There is absolutely no one outside of Renea that I love more than my boys. There are days that Renea and I sit back and smile because we catch a glimpse of their potential. And then there are the other days. The days we sit in silence wondering what we did wrong. The days we are frustrated and are left with more questions than we have answers. The days we feel like the biggest failures on planet earth. You would think if anyone would have the whole parenting thing figured out it would be the Family Pastor guy, right? Let’s just be real with each other, ok? We are a work in progress and I can just about bet that you are too. If you’re not, and you have this whole parenting thing figured out, please write a book. I promise you’ll be rich, really rich!
For whatever reason, this last year has been tough. For those that know us, we have a couple of strong-willed boys and another who is a little on the mischievous side (ok, a lot). I know, I know…there is a lot of research proving that most of your great leaders were all strong-willed children and all, but that is little comfort for those of us fighting the battles now. If you’re reading this and find yourself saying, “me too” then maybe these few words of encouragement will provide some answers to all those questions.
What if I told you that maybe we’ve all been going about this whole parenting thing wrong? Would you be open to some changes, even if some of those changes started with you? Very few things in life are as important as being God’s chosen agent for forming a human soul. Did you get that? You and I as parents have been chosen by God to help form our tiny human’s hearts and souls. How crazy and scary is that!? The tragedy of this though, is that we’ve been parenting without seeing the big picture. As parents, we all want our children to do good in school, obey the rules, make friends, excel in sports and other activities, and there is nothing wrong with those things, but what if I told you those things aren’t the big picture? For a lot of us parents, our home has become nothing but a laundry list of do’s and don’ts that we use to measure the success of our children. If they have more do’s than don’ts, then we’re happy and if not, there are consequences. But get this: if we’re only consumed with controlling our children’s behaviors when they’re in our home, then they will have nothing when they eventually leave home. Why is it that hundreds, probably even thousands, of supposedly Christian young people leave home, enter “adulthood” and forsake their faith? Maybe, just maybe its because we as parents are missing the most important concept of parenting.
Something we all must understand as parents is this simple, yet profound statement: our children do not have a behavior problem; they have a heart problem. Luke 6:43-45 teaches us that the behaviors of our children are shaped and controlled by what is inside their hearts. Paul Tripp said it best when he said, “The core dysfunction of the heart of every child doesn’t first have to with the law; it has more to do with awe.” You see, our children are born with a heart that is controlled more by awe of self than by the awe of God. In his book “Awe,” Paul Tripp explains that every one of our children comes into the world embracing two very seductive lies. First, is the lie of autonomy. Autonomy says, “I’m an independent human being, and I have the right to live my life the way I want to live it.” All those fights and arguments of what to eat, what to wear, where to go, and what to do is taking place because our children do not want to be ruled. They see themselves as the center of the universe. Simply put, they want no other authority over them but their own. The second lie is the lie of self-sufficiency. This lie simply says, “I have everything I need inside myself to be what I’m supposed to be and do what I want to do.” Why does my five year old refuse to let me help him with things he can’t do, only to try and try for 17 hours to do them himself? Simple…he wants to think he is capable and that he doesn’t need to listen, submit, and learn. He believes the lie of self-sufficiency.
Our children will only live as God has ordained them to live if their hearts have been freed from the bondage of their awe of self and have been captured by the awe of God. So here we go parents. It simply doesn’t work if we only have a law system of do’s and don’ts at home as our parenting model. Now don’t hear what I’m not saying. Of course our children need laws and rules. How else would they learn to understand expectations and boundaries? I’m simply saying if all our children needed were a laundry list of regulations, Jesus would have never had to come and live a perfect life, shed his blood and raise Himself from the grave. The gospel tells us that this parenting approach is simply not enough. Our parenting must target the central heart issue of our children. As long as their hearts are ruled by their awe of self, our children will continue to push against our authority and will go their own way and will continue to ignore the God who created them.
What does this all mean? It means our parenting must be guided by a great big awe agenda! We as parents must do everything we can to put the glory of God and His grace on full display before our children every day so that the awe of God can rule over their hearts. Simply put, they can’t see and experience the awe of God if we as parents don’t show them. That’s why its important to talk to our children about God throughout the day, every single day! Its not unnatural to talk about God every day to your children; it’s unnatural not to. While our children have a hard time seeing the glory of God in their lives each day, it’s our responsibility as parents to function as God’s instruments of seeing, and pointing to His presence, power, and glory over and over every day. Jesus has called us to be a tool that recaptures the awe of our children’s hearts, so that awe of Him would reign where their awe of self once did.
So, here’s the hard part… In parenting, it’s pretty much impossible to give away what we don’t have. I’m afraid in many homes, its not just our children who are blinded to the awesomeness of God around us; it’s that we as parents are blinded to it as well. So, before we can begin to pray and ask God to open the eyes of our children, maybe we should take a look at our own lives and ask God to open our eyes so that we can help our children see Him. It’s impossible to point someone to something that we don’t yet see. And its only as God so graciously opens our eyes to His glory and captures our hearts with His awe, will we ever become His instruments in the eyes of our own children.
Let’s go even deeper. Parent’s we don’t have any independent authority over our children. Zero. Our children haven’t been given to us as servants that will make our lives easier. They haven’t been given to us for us to live vicariously through them all throughout their lives. They haven’t been given to us to build up our reputation or build up our identity. And they aren’t to be viewed as potential trophies on the mantel of your success. The only kind of authority you have is representative authority that was given to you by God Himself. God intends to make His invisible authority visible in the lives of our children through us as parents and He can only do this when we submit to Him. Parent’s, this is our calling and there is absolutely no higher calling than this! We have been chosen by God to visibly represent the authority of God on earth in the lives of our children. Get this…we are the look on His face. We are the tone of His voice. We are the touch of His hand. Simply put, we are His character and attitude! Consider the gravity of this! When you exercise authority in the lives of your children, is it a beautiful picture of the patient, firm, gracious, loving, forgiving, and faithful authority of God? If you’re like me and slowly begin to understand this concept, you’ll need to push pause and spend some time with Jesus begging Him for forgiveness. But as hard as this is to grasp, we must; as it is our job and it is our duty to leave our children in awe of the stunning, rescuing beauty of God’s authority. What this means is that every time we exercise our authority in a selfish, impatient, irritable, name-calling, or condemning way, we aren’t part of what God is doing in the life of our children; we are in the way of it. Paul Tripp captured this perfectly when he said, “If our children have an awe problem in their heart (which they do) and we have been sent to visibly represent the God who should be at the center of their awe capacity, then the manner in which we respond to our children affects the way they view God Himself.”
So, what will you do with all of this? Hopefully you will begin to grasp the big picture. Parenting is hard. It’s even harder when you’re doing it the right way. I don’t know about you but I’m tired of trying to mold my boys into the image that I’ve created for them in my mind. I want my boys to be captured by the sheer awesomeness of their Creator so that they will be left in awe of His love and His faithfulness. May God help me and Renea rediscover our awe of Christ so that we can help our boys see Jesus more clearly. I don’t want to raise boys who know a bunch of do’s and don’ts. I want to raise boys who will become men of God that stand in awe of their Savior. But first, I want them to see Jesus in me. In the way I act. In the way I talk. In the way that I touch. And in the way that I love their mother. What about you?
Praying for you always,