HOPE - “For Kids”
We continue today in our series on "Hope and the Unexpected Power of Love." As I talk to people and get a sense of where their hearts are, I find that what they are most concerned about are marriage and children. Last week we looked at marriage and this week we are looking at children. A few years back I did a series called "Parental Guidance." It was the first time I had tackled the subject in 20 years. I suppose it was because I had kids of my own and I am not expert. The experts are those who don't have kids. So it is with fear and trepidation that I come to the subject today.
1 - Model Parents
So let's start: as parents our hope in parenting is for our kids to be better than us. We go about raising kids with the goal of avoiding the mistakes of our parents and we end up making new mistakes of our own. We are just so motivated for our kids to be better than us. So, we begin with the elephant in the room. Let's turn to Ephesians 6:4 for how to be model parents. It is directed to fathers but it could be for moms too.
Ephesians 6:4 says, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord."
Right at first as parents we think of ourselves as generous, altruistic, and unconditional. We are good until we are not. Then in the heat of the battle we lose it. Again, the verse says, "Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord." The key for model parents is to model after the Lord.
Isaiah 49:15A says, “Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?"
Of course not - never - I will always love my children, most of the time anyway.
Isaiah 49:15B - 16 says, "But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! 16 See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands..."
We have a part of us that thinks we would "never" and then we hit our worst and we are embarrassed. We are trying to be model parents. We come up with an image of what that looks like. We try to give them the model childhood with all that goes with it. We try to create a perfect environment with perfect experiences. But the model parent is not about the perfect environment and perfect experiences. It is not about modeling our image but about modeling God's love. We must point our children to the original model. Through us we need to let them see, in some small picture, God's love. We saw what this means before in Ephesians 3:19 which says, "May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God." Pointing to the original is what it is all about. It takes the pressure off. Our imperfect moments become perfect opportunities to do this. Here's why: we are given the opportunity to confess we got it wrong; to say our reaction was over-reaction filled with hurt and bitterness. When we do this, we point our kids to God's love. If your kids only experience your love they will miss his love. His love never fails and never flees. Model parents are not measured by the ability to give their kids the best of everything but rather by their kids being able to step out on their own with the experience of God's love, not just their parents.
2 - The Gifts of Love
In Luke 15 Jesus tells a parable, a gospel parable. The parable was meant to show God's love. The father's love for his son illustrates God's love for us. Let me summarize the story. A father's younger son asked for his inheritance. With the inheritance in hand the younger son took off for a distant country where he wasted it all on loose living. He ended up with a job of feeding pigs who he realized were better off than him.
Luke 15:20 says, “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him."
Dirty, broke, and ashamed the son headed home. His father saw him coming from a long way off and jumped up, ran to him, and wrapped him in his arms. There is more that involved a party and a disgruntled older brother, but that's another chapter. The whole story builds to this point to remind us of this: the father's unconditional love of his son. It's hard to read this story without realizing that somehow the son knew. Because of this, he was able to say to himself, "I don't have to be here. I have options. I don't know my father's reaction exactly, but it will be okay."
The gifts of love that have been built into the son are the gifts of determination and character.
Luke 15:17-18A says, “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18I will go home to my father and say...
Those words, "I will go home" were uttered because he knew he was not out of options. As bad as it was, it's not the end. No one wants to see their son or daughter in the pig pen, but to some degree or another we all do. The place of failure and heartache is where they see "that something" that has been built into them and become determined that it is not the end and say, "Let me try again, try something new, and alone.
A friend of our oldest daughter tried to get her to try out for the rowing team. It seems because she is 5 foot tall and is easily heard, she would make a great coxwain. I thought she ought to go for it - rowing on the Potomic! She said that practice is at 4:30 am - it's not going to happen! The coxwain - what a great illustration for what we need - someone to provide encouragement, direction, rhythm and cadence; someone who can see the finish line. We need someone who sees the finish line, someone who says that it's not the end - you got options, you can start over. Because it is God who is in their life in this way, he helps them overcome insecurity and he gives them determination. They know God is there and at work unconditionally.
God gives something else - character.
Luke 15:18-19 says, "I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
The father says there will be none of that. Let's focus on the stark realization of the son coming to his senses and heading home to his father. It was the father's lessons of right and wrong that now make sense and come back to him. His father was right. He embraces the lessons of right and wrong. The work of the lessons was worth it. Boundary making paid off in the long run. We say no, no, no to our children and wish they'd ask something we could say yes to. Character building can be filled with tension as we establish unwelcome boundaries in our children's lives. When our children are young we do this by the use of authority. They start pretty early asking, "why?" The older they get, the more we have to use "influence" over "authority." This is when it gets tricky. Influence over authority is important but when they are off on their own it is necessary to go beyond influence. Authority and influence can seem self serving to our children. This is when they must know our love and this requires a closeness and a bond that keeps them connected to our love when they are out there on their own.
Recently, I was at a soccer game of our youngest daughter. As usual I was making myself heard with ongoing comments. Our oldest daughter was with me and she said I needed to stop. She said, "cheering is fine, but no coaching." I wanted to debate but she's heard that voice before. As parents we need to cheer in public and coach in private. We are talking about how it feels when running up and down the field (our kids need the voice of unconditional love ringing in their ears when they are out on their own).
Your kids will likely experience unconditional love in two places: from the home and from God. We need to pick one thing to model for our kids and that is us looking to God's love. They need to see us experiencing God's love.
Father, thank you for the freightening privilege of parenting. As we show them the best of life and give them the wonderful experience of model lives and homes, may we not miss God's unconditional love. May they see it over and over again - may they see the one who never fails. When they hit those spots when they have failed and are tempted to think it is the end and can't go on, may the assurance of God's unconditional love rise up in them. May they have the determination to go on and try again - to try something new - because they know you love them unconditionally. May they have character. May they trust your love even if they don't fully understand it. May we as parents so know and experience God's love that we are truly able to model it to our children. Amen!
Posted on Sun, April 26, 2015
by Alan Porter