As a father of two imaginative and strong-willed boys, the only thing that I claim to know for certain about parenting is that I learn something new every day. That, and I have learned the hard way to not search online for answers to questions about parenting. It seems that everyone has an opinion, and you can quickly find conflicting expert advice. Which begs the question, “Which of the expert answers are correct?” Perhaps they both are, just in different scenarios.
The fact is, not many parenting issues can be answered with one concise answer. Raising a child is one of the most complex challenges on earth. Case in point, my wife and I work hard to provide a solid and safe Christian environment in which our children can flourish and grow to meet their full God-given potential. Yet, within our home I am continually amazed at the unique differences between the two boys. Their personalities, self-confidence, and energy level are all so very different.
One son (14) is an introverted tactician, while the other (5) is our in-house comedian, loud and rambunctious. For the most part, we raised each of them with the same techniques and principles. Yet, God made them so incredibly unique that they each bring their own need for different parental approaches.
Growing up as I did, spawned in me a desire to instill confidence in my children. I want to help them avoid the pitfalls I fought through because of my childhood issues. I want to be the best parent on earth. There are too many ‘expert’ books, tips, or research papers on raising children. Somehow, I had convinced myself that through head knowledge I would know all the correct answers to any parenting need. Boy, was I ever wrong! It was only a few weeks after our first child was born when I realized that, even the best advice must be filtered and adjusted to the individual child.
While individual personalities, environment, social, economic conditions, and more create unplanned variables, there are some factors in parenting that can and should be constant. These factors won’t guarantee a trouble-free childhood for our youth, but they provide a stable foundation on which they can grow and find their way through the darkness.
First, through more than just words, my kids must know that my love for them is unconditional. This doesn’t mean that I will always be pleased with their actions or won’t provide correction, but that my love is a stable factor that they can trust. Over time, that stability helps boost confidence, reduce insecurities, and lessen the fear of failure.
Next, they need to know that God’s love is also unconditional and trustworthy. A consistent voice in their life about the love of God is a direct contradiction to the negativity that they likely hear through secular environments, media, etc. The knowledge that God loves them, cares for them and is always accessible will provide reinforcement that they aren’t alone in their daily struggles. Proverbs 22:6 states, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Much of what God has proven over time we take for granted. We forget that our children don’t have experience. The responsibility for that training ultimately is ours as parents.
Last, but certainly not least, is genuineness. This has everything to do with trying to be the person I say they should be. Children learn more from your daily examples than from your words. As they see your commitment to be an authentic Christian, it will boost their faith and confidence in the words you are teaching them. Your daily actions will have a bigger impact on them than anything else. Tell them about Jesus, yes! Then show them how Jesus would treat others. Show them what compassion and mercy are all about. Let them see you pray and read your Bible. Playing Christian is perhaps one of the greatest detriments to a young mind. Love them, teach them, and then lead them by example.
Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are a heritage from the Lord.” What a blessing God has entrusted us with! What a challenge to raise a child during a time when many do not follow God. With love, diligence, prayer, and a lot of patience, you can raise a child who decides to live their life for the Lord. There are no perfect answers or perfect parents, but keep doing your best, seek God’s help, and I believe you will be successful!
When I was a child, I remember sitting in the backseat of the car reading Hardy Boys, Tin Tin, and many other fantastic tales of mystery and intrigue. It was wonderful to get to the final chapters of the story and piece together ‘who dun it’ and how it was done. The feeling of accomplishment when I, sometimes, figured out the mystery, the bad guy and how the crime was committed. It took time, but if you persisted until the story’s end you had closure and understanding.
Wait a minute, this is a Jesus blog. Let’s talk about him. Much of what’s written, and said, about Jesus today tries to make him easily digestible. Many of us try to put Him into 140-character sound bites or fun and appealing memes. But the story of God is full of incomprehensible mystery and wonder. If we, mistakenly, believe we can understand God, we’ll never be in awe of him. Some truths can’t be explained; they must be experienced. Sometimes the best way to tell the truth of Jesus is by living our story.
At its heart, Christianity itself is an invitation for you and me to live within the story of God. In the Christian story, you have the best explanation of why we are the way we are. Why the world is the way it is. And, what perfect hope is available for us. Christianity tackles the questions about meaning, despair, guilt, love, loneliness, life, and death head-on with no sidestepping or games. God’s story has a place for you and anyone else hungry for spiritual intimacy with God. I believe that anyone who genuinely tries to find truth will find Jesus. It was Jesus that said, “all who seek find,”. We need to take him at his word.
Everyone’s background or history is their own personal story. Jesus knew the personal life stories, but didn’t hold their history against the woman at the well, or the tax collector, or the prostitute, etc. That fact helps me to have peace knowing God can get past my sinful life story and bring me to new life, with a new ending to my story. What makes us unique isn’t so much our height or shape or fingerprints or eye color but our histories, our life stories. Day by day our regular lives are woven into His giant narrative, and every moment we can become more and more the story of who we were meant to be.
In 2017, God’s story isn’t over; it’s still holds value and needs to be told today. Each one of us has the potential to become a chapter of history, in His story. Let’s all remember that us humans all have a sinful story in our history, just like the other humans around us. Let’s connect with our neighbors. Learn more about him or her. Let them learn about you. The more personal we are, the more our stories will intertwine and have an impact.
Don’t just talk about your history, talk about your future. Share with your neighbor on the block or in the grocery store line your own spiritual story. Tell them where and how you have seen Jesus and how He's a part of your everyday life. Don’t stop sharing until we reach the end of our days on this earth and heaven will be waiting for you. That is when all will be revealed concerning God’s story and how He included you and me in it.
Psalm 111:7-10; 2 Peter 1:16-21
See you Sunday!