family. We often read good books out loud in the evening. Our focus is less on entertainment and pleasure and more on edification.
We highly recommend you listen to “Changing the Heart of a Rebel” at this link: http://hef.org.nz/2008/changing-the-heart-of-a-rebel/. You can read this message at this link as well. This talk has helped us to be strong in pulling closer together and not letting things of the world pull our children away from us. We see now that a strong relationship with our children will be more effective in keeping them on the straight and narrow, “the way they should go”. We are able to train them more easily as they are less distracted since we have allowed fewer distractions into our family life. To keep a child from rebelling later in his youth is all about who has the child’s heart. Do you have your child’s heart? The child’s heart can be won by his parents, his music teacher, sports teacher, neighbour, peer group, youth group leader, etc. Children naturally want to have a good relationship with their parents, and when we get too busy for them, they play up to get our attention. The more the children struggle to get our attention, the naughtier the children get. Then it is like a vicious circle. The naughtier the children are, the more the parents think that they can’t come down hard on them. Parents think they will completely lose their children if they come down hard. Sorry, but if that’s how the parents think, it is likely they have already lost them. We have found that children want their parents to come home more and get fully involved with them again (it is hard work). When a mother works away from her family, she may end up reaping rebellious youth later on or marriage or health difficulties. I see now that if I had continued being involved in the MHE and fostering organisations, it could have been very detrimental to our family. Let me be clear: I am not against mothers working. I am against mothers working for another man who is not her husband. I am not against mothers earning an income or doing voluntary work outside of the home…as long as it is part of her husband’s and family’s ministry/calling/business/vision/vocation. I am against mothers striving to please another man or an organisation of which her husband and family are not a part, pouring out her best and having only the leftovers for her husband and children. Surely it is the Lord’s order that her husband and children always have the first claim on her loyalties. This is how we would express the ideal. Individual circumstances will sometimes mean exceptions to this pattern.
So by circling the wagons around our family, we have been able to really work on deeper personal relationships. Our aim as a family has been to help Craig fulfill the Dominion Mandate. Everyone in our family has a purpose; they are all headed in the same direction; in helping advance the other’s purpose each automatically helps to advance his own purpose as well…and everyone is excited about it.
So what does a Biblical Trustee Family look like:
1. Father has a vision for the entire family and the future. 2. Father sees his vocation/calling/ministry as that part of God’s Creation over which he is to exercise dominion and stewardship on behalf of Jesus Christ, his Lord. 3. Wife and children fulfill their roles by helping father fulfill his role. 4. Strong interpersonal relationships are both a cause and effect of the family working and pulling together. 5. A unified family’s projects tend to be larger in scale, facilitating involvement and greater influence for Christ in the community. 6. Children honour, obey and love being with their parents…and onlookers are both astounded and blessed.
Then to take this further, how does it look in a multigenerational family:
1. We closely examine how we are home educating our children and constantly assess what it is we are trying to accomplish. Our eight children are aged 28 down to 2. We have been home educating with an exemption from the Ministry of Education for 22 years so far, and Lord willing, we will be home educating for at least another 14 years: almost 40 years in total. We are going to be aged 71 (Lord willing) when our youngest is 16!! We need wisdom to order our ways to last the long term. Because we cannot do everything, we must choose those most important things, do those exceptionally well and relax about the rest.
2. What are we training our children for…their careers, incomes, possessions, etc., or something much bigger? Do we want our sons to be in the “Rat Race” working long stressful hours to gain promotions, status and fatter pay cheques? Maybe a home business, being self employed, with quite possibly a lot less pay and possibly a lot less stress, would fit in with our long term goals of building strong Trustee Families. So how does that change what we are teaching our children? Can our children begin at a young age to develop entrepreneurial skills that will advance the Kingdom of God and not just their own private agendas? Pete, our new son-in-law, began building up his woodworking business when he was 14. He now has a woodworking business, a toolmaking workshop, a saw mill, kiln and lumber yard. He started small as a boy and built it all up and without going into debt, a Kingdom principle all but forgotten these days. Do we want our daughters to pursue their own qualifications and separate careers while of necessity putting aside any preparation for the tasks 99% of them are called to and will fully embrace for the bulk of their best years: being faithful wives, mothers, disciple-makers, homemakers, healers, helpers and hospitality experts of excellence? Intellectual and academic excellence and higher education are definitely not exclusive to modern secular, anti-Christian universities. Apart from paper qualifications, which are sometimes necessary to pursue specific careers, an excellent higher education of true substance can and historically has been routinely gained via private study while serving at home, in the community, in the workplace and in the marketplace.
