After posing for a picture with others, we usually determine the initial quality of the picture by the way we look. I catch myself doing this frequently, and it was my husband who called me out on it first. After our third child was born we were all attending a wedding, and we decided it was a good time for an updated family picture. I had just lost all of my baby weight so I was feeling good, and the girls all looked great because we hadn’t left the house yet. As we were looking through the pictures for our favorite one, I started nixing several of them, and my husband said in an exasperated tone, “You are only choosing the pictures where you look good!” I was quick to disagree, but then slowly and silently realized I had barely looked at him in the pictures and only scanned my children for acceptable smiles. In a family of five, I was focused on one. How self-absorbed! There’s a man in the Bible who went through something similar but unfortunately for him, he didn’t have my wonderful husband there to point out his folly.
In the book of Isaiah we read about King Hezekiah. He was the king of Judah and he had several mountaintop experiences. Unfortunately, Hezekiah (like many of us) let his blessings go to his head, and in a moment of pride he made a mistake that impacted a whole nation. In chapter 39 we read that King Hezekiah brought the prince of Babylon into his home and showed him everything he owned. This was dumb on multiple levels, but it was his pride that God ultimately judged. Through the prophet Isaiah, God told Hezekiah that a time was coming when all of the wealth he had been so proud of was going to be taken by Babylon. Not only that, but even some of his sons would be carried away to become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. What was Hezekiah’s response?
So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “At least there will be peace and truth in my days.” | Isaiah 39:8
You can read that again if you want to. The first time I read this story I had to read that verse twice to make sure that Hezekiah actually said what it sounded like he said. How could a father and a king be that selfish? His only concern was that he would live out his own life in peace.
Many times we as Christian parents do the same thing. We tend to focus our parenting in the direction that makes us the most comfortable regardless of the effect it has on our child. We define successful parenting the way the world defines it. Unfortunately, that usually means we are not focused on raising future servants of God; we are focused on raising achievers.
Christian parents today tell our children to choose God. We say, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength! Then we have them focus the majority of their time and efforts on other things like academics, sports, music, and etc. We complain about the cost of a church conference or a youth retreat, but spend hundreds if not thousands on tutoring and extra-curricular activities. We insist that they pray before their meals, before they go to bed and maybe even when they wake up, but we don’t take the time to explain and demonstrate that prayer is a conversation with God, not a string of words that they repeat everyday at a certain time. If they get in trouble at school or their grades slip we are all over them, but if they spend the entire church service in the hall or reading a book, we “let them be kids.” Why do we do this? Because it’s easier to teach kids to succeed according to worldly standards than it is to train and model a vibrant relationship with the Lord.
Academic achievements can be readily measured and graded, but spiritual achievements, oftentimes, can only be seen by God. As a parent, this is disconcerting; we inappropriately focus our attention on worldly goals and hope for the best in terms of their spiritual growth because “God will take care of that part.”
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. | Proverbs 22:6
A child’s spiritual training has been assigned by God to the parent – not to the Sunday school teacher, VBS teacher, pastor, youth leader or anyone else. Those people are there to enhance what a child is learning at home. Also, note that God does not tell us that good training will immediately result in a Godly and obedient child. It is very possible that we could train our children up the right way and in our lifetime never get to see them choose that right way. God never guarantees that we, as parents, will see the fruit of our labor, and we have no right to demand it. As parents, our peace must come from simply obeying the will of God as He has laid it out in the Bible. If our peace is tied to our kids’ success, we have missed the point. Is His grace sufficient for you when it comes to raising your children?
As Christian parents, we will stand before the Lord one day and He will judge us according to what we modeled and taught. Can your child clearly see in your lifestyle that you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength? On any given day of the week, do you talk to your children more about God or things of the world? Again, we are not judged by what path our children actually choose because that’s between them and God. We are only asked to train them up. At some point they make their own choices for better or for worse.
Here’s the question I am ultimately faced with, and you may want to ask yourself too:
Am I selfishly raising an extension of myself, or am I generously and obediently raising a child of God?