Oh, my friends. Raising children is not for the faint of heart, but I do want to speak some hope into your life right now. Perhaps you are in the middle of the toddler years and are concerned that Junior is simply never going to learn to share, or eat without throwing food from the table, or scream when he is told it is time to nap. Or perhaps, like me, you are on the tail end of child raising and have wondered if you have done a good enough job.
Let me just tell you; yes, you have.
Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6 NKJV
You see, we’re all so busy looking at the PRODUCT of our child rearing (our kids’ choices and behavior) rather than recognizing the truth of this scripture.
Our job was never the outcome. The outcome belongs to the Lord.
Our job was, is, and will always be to train our children according to the love of God, with the power of God, in the best way we can. I know very few parents who are deliberately out there trying to screw up their children. Most of us are trying to follow Jesus and love the way He did, and that includes loving our children. We’re not perfect, but we are sincere. We are doing the best we can when we’re exhausted, sleep deprived, and overwhelmed. We’re trying.
My point is simple; do not take credit nor responsibility for the outcome of your children. Instead, take full responsibility to lead them to follow the Lord as best you know how and leave the rest to Him.
I think we get caught up in the outcome in a couple of ways:
First, we don’t want to see our kids hurt. For example, if they choose to have sex before marriage, we know they will hurt. We know because many of us have experienced that pain and we want our kids to have a better start to their marriage than we did. But the thing is, we simply cannot control their choices any more than our parents could control ours. Yes, we long for them to be spared some of the sufferings we’ve endured, but ultimately, their choices are between them and the Lord. We can and should pray for them. We can and should set boundaries for what we will not tolerate in our homes. But we’ve trained them on our values about sex before marriage. My kids remind me all the time, “Gah! We KNOW, Mom!”
As much as it pains us, our kids may hurt due to their choices. It reminds me that the Lord hurts for us when we make hurtful choices, but He is always there, lovingly reminding us of who He created us to be. I suggest we do the same with our kids. Remind them they are sons and daughters of the most high, loved beyond measure. Especially when they screw up. Love softens us for correction. Our defenses are down because we feel safe. When we’re safe, we can own up to our messes and feel hope about the future. Don’t we want that for our kids?
Second, we don’t want to be judged by other people. If our kids would all act right, go to the right colleges, graduate with honors, get high paying jobs, marry a nice Christian spouse, etc. then we will be honored by our peers as “having it together”.
Let me tell you; all of the families you think have it all together have issues. All of them. You know how I know? It’s because we live in a fallen world that is ruled by the enemy. Daily our children are tempted with the same choices we’re tempted with, and yet we expect them to be without fault. But we’re not without fault, so why would we expect them to be?
We’ve just gotten good at hiding our troubles from each other. Look at facebook and instagram and we’ve not a care in the world. Our children always obey perfectly and make every right choice, right? Wrong.
What if instead of gossiping with one another about how so and so got caught doing such and such, we shared our own struggles? What if we started doing that inside of our own families? What if we showed our children that it is okay to make a mistake, own up to it, and receive mercy while they walk out the reconciliation process with those they hurt? I think we would be a much happier society. At least we would be less angry and fearful and certainly more authentic.
We need leaders (I’m talking to you) who risk showing people who they really are, thus releasing freedom and leading others into freedom. That is real chain breaking right in front of our eyes!
You may be scared of losing the respect of others, or looking less than perfect, or diminishing the reputation of your family. May I respectfully say that this world is absolutely desperate for authenticity? Risk it because the truth is, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of you or your family. It only matters what the Father thinks of you. For me, that knowledge has been the key to my freedom. I get to be who I am, mistakes and all, knowing that my authenticity is super pleasing to my Daddy. It’s the same for my husband and my kids.
Therefore, let’s stop looking at the outcome and pay more attention to the training. What if we reimagined our lives so that we were all less busy, therefore less stressed, giving us all a bit more margin and breathing room?
Then maybe we could focus on love. It is the greatest commandment, so we can’t go wrong. Let us focus on loving our children the way Jesus does. He never rejects us when we mess up. He is always waiting to help us by speaking the truth in love to us. Let’s spend our time on that, rather than worrying about outcomes.
Scripture tells us when they are old, they will not depart. Our children’s journey to “old” may be tough, or embarrassing, or less than perfect (just like ours?), but it rests squarely on the Lord’s shoulders. He has a plan for them and will leave the 99 just for them. We can trust Him with our children’s future while we focus on loving them the best we can.