Several months ago I came across an article that was written by a gal who claimed that Non-Christian parents were doing a better job at raising well-rounded, well-behaved, higher functioning, kinder, more loving children than Christians parents. Although this article was solely opinion and had no statistical or concrete evidence to support her claims, I must admit that it rocked me at the core. Why? For several reasons: one being that John and I were dealing with teen drama that was wrecking us. To honor my children and family, I will not go into details but I can tell you that teens are both amazing and monstrous creatures! Lol! When our children are little our focus is keeping them alive, constantly worrying that what we are doing or not doing will in some way affect their lives. Will they swallow a toy? Did I secure the bookshelves good enough to the wall, so when the child climbs it, they won't be crushed to death? Did I put covers in all the outlets, did I secure all the toilet lids, did I lock all the doors, did I cover all the bases when child proofing my house? And on and on and on..... And reading the latest parenting materials being published only exacerbates these fears. All the while, we are trying to instill values, rules, hierarchy, love, compassion, sharing, ect. ect.. When your children reach the teen years, everything shifts. They are trying to establish their independence from you, which is important to their adult life. They are trying to figure out who they want to be, which can look at times like heaps and heaps of never ending dirty laundry. They are trying find out who they want to be when they grow up, which can crush every dream you've ever had for your child. And they do all of this with raging hormones, peer pressure, social media, what's trending --they are being pulled in a million different directions at a time when life's most complex and confusing. Your teen will disappoint you. Your teen will cave under the pressure. Your teen will cause you to doubt every parenting decision you've ever made. Your teen will make you feel insignificant. You will not be cool. You will not be their hero. They will rebel against everything that is you! You must, however, take NONE of this personally, as this is the nature of growing up, declaring independence, and becoming an adult. I did it to my parents, and so did you.
Secondly, my children grew up in the church. Infact, my children have spent their entire lives in the church. And I'm not talking begrudgingly so. Church life, ministry, and pastoring has been a complete blast for our children. It was their joy! Please hear me correctly when I say this: I didn't fill their lives with a bunch of rules and regulations for being in church. Yes! we have rules and lots of them, and consequences because boys really-really need boundaries in order to survive this life. Lol. However, a wise mentor and dear friend taught me to treat church no different than our home. And so I did! They played at church, they ran in the church, they played hide-n-seek, they got into all kinds of shenanigans. When I had to correct them, I did it no different than we did at home. I didn't shame them nor were my expectations higher because we were at church. I also didn't allow anyone in the church to hold my children to a higher standard, and if they tried this momma bear gave them the what-for! My kids were allowed to be kids. They were allowed to be exactly who they are in the house of God --no dressing up, no pretending, no expectations -- come as you are.
As I read this article, at a time that I was feeling like the stupidest, most naive parent in the world, doubting every decision, recalling every mistake, I couldn't help but think, "Maybe you are! Maybe just maybe life would be different today if I raised my children outside of the church Maybe you are right." Then I came to my senses! HELL NO my children wouldn't be better off without Jesus, HELL NO my children wouldn't be better off without the church, and HELL NO my children wouldn't be better off without a body of believers. John and I are walking billboards of the redeeming power of Jesus, the transforming power of the church, and the heaps of miracles and blessing that can only come from being in a body of believers. Let me tell you this, my non-christian life made me both a batterer and battered, both a victimizer and victimized, and completely void of a moral compass. My non-christian life never offered me hope for my circumstances nor my future, it never provided protection from life's storms, and it never taught me how to appropriately love myself or others. I was not a good friend -my love for people was always unbalanced. My decisions and lifestyle were based on what 'feels' good, which only lead to a long line of horrible decisions, excessiveness, and hardships. In the wake of my non-christian life, there are 100s of victims, myself included.
The greatest effect this article had on me, at the core of all my doubts and worries, was fear. Rearing it's ugly head and uprooting my wisdom and shaking up my sound mind. Why? Truth! The truth is that I know my God, my saviour, my counselor, but I also know my enemy -the devil. Truth can be a very scary, hard to digest, an enormous obstacle course. Here is what I know about the enemy of my life: this world is under the control (not authority) of the evil one. This is his playing ground and where he wages his wars. His relentless pursuit is to kill, steal, and destroy. He prowls like a hungry lion looking to devour. Ephesians 6:12 puts it aptly: For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Or as the MSG version so appropriately sums it up: This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.
Here it goes, the big fat FEAR in the room. Did I knowingly subject my children, my family, my marriage to the attacks of the evil one by living a life of faith? There I said it! (phew!) This seriously shook my foundation. Listen carefully: when you do not believe or live a faith-filled-Jesus-pursuing life, the devil doesn't care about you. He doesn't care about your do-gooding. Your charities don't catch his eye, nor does your kindness or compassion. Non-christians go unnoticed -not even a blip on his radar screen. You are not a threat to his schemes or plans no matter how many people you help; you do not concern him one bit. Those of faith, who do things in the name of Christ, however, have all of his attention. This is why I was frozen in place like a deer in the headlights with a giant lump in my throat. I don't want my children to have the odds stacked against them, I don't want them to have the attention of any kind of darkness, and I certainly do not want to the evils of the world to wage war against them. This honestly scared the dickens out of me.
Here comes the big BUT! No matter how afraid I was in that moment God reminded me why I live a life of faith: First, He is worth it! He is worth it all! I want everything my kids do -the work of their hands and minds- to change the world not simply just be do-gooders. I want them to reveal their faith every where they go, I want them to insight riots of the heart so that people will turn their lives over to Christ, I want them to heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons. I want them to carry His hope to the hopeless and bring rest to the weary. I want to hear of their good-works everywhere I go. I want people to see the light of Christ in them. I want them to shake this planet! Secondly, His promises are true, steadfast, and rock solid. He promises to never leave or forsake (turn His back on) us. He promises that He goes before us, fights for us, and commands His angel armies to protect us. He promises victory, overcoming power, conquering all matters of life , and we are a co-heir in Christ. He is provider, He is savior, He is healer, He is a friend, He serves us as we serve Him, He guides us, and He gives us God-supernatural wisdom and strength. He is never ending, never weary, never tired, never at the end of His ropes. He is God, Master of the Universe, He is mighty and powerful, He knows all things, He created all things -He. Is. God.
Here's the thing: you may be a better parent than me, you may be getting right all the things I'm messing up. You may be crossing every 't' and dotting every 'i', and following parenting tips to the letter. Here's the real thing: I don't really care. I don't care what you think of me, whether you see me at my best or at my worst. I don't care if your kids are getting better grades, are better at sports, are better looking, and kinder....and so on. All I care about is that my children love God with ceaseless abandon. I care only about the condition of their hearts and that they see themselves through the eyes of Christ. I want them to go to bed each night knowing that I love them -really love them unconditionally with no expectation. I want them to see royally messing life up and tearful humble apologies. I want them to see life's ups and downs and how to lean on Christ in all matters. I want them to see and know the value of the church and the richness of being in a body of believers.
I readily admit that you do not have to be a God-believer to be a great-love-filled parent, good to people, to advocate for others, and to effect change. The conclusion of this letter will not be assigning a winner and a loser. All I can testify to is that I want heaven to touch the hearts, minds, and souls of my family. I want my children to change people's eternal life not simply improve the quality of it only while on this earth. I want more than feeding the poor, loving the lost, and caring for the orphans and widows. A full belly isn't enough. Shelter isn't enough. Having a family isn't enough. Being a companion isn't enough. Loving people isn't enough. I want more. I want my children to want more. I want them to be all this and more -bringers of hope to a world so desperate for it.