3. We are encouraging our children to honour each other and their parents and on into the future with their own children. We recently saw a wonderful example of this idea of carrying into the future, through the present, things of value we have inherited from the past, things God has delivered into our hands as trustees, things worth honouring and valuing on His behalf, things worth passing on to future generations. The oldest son of old friends of ours from Afghanistan invited us to dinner in Wellington. We had not had a lot to do with this family over the last 10 years. Their youngest son had just arrived back from a visit to Afghanistan, where our friends are currently residing for about a year. While he was there, his father said that he wanted to honour his father (now deceased) by visiting some of his father’s old friends in Kabul. That made a huge impression on this 23-year-old son. So when he got back to New Zealand, he talked about it with his oldest brother. They decided they could honour their Dad by inviting his old friends from Palmerston North to dinner. We had a wonderful evening being hosted by our friend’s children. While this idea may sound complicated, please note how it works itself out: having a meal around the table while being engrossed in edifying conversation. Nothing more complicated than that. The Bible calls it hospitality, and Romans 12:13, I Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8, Hebrews 13:2 and I Peter 4:9 pretty well command it.
4. To selectively quote Rushdoony again: “We as the living members of our family see ourselves as the trustees of the family blood, rights, property, name, children, inheritance, welfare and education. We have this inheritance from the past to be preserved and developed for the future. The head of the family is not the head in any personal sense: when conservative Christians think of the godly family, they tend to think of the individual man as exalted as head of the household rather than placed strictly in a trusteeship, in a position of custodial powers. The authority of the husband, and of the wife, is not personal but theological and is a trusteeship for God first of all, and then the family. Therefore the head of the trustee family looks to lead by means of service, education and discernment – not by laying down the law or lording it over his wife and children – but with an eye toward future generations and their life of service and obedience to the Living God. In this way the family becomes the basic church, state, school, society, welfare agency and social power, all performed in terms of God’s law and grace. In this way the godly family commands the future.”
So as a mother I have choices. I can be foolish and with my own hands tear down my house by working outside my husband’s/family’s calling; by spending too much time in front of the computer, TV, on the phone, etc. Or I can be wise and build my house (Proverbs 14:1) by taking dominion over my role as a wife and mother. This means being there for my husband and children all the time; helping my husband where possible in his business and ministry and voluntary work; training my children in Godliness, not just giving them busy work while I do my thing; working out our goals and working through them each day. I think we will find that the highest goals just require us to spend time with the children: we can rule the world by rocking the cradle.
Taking Dominion as a wife and mother helps us in so many areas. We don’t take any nonsense from our children, as we know what is best for them. It helps us to be more consistent in disciplining and discipling our children. Because we are confident in God, we are confident in taking charge, enforcing God’s standards with our children and households — because He has appointed us, not we ourselves, and because we are striving to extend His Kingdom on earth, not work our own personal agendas. Taking Dominion helps us to rise above both depression and burnout since we are focused less on ourselves and more on Him. Since He is calling the shots, our goals and workloads are more realistic. We set clear and proper priorities, start at the top of the list, work through as many as make us comfortably stretched each day and don’t fret about the rest. The next day is a new day, so we start afresh at the top of the list, for His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 2:22-23; Matthew 6:33-34).
Our children are with us for too short a time. It goes so fast especially when you realise that the main time for influencing children is up until about ages 10-12. We can loose our children’s hearts very easily. Then it is hard work regaining them. Let us take dominion from the beginning and work hard at training our children. God does not promise that it will be easy. Most nights we will fall into bed tired if not exhausted. But “He gives to His beloved sleep,” (Psalm 127:2; Ecclesiastes 5:12).
Craig is originally from California while Barbara grew up on a large high-country sheep station in the Hakataramea Valley near Kurow where she’d dig mountains of sheep manure from under the shearing shed by day, hunt eels in the river by night and jump out of hovering helicopters into snow drifts on remote ridges too steep to land and go searching for buried ewes and lambs after a freak storm. They’ve home-educated all eight children since the first was born in 1980.
From Keystone Magazine
April 2008, Vol. XIV No. 74