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“Petulant child!” That’s what I thought as an obviously frantic mother was trying to placate a toddler throwing a fit. Nothing seemed to work. He didn’t want the toy, then he did want the toy. The treat mom tried to give the boy was accepted then thrown down and the screaming commenced again. She tried holding him. That didn’t work. She tried letting him down. That didn’t work. The look in her eyes was heartbreaking. She was at a loss as to how to get back to “normal.” And this boy would have none of it. He was throwing a fit and it wasn’t going to stop until this little man was finished!

I kept hearing the words of my grandmother in my ears: “If that were my child, I’d know how to get his attention.” Of course, in today’s PC world, that would mean a visit by the Government to arrest you!

We live in a time where it seems that you simply can’t win. If you discipline your child in a way that society no longer approves of, then you’re a bad parent and possibly subject to criminal prosecution. And, if you follow all the PC instructions on how to raise your child, the end results are a human being that can’t handle adversity or disagreement. We end up being perpetual teenagers, and you know how teenagers feel about being told what to do!

Look at our Gospel Lesson in Matthew 11:16-20:

The Lord said, “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, ‘We piped to you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” Then he began to upbraid the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent.

Wow, it seems the Lord is reading today’s newspapers and internet comments concerning the events of our day!

So, what’s the cure for this perpetual adolescence? How to we stop a cycle of emotional immaturity that has actual, dire, consequences for the world we will leave our children? I’m warning you now, the answer isn’t going to be popular or even comforting. And the reason is the last thing a spoiled generation needs is more comfort!

The path out of this sick immaturity is repentance. The Greek word is “μετάνοια.” We translate it “repentance” but that word has become so misunderstood in our modern day. True repentance isn’t finished by feeling bad you have done wrong. That’s just the beginning: “Godly sorrow works repentance.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)

No, authentic repentance brings spiritual maturity by calling me to mature reality. First repentance requires that I am self aware enough to see that my attitude and actions are disordered and harmful. And I can’t get to that place of enlightenment and self awareness without humility to look into my own heart! Next, repentance calls me not merely to look at my disorder and wounded thinking but to go beyond regret to reaction. Repentance calls me to allow the grace of God to literally “reform” my mind so that my mind embraces the “mind of Christ.” Finally, repentance calls me to such a transformed life that I become an example for those around me.

Look at the Lord’s wisdom in this last statement He makes in today’s lesson: “Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” We can argue with one another till we are blue in the face, but until we humbly learn how to live a life of repentance we will never have the ability to display wisdom. We will only be able to engage in rhetoric, and that is never enough to save the world! It is as St. Isaac the Syrian declared “This life is give to you for repentance. Do not waste it on vain pursuits.”

Today, isn’t it time to say goodby to childish ways and embrace the mature lifestyle of repentance? Isn’t it time to grow up to our mutual responsibility for our freedom? Yes, it is time. If we ever hope to leave Light for the next generation, we must embrace the hard work of being Orthodox on Purpose!

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  • James B
    Posted June 28, 2017 at 10:37 am

    Interesting but you don’t seem to have answered the question about how to deal with that petulant child.

    • Post Author
      Fr. Barnabas Powell
      Posted June 28, 2017 at 11:02 am

      Ha! I haven’t figured that one out either! Still trying to deal with the “petulant child” that lives in my heart!

      • Michael Bauman
        Posted July 1, 2017 at 4:34 pm

        This kind comes out only by prayer and fasting. All I know is that a contest of the will does not work. Neither does appeasement. It is never in the one occurrence. What are the immediate consequences of the child’s behavior if the behavior continues?

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