In our world, we often approach parenting in a mechanical, managerial way. Now I doubt anyone has ever explained it that way, but, frankly, that’s often how I see these books on parenting and books on raising children as if we view our households as a corporation and our children as employees to train.
And while there is some truth to the analogy (such as a household budget being like corporate budgets), the reality is far deeper. Our children are not given to us to merely raise. As believers, our children are given to us to disciple. That’s a difficult concept for most people because most of us have never been discipled ourselves. But in reality, our children are given to us to be disciples. And while, in a human sense, they are disciples of us, we would be remiss to not make them disciples of Jesus.
With that statement comes a heavy responsibility, but not heavy in the sense of weighing on us harshly or weighing us down. It is a serious, even sacred, responsibility. Jesus said His yoke is easy and His burden is light, and in that very truth, we can hold some confidence that Jesus will not abandon us in the raising of our children. In fact, in my own life, I have watched as my weaknesses, my failures, have been turned into success and glory by His hand alone. I am, by far, not a perfect parent. Yes, some may say I’m better than most, but really, I’m no different. The only difference between me and most other Dads is that, frankly, I don’t get any other choice. I don’t get the option to not feel like it; I don’t get the option to say I had a bad day at work because there is no one else to pick up the slack.
And I think there is something within that, as I found myself often being viewed as an example to other people…I believe there is a challenge God wants to give to all men, all fathers, all Dads; when we have a bad day at work, yes, you’re going to bring some of that home. I don’t care how perfect you are. But when we bring that home, we need to give it into the hands of God Almighty. We need to remain vigilant in our lives for correct from him, whether it comes from our wife, or the Spirit within, or even from our children! You see, they are ours to disciple, and yet, they’re also His disciples! And we have a sacred trust to bring to them Christ in the flesh!
When we mess up, we have a duty to apologize and ask for their forgiveness, to exemplify to them humility, honesty, and forgiveness. I will never tell anyone that you cannot teach your kids about Santa Claus or what-have-you. But I will caution you to be very careful that you do not lie to your children. In my own, unique situation, my children often ask me questions that I cannot answer or questions whose answers are more than their young brains can handle or heavier than their young hearts could hold. In those situations, I have promised them that I will not lie to them, but sometimes, the answer is “I don’t know,” or “I can’t tell you that right now.” Understand that being honest with your children does not greatly constrain you; there are some things you will not be able to or simply cannot tell them.
Think about this: what is discipline? It is disciple-ing. We are giving our children nuggets of truth and wisdom. We are correcting them when their path goes astray. We are seeking to provide encouragement, to provide insight, to discipline so that they can get back on the path.
It has been said that how a child views their father will greatly affect how they view God. Men, take that as a solemn and sacred exhortation! God has given you children not to reflect yourself, not to live vicariously through them (as some do), not to finally achieve that scholarship or trophy or championship win that you never did. He has given us children so that we may grow. Let that sink in for a second. He has given us children so that we may grow.
You see, when we are in the world, living out our lives, everything is possible. We can pack up in a moment and go on to some new adventure. We don’t have to think about others or reason a complete plan because it’s just us. Then we add a wife, and the adventures get a little bit smaller because we need to provide security and safety for her, a rock upon which she can stand. But it is still you and her. And then suddenly, you add this helpless little being, this reflection of your genetic material, and I would argue a reflection of your spiritual material. As my own children have grown, I have noticed many of my own struggles have become evident in them as well. They wrestle with many of the same demons I wrestle with, in their own child-like ways. God has given them to me because I understand that struggle. I know that struggle. And because I have grown and need to grow!
In our Ameircan world, we often go to the next level, in our careers, relationships, possesions. We seem to always be seeking some unattainable goal. I think Paul hits the nail on the head when he says, “Laying aside all temptations, and the sin that so easily ensnares , we reach for the pricesof the upward call of Christ.” Men, that.means.our.families!
These little beings. These little bundles of sin. They are such a blessing and so much fun, and in a second, they turn around. Ha ha. One minute, life is great, and the next minute, they are ready to tear someone’s hair out. One minute, they’re happy and life is grand, and the next, they are screaming because they’re hungry. One minute life is great and grand, and the next, someone has stolen every bit of joy they will ever have in their life. They are drama, and we are drama! We must disciple them, in concert with God, submitted before the Almighty, so that our children can see Him when they look at us.
We must train them to read the Scriptures, their Bibles. We must train them to know the Lord of their life, Who died and rose from the dead just to have a relationship with them!
I challenge you, men, do not merely raise your children. Don’t just provide a home and food and clothing. Disciple your children! Teach them what you have learned, and, perhaps, as appropriate, how you have learned it!
There’s the old saying, “Do As I Say, Not As I Do.” Part of that is teaching our children why we encourage them to do things we never did, why we encourage them to step up in ways we never did/could. So that they can understand that we are not just blowing smoke, trying to tell them to do something we won’t, but that we are encouraging them to be disciples of the Almighty and to learn from their Father, and to seek out other men who can teach and encourage them in the same, beyond what we can teach them or our limited experiences.
And then there comes the day when we have to let them go. True, they will always be our children. They will always be a part of our lives. But we have to prepare them for the day when they need to take the reins of their provision, of their shelter, and of their lives. So that when that day comes, they are not seeking unknown, unexpected things…so that they are not thrust into a world of temptation and sin that they are woefully unprepared for, but that this transition becomes as expected and normal as when they get up in the morning and get their clothes on. That the day comes, and we hand them the reigns and they gratefully take them…not rending them from our hands, not scared to accept them, but ready. Yes, there will be some fear, but the picture remains.
Go! Lead your families! And disciple your children with all diligence and humility, following the example of the One, in humble submission to the Father, our Father!
Vires et Honorem
1 Corinthians 15:10