Quick thoughts today, really, for parents.
What is your highest priority in raising your children? What do you want for them most?
Success? Sure. Financial security? Absolutely. Stable environments? Yes. A great family? Another absolute.
What convicted me today is how we pursue these goals mercilessly. We frame every decision for our children with these ultimate futures in mind. And here is the question we really ask ourselves before every decision we make on their behalf: How will their future success be dictated by the decisions we make for them today?
That particular end is our absolute goal, our absolute priority.
Here’s what bothers me, though. I believe we pursue these goals with such passion and determination, that we completely overlook our function, as parents, in their lives. Our job is to love them. To love them.
Loving them does not always come as an answer to that magic question above, though. We can drive our children to great ends, and, really completely forget, or completely neglect, the inherent need we have to love them. Or, more specifically, to love on them.
Loving them always means we are steering them toward a successful future, but steering them toward a successful future doesn’t always mean we are loving them.
We offer our children to a world that is completely filled with awful, awful things. And when we allow culture to dictate the decisions we make for our children, and God’s children, we are moving in a very, very dangerous direction. Their schools, ever how well missioned, are not able to completely satisfy our children’s longing for family. Their relationships, ever how screened, are not able to completely satisfy our children’s longing for family. Their hobbies, ever how cultivated, are not able to completely satisfy our children’s longing for family.
We spend so much time censoring and filtering and screening our children’s lives, that we fail to realize we are offering our children our ability to make decisions, and not the viable, sustaining, life-giving relationship God intended for parents and children.
When parents believe our responsibilities are only to provide positive social environments, then we have completely failed in realizing God’s intent for those of us blessed with children. We are told to teach our children about God in every situation, when sitting, or walking, or in the quiet of evening (Deuteronomy 11). Please allow me, then, to make a couple of observations from that passage:
16 Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them.17 Then the LORD’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the LORD is giving you. 18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. (Deuteronomy 11 … NIV)
- Raising children requires our own knowledge of God, and our own relationship with God (” … Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”) Your knowledge of God, and His word, is insufficient if you solely rely on the weekly teachings of church leaders. Please, please understand this. Our time needs to be filled with the Word of God. When we fill our own time with anything other than the Word, then we will, in turn, allow those very same things to take priority in the time of our children. It is a congruent relationship. Our time filled with the Word results in our children’s time being filled with the Word. If our time is filled with social relationships, then our children’s time will be filled with social relationships. If our time is filled with media, then our children’s time will be filled with media. What we deem important is learned by our children as important.
- Raising children takes an abundance of time to teach (“when you sit at home … when you walk along the road … when you lie down … when you get up”). When we instead seek to fill our children’s time with other people, or institutions, or activities, then we are forsaking the time we are given to teach them. The passage implies that parents are to surround their children’s lives with opportunities to personally teach them of God. This passage does not imply that we should fill their time with other people teaching them of God. The question begs to be asked then: with what do you fill the time of your children? If you read this passage with disdain, or of you read these comments of mine with disdain, then perhaps God is speaking to you, and begging you to stop spending time screening influences and become the influence.
Offering our children to ventures that, in any way, removes us, as parents, from primary influence, was never intended by God. While we may invite others to partner with us in teaching, do not believe that a partnership takes the place intended for parents by God. Teaching the ways of God while sitting at home, or walking, or in the evening when all is quiet (Deuteronomy 11) are our responsibilities.
Take them seriously. Do not give them away. Because once you give them away — to any school, or teacher, or friend — you can never take them back.