Well, here’s another post I’ve been sitting on for awhile. I am loathe to write it but God keeps bringing it to mind so here we go. I think the reason this is so hard for me to write about is because parenting is such a personal thing. Our kids are all such unique individuals. While I want to share a little about our journey, I DON’T want you to think this is what you need to do for your kids or, quite frankly, judge us for how we have chosen to do things with ours. I often say that loving parents are all doing the best we can on any given day. God has called you to your children and He has called us to our children and so we can rest in knowing He’s going to equip each of us to minister to our unique children with their unique giftings and struggles. With that being said, let me share a bit of our journey.
Due to the way we built our family, the early childhood years of our children were different than most. The years of visits with birth parents and therapy appointments and managing the emotional fallout of all of the above took a lot out of us. We had zero time to develop any kind of intentional discipleship plan. I mean, we would read The Jesus Storybook Bible with our girls at bedtime. We chose many books that reinforced our values and would read those throughout the day with them. We also chose to listen exclusively to worship music for years. One of our favorite songs was called “Love Song.” Our girls dubbed it “Paint the Sky” and whenever we were driving and saw a beautiful sunset they would call out, “Paint the sky!”… we would turn on the song and all sing it loudly…”You walk on waves, You run with clouds! You paint the sky for me to see Your majesty! This is my love song to You.” We wanted them to see God in the everyday because…
Because my husband is a pastor and our kids attend a Christian school, we have been very aware of the fact that our kids are saturated with cultural Christianity. They memorize scripture for school, they go to church every Sunday and now our oldest is at youth group (the one her dad leads) every Tuesday. She does mission trips and retreats. We’ve wanted to guard as much as possible against pharisaical living-knowing scripture as merely rules or words and not as the life giving Word. But how do we do it? Newsflash: we are still trying to figure that out. Because the human heart is the human heart. (Side note: for the love of all that is good, don’t ever expect more from your pastor’s kids than you do from your own kids. If you’re a banker, you don’t expect your kids to balance a checkbook by age 9. You may want to impart a love for numbers to them, teach them a few age-appropriate money management tools as they grow…but they aren’t going to be bank president by age 15!)
Anyway, here’s what we know. Every child is gifted with their own mind and their own heart when they are born. Their heart and mind is unique to them. I can’t motivate my 12 year old the same way I motivate my 9 year old. And our 5 year old is different than both of them. They each have insecurities and strengths unique to themselves, and in order to even begin to understand how the Lord wishes to mold them requires more prayer and listening than speaking and scolding. We do know that our children will be discipled by something, though, and as they get older we know that we need to be more intentional.
We happen to have three girls, and more often than not a girl will open up more to her mom than her dad. Because of this, I recently started more focused discipleship with our girls. I wake up early two mornings a week, one for each of our older girls. Right now, I’m making them hot chocolate and myself some extra coffee, and we’re going through scripture based devotionals found on the YouVersion app. I chose devotionals based on what they are working through at this stage of life. Each week I also give encouragement and issue a challenge, a way to apply what they’re learning in our time together. It takes about 30 minutes depending on the discussion time. I once heard a pastor say that when you’re running in the right direction on this journey of faith, you’ll almost always come up against opposition. This has proven to be true for me! I want to sleep longer, a child is driving me crazy and I don’t want to sacrifice sleep for them… their little sister wakes up and it’s not the cozy quiet time I had imagined, or they don’t want to get up, and more and more. There is always a reason why not to do it, but the thing I keep telling myself is that we only have these few years to walk beside our children in this way-they’ll grow and need to make their own choices, and I want so badly for them to know the best way to do this. When I put things in that perspective, some missed sleep or a not-so-ideal setting isn’t really a big deal.
Now, this is not to say that my husband isn’t involved at all! Far from it! If he’s home in the morning, he helps keep the baby sister occupied if she wakes up so I can have that quiet time. He also is very intentional about his time with our girls-he’s the one who takes the girls on an hour long drive for a cheesesteak and has “ask anything” times. He listens to all manner of music with our oldest and helps her think it through. He is currently working though James with one of our girls at bedtime and he also walks them through different ministry opportunities while modeling the right attitude to have in it. He’s also super good at quality time-it’s a rare thing for one of our girls to ask him to play a game/play outside/color/read a book, and I hear him say no. He is available and present when he is home.
So, this is where we’re at now. Here’s the other lesson I’m learning (and re-learning, and re-learning)… because God has gifted each of our girls with minds of their own, they have minds of their own. He’s done the same for your children. They have the ability to hear all of this and still do what they choose. This is somewhat frightening at times. Just because a parent does what they think to be all of the right things does not mean that they will raise a child that will DO what they think are all of the right things. You and I, we can trust God with our children. It’s a brutal laying down of our own expectations and surrendering our children to God -sometimes daily, sometimes minute by minute. I recently read a thread on Twitter from Kristie Anyabwile, another pastors wife, and I shouted YES as I read it.
She says this: Some thoughts on parenting: Your children’s sin is not a reflection of your parenting. It’s a reflection of their hearts. You can’t change a heart by your parenting but God can use your parenting to change a heart. The difference in perspective makes all the difference in how you shepherd your child’s heart. Some parents do “all the right things” and their children become wayward. Other parents know they’re flying by the seat of their pants but their children live faithfully before the Lord. God is at work in both cases. If you pride yourself on your parenting because of how your kids turnout, be careful not to take credit for what the Lord has done. Don’t shame families whose children haven’t followed in the ways their parents have attempted to teach them. Scripture says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 Remember this is proverbial wisdom. It’s not plug-and-play parenting. Self righteous parents are worshipers of the idol of self. Christians are called to live righteously in the world based on the merits of Christ, not their own merits. Our righteous deeds are as soiled garments before the Lord. Parents too often rely on their teaching/training, friends, books, tv, and when they’ve tried everything and everything has failed then they try Jesus. We gotta flip the script.
I’m called to be an ambassador for Christ to our children. This means that they need to see me model the unconditional love of Christ to them, as best as I am able by the power of the Holy Spirit. It means that I tell them almost every day that I will love them the same on their worst day as I do on their best day. I tell them often that there is nothing they can do to make me love them more, and there is nothing they can do that will make me love them less. This is how God loves me, and He only knows just how much I mess up or get ahead of Him or fall too far behind Him. (Newsflash: I can be a little feisty at times and it’s not always good. He’s still working on me.)
I have no clue at what the next 10-15 years of life will bring. No clue about what our parenting journey will morph into, or what our kids lives will look like when they’ve reached adulthood. When I stay too long in the end-game, I worry too much. My friends who get my freaked out texts? They know what I mean. And they tell me what I really need to know-what we all really need to know as we walk this path of parenting… that God is good and He loves our kids more than we do, and He’s got this. Grace for each day, friends. He’s got it for us. Remind me of that when I need it, ok?