As I drove away from dropping my daughter at school this morning, worry came whispering. (My daughter’s doing fine, but worry never seems to mind that.) It reminded me of experiences I had in high school. It reminded me of stories I hear today at Regeneration. I confessed, “Father, I wish she were growing up in a world where the majority of kids around her believed sex is sacred.” I breathed, tried to relax into the present, and added, “I know that’s not the world she’s in, so Lord, help us.”
Parenting is tough. It can be rewarding beyond belief, but it can be just plain hard, too.
I think it’s also uniquely challenging for parents today who are navigating a cultural landscape unknown to parents of previous generations—a landscape marked by smartphones, social media, the porn phenomenon, the obfuscation of gender, and remarkably high rates of anxiety and depression among teens.
The darkness surrounding our kids—and so the road we parents walk—is arduous.
I don’t intend to stir discouragement or worry. A bit of sober fear may spur us to step into the darkness, but anxious hand-wringing (even in the guise of prayer) or fear-based rules (even “Christian” ones) will not be good travel companions to us or our kids on this road.
(I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that good things are happening, too! For one thing, kids of this generation seem to have an uncanny orientation toward authenticity, compassion and justice. One leader in a college ministry recently told me she felt the church would be a radically better place if Christians were as accepting as students on campus are. God is working powerfully in and through all this, and that gives me great hope.)
A few years ago at one of our PG seminars, I remarked to one of the moms on our speaking team that I found it confounding that Scripture doesn’t offer us more clear direction on how to parent. She thought for a moment and then responded, “Maybe that’s not the point.”
She was right.
On the road we travel, we need something better than guidance about parenting. We need something more agile than the most up-to-date information about the apps our kids are using. By all means, seek guidance and keep up-to-speed with your kids’ world, but we need a surer way.
Christ offers us the way.
I don’t mean He offers us a way to produce perfect kids, keep them from harm, and ensure they won’t choose the ways of the world.
Jesus didn’t come to do something that would ensure we (or our kids) never suffered, never struggled, never sinned. He didn’t come to create a path from which we (or our kids) could never stray, never be lured, never defect.
But what He did do is give Himself in sacrificial love for us wherever we are. He invites us parents to become like Him in precisely this way—sacrificially loving with words and deeds (and silence, prayers, walking, and waiting)—not bound by how well or poorly our kids are doing, but bound solely by Christ’s love for us all (2 Corinthians 5:14,15).
Said another way, our parental calling is not to raise perfect kids in a perfect world. Our calling is to love imperfect kids in an imperfect world with a Christ-like love.
Oh may it be that your kids and mine fall deeply in love with Jesus and follow Him closely all the days of their lives. Let’s do all we can toward that hope. But, my friends, should they do so or should they wander far from Him, let us learn to draw deeply from His love and learn to love as He does in our parenting!
If we can help, let us know. (And if you’re in the Westminster area keep an eye out for our next PG conference in March!)
Question: What’s an example of when you experienced Christ-like love from a parent or parent-figure when you deserved it least? Leave a comment below.