Monday, August 4, 2014

Notes From my Daughter - A Child's Encouragement to Parents

Occasional notes from my 20 year old daughter. I never know what to expect when she writes, but it's usually a pleasant surprise.  Read on!

My Daughter
If you were in the boat with the disciples and Peter was your child, say even your only child, would you encourage Him to step out of the boat in the storm on to the ocean where there is no shore in sight? Would you encourage them even when God is telling them to do something you have never seen done before? Or would you try to save them from what you feel is the biggest, clearest mistake of their life?
One of the biggest things I hear in college when a young person is considering taking a step in their faith, whether it be being a leader in ministry or devoting their life to Christ, is "I don't know what my parents will say." The reasoning has been different depending on the situation and the relationship between child and parent but the outcome remains the same. The child is hesitant about living fully for Jesus because of their perception of how their parent(s) will react. "Come," Jesus said to Peter. But parents what would you say to Peter? (Be honest) Parents would you watch your child sink and allow Jesus to save them and not you? Philip Yancey observed that "the interesting thing about the savior complex is that our Savior had no such complex." He loved people so much that he would not impose on their decision making. Sadly I've heard too many people admit that their parents stop talking to them once they decided to entrust their life to Christ. That is the cost of following Christ - that they will be rewarded for by their Heavenly Father, we give up those things we once valued because Jesus matters most. But parents, my question is what is it that you think you are saving them from? 

It takes strength to let your child be vulnerable. You too have to follow God's commands as He teaches you to be still and know that He is God. If you reach out to "save" them from everything, you are not training them up in the way they should go, you are training up in a way that you think is best and that can be very deceiving. May I remind you of Proverbs 3:5-7 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In ALL your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight. DO NOT BE WISE IN YOUR OWN EYES, fear the Lord and shun evil." Don't neglect your child when they take a leap of faith, don't shun them for living differently from you, it is not your expectations that they are required to fulfill; that is not what they will judged by in the end. Continue to guide their decisions with wisdom and encourage them. 

Pray for this generation that we would submit to our parents instruction but also pray for yourselves that you would submit to our Father's authority. His is greater than yours. Jesus responded in Matthew 12:48 - "Who is my mother and who are my brothers? 49 Pointing to the disciples He said, "Here are my mothers and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in Heaven is my brother and sister and mother." Basically saying it is better to be in the will of God than anything else and that those who are in the will of God are truly the members of your family. And Matthew 8:21 - "And another said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." 22 But Jesus told him "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead."" I don't believe Jesus was indicating that everyone should disown their parent, but that they should understand that God's will takes precedence over everything. He's the one that knits them in their mother's womb, you were just the vessel. He's the one that knows every hair on their head, you are the one who took care of those hairs. He is that one that gives wisdom, you are the one who tries to give them the best education. He's the one that gave them every breath and gave them their purpose, you are the one who guides them, not the one that made them. Both of you should submit to Christ and be humble in the roles that he has given you in this life. 

Being a parent doesn't give you an authoritarian position to boast in and make your child the spectacle of, it gives you an opportunity to understand God's love as our parent and maker and should point your eyes back to Him not you. Do not be surprised if your child opposes you. First of all children like to test boundaries, but secondly as your child grows they make decisions independent of you. Whether those decisions are in wisdom or foolishness is hard to tell at times but some decisions will not be what you expect; That's OK. Some decisions will have happy endings, and some wont. 

Your child is made in your image, but they're not you and you haven’t failed because they are not your clone. You haven’t failed as a parent if your child has gone astray. You haven't failed as a parent if your child doesn't talk to you. You haven't failed as a parent if your child doesn't go college or dropped out of school. You haven't failed as a parent if your child has no idea what they should do with their life. You haven't failed as a parent if your child leaves you. You haven’t failed as a parent if your grown child is still living with you. You haven’t failed as a parent if you deal with depression because of your kids. You haven't failed as a parent if your child had an unfortunate accident and left this earth. You haven't failed as a parent if your child committed suicide. You haven't failed as a parent if your child is in prison. You haven't failed as a parent if your child is an addict. You haven't failed as a parent if your child is in abusive relationship. You haven't failed as a parent if your child became pregnant outside of marriage. You haven’t failed as a parent if your child is dealing with homosexuality. You haven't failed as a parent if your child is promiscuous. You haven’t failed as a parent if your child has a mental disorder. You haven't failed as a parent if your child is not who you expected they would be. 

You fail as a parent when you've stopped being a child and resist listening to God; at that point you fail in all your roles whether you see evidence of it or not. 

Fortunately there is redemption, our God is a god of great mercy and grace. My main goal here is to remind you of what the real focus is: Jesus. Parenting is a lifelong humbling opportunity filled with hardships and moments of unexplainable joy. I as a child can honestly say I've seen my parents love for me best when I saw how loving Jesus permeated every sector of their lives. When I saw their humanness, inconsistencies, flaws, and their evident need for God and then their obedience to God, I learned much more than a college education could ever give me. My parents are not perfect, and those who live in our household know that, but their mess in combination with God's grace is what makes them good parents in my eyes. Our family is a mess many times; there are arguments, fights, and quite frankly sinners struggling to love other sinners on an everyday basis. Those times make me see how necessary it is that God is the center of a family structure. 

Parenthood is an act of worship but I hope that you as the parent will not make yourself the center. Be humbled and let God use you as He is always willing to do. His glory is the best thing for you, your children and their future children. I hope that parenthood reminds you of your child-likeness and that you would have faith in your Heavenly Father throughout it all.

Be encouraged - parents and children..

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