“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”
Yep, I have been a parent for 18 years, Happy Birthday Catrina! December 31st of 1998 my daughter Catrina was born. We got a nice tax break and began a journey that is not nearly over, but it has reached a milestone. My wife and I set out that day with some goals in mind. Those goals would morph and change over the years, but their core has remained the same. Up to this point, I can say with all honesty we have accomplished those goals. That sounds a little conceited, so let me clarify before moving on. The role God played in the process is assumed for the purposes of this post. At times, I know His work was despite our efforts more than it was through our efforts. Nevertheless, Scripture says much about raising children. It says we should pass on the commands of God to our children, we ought to serve God as a family, we ought to raise our children in the way that they should go, etc. (Deut 6:2, Josh. 24:15, Prov. 22:6). Our goals were simple and I would like to share those, but first I would like to share some common goals that didn't make our list.
We did not set out with the goal to make our kids happy. I could not count the number of times I have heard parents say, "I just want my kids to be happy!" This didn't make our list, and it was not because of some kind of oversight. I think, for the most part our kids are happy, but it is a byproduct of other things, not the goal. There are many reasons this did not make our list, let me share a few. First, I find no such promise or command in Scripture to suggest that it should be a goal. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be a goal, but there is no requirement in Scripture that it should be nor do we find a promise of happiness for children raised in a particular way. Happiness should not be confused with joy, purpose, or fulfilment, those are very different kinds of things. I am using the word happiness in it's most common use, "Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment." Second, as I look at Scripture and history I do not find that those who made the largest impact were necessarily happy. That isn't to say they never experienced happiness, but that overall, happiness wasn't part of the equation. Often they experienced significant loss, sorrow, and hurt. Job is probably the most apt example, but there were many others, in fact, almost all of those that had significant impact, suffered a great deal. Third, in my own experience much of my life lacked happiness. It wasn't depression, it was simply that the circumstances I found myself in for large parts of my life did not present an environment where hapiness was the primary concern. I found other things, but not happiness. While I was fairly certain my kids would not grow up in that environment, there were too many other things in this fallen world that could so easily strip my kids of hapiness, things far beyond my control.
We did not set out with the goal to provide every posible opportunity for our kids. That doesn't mean we never tried to provide opportunities, we certainly did, at least certain kinds of opportunities. It just means that we realized our kids would not have every opportunity no matter what we did. We also realized that even if they had every opportunity, that would not garrantee success in any meaningful way. We have all seen people with tons of opportunity squander that opportunity. We have sacrificed much to give our kids what opportunities we could, but that was never the primary goal.
We did not set out to give our kids all the things we missed out on. Frankly, this sounds silly to me, but I have heard many parents say this very thing. Usually they have something specific in mind. Maybe it means more presents under the tree, more freedom, more structure, more... Again, this does not mean that there weren't things I didn't get that I have tried to provide for my kids, but it was not the driving force behind our parenting. It wasn't a primary goal. I have had my son in martial arts for several years, both Karate and Jiu Jitsu. I did this because I didn't want him to ever be afraid of some person who threatened him. I often had that fear growing up. But we could have easily raised him without these things in a very successfull way.
We did not set out to make our kids superstars. Part of this was the realization that it was very unlikely this could be accomplished, but part of it was that we realized the possible idol that lerked in such a life. There is a family who are friends of our whose oldest son grew up with enormous talent in football. In fact, he went on to play for a division 1 school and be drafted into the NFL. They certainly sacrificed much so that he could succeed at that level, but he was a unique talent! Even for them, they had a phrase that was common in their house, "Faith, Family, Football." This phrase was used to establish their priorities as he pursued football. They realized, even with their enormously talented son, that being a superstar was secondary to other things. They had higher goals.
More could be added to the list of things that did not make our list of goals for our kids. Here are the things that did make our list:
We set out to make sure our kids understood hard work (Col. 3:23, Psalm 90:17, Prov. 13:4, Gen. 2:15, etc.). I don't always think we have been completely successfull in this area. Some times I think our kids have had it easy. However, my daughter has done very well in school. She didn't get strait A's, but last I knew she was #4 in her class. She was never the student who was simply gifted, she just worked her back side off. She spent endless hours doing homework for honors and AP classes. She has worked in some capacity since she was young. She worked to get riding lessons at Denver Equestrians, she started her own dog watching bussiness which she will probably pass off to her younger brother in the next year. She is hard working and I am very proud of her.
We set out to make sure our kids were respectful (Rom. 12:10, 1 Peter 2:17, Rom. 13:7, etc.). I don't mean simply being nice to other people. I also don't mean saying nice things. I mean giving respect to people as being created in God's image. I mean understanding offices and God's divine sovereignty. I am no fan of President Obama, but I respect the office of the presidency and I understand that he was given an enourmous responsibility just as President Elect Trump will take on that responsibility. I have attempted to help my kids understand that with these offices, and many others, respect is an appropriate response even when being critical. This is true in what might be viewed as lesser roles like teacher, officer, or others as well.
Most importantly we set out to help our kdis find their ultimate fulfillment and purpose in their savior Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 10:31, Mark 12:30, Rom. 11:36). Serving God was the ultimate goal. I don't mean we set out to make sure they become "professional Christians." I mean no matter what they do our goal is to make sure they are following Jesus. We set out to disciple our kids. We haven't been perfect in this, but we have memorized Scripture, prayed together, talked theology, and prepared them to be bold in their witness. Both of our kids have done this. My daughter wants to become a veterinarian. That's great, but she could have decided to become a cahier at King Soopers and that would have been fine too. What was more important was who she served while doing whatever she decided to do.
Everything else is frosting on the cake. We are blessed with two great kids, not perfect, but we haven't been perfect parents either. Lots of time has been spent on our knees and that will continue to be the case.
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.