When I was a teenager, my mother would often call me Sarah. Not because that was my name, but because I was always a little impatient for what was next. She thought I was a little too much like Sarah in the Bible – trying to help God out a little or at least hurry him along. Maybe it was because I am a card-carrying optimist, but I was always sure bigger and better adventures were right around the corner.
Parenting can bring out the Sarah in the best of us. We (or at least I was this way!) can’t wait until our children are potty-trained. We are so excited about the idea of our children starting school, beginning to date, or learning to drive. We are sure that when our child reaches the next milestone, life will somehow be easier or more fun.
The problem is, that just like that sappy ’70’s song (The Cat’s in the Cradle for you youngsters!), sometimes we are so busy looking for the future, we fail to take advantage of all the present has to offer. Often we spend so much time pushing our children to get ready for the next milestone, the joy of the present is killed. Our priorities can get skewed as our competitive natures kick in.
Suddenly, the entire family is invested in the success or failure of what began as a fun extracurricular activity. Meanwhile, we have no family time to train and nurture our children. Church services are missed and God goes unmentioned in our households as we rush to the next activity or help our children practice pitching balls or spelling words.
Sometimes, I have to stop myself and take a deep breath. I try to have a little talk with God as we review His priorities for my child. I am pretty sure from scriptures that God wants our children to live full productive lives that make good use of the gifts He has given them. At the end of the day though, the only thing that matters is that our children end up in heaven with God.
If you think about it, that is a pretty radical statement. Do I want my child to go to a good college. Sure. But, if I thought for one second going to college would lead her down a path away from God, I don’t want her to go. If she is a gifted athlete, would I want to encourage her talent? Yes, I believe God gives us our talents to glorify Him. But if playing ball, takes her away from building a relationship with God, then all of the Olympic medals in the world are meaningless.
I have even seen parents of adult children, pushing their kids into specific careers, marriages or having children. These parents are sure that when their child reaches those milestones, then life will be perfect for him. I have had a fun career, a wonderful husband and child and would love for my daughter to experience those same blessings for herself. Honestly though, I would rather her be a godly ditch digger who is single and childless than a wealthy, married woman with two kids and a dog who has forgotten God.
If I can just keep the ultimate goal in mind as I parent, I may make some very different choices for my child than I am right now. Do I push her to the lucrative career known for corruption or do I let her find the career God has gifted her to have, even if it pays very little? Do we withhold some material things to teach her the value of giving back to God, even if it means she is a little less popular because she doesn’t have the “right” new shoes every few months?
There is an old saying that not making a choice is still making a choice. Even if you don’t actively and intentionally parent for specific results, you are by the small parenting choices you make each day. Are you parenting your child towards God or away from Him? What results are you really parenting to achieve?
As with many things in life, it may be years before you see the ultimate results of your parenting decisions. Add in your child’s free will and ultimately you have no control on the life your child chooses to live. All you can do is show your child as often as you can and in as many ways as you can the plan God has for her life.
Last year, we planted a BIble garden at our church. After many hours of hard labor, it looked okay, but a little tenuous with the drought we were having. Yet we continued to work on our little garden. People