One day, when I was teaching in North Florida, eleven year old Steven asked me this disturbing question: "Do you want to know how to make a dog mean?"
I didn't, but I listened anyway. "Well," he said, "you treat him real nice for a few days, then go out into the yard and beat him for no reason. Then, you have be nice to him again for a while. When he starts to trust you again you have to hurt him real bad. It's important that he has no idea about what you are going to do. It won't be long before he's a mean dog, and he will keep people out of your yard."
I wondered, of course, if it were really only the dog that he was talking about.
Fact is, inconsistency can be extremely unsettling, whether you are a canine or a human being. And it doesn't have to be as extreme as the horrible story that Steven told me. The real question is: "Are our families secure and confident in the knowledge of our faithfulness and love?"
God has given us a tremendous example in his consistent faithfulness through history. The fact of his love for us is never in question; the dependable focus of his goodness and grace gives us a confidence that is truly inspirational. Our relationship to God is defined by covenant and by promise.
If our children have that kind of assurance regarding our commitment to family, it will be a foundation of security that will pay dividends in many ways. Are they secure in our presence, our discipline, our faithfulness, our love? Do they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we take our responsibility with passion and resolve?
I can't imagine a better gift, this holiday season, than a personal determination to put family first, and to anchor that conviction by involving God in the details; this day, every day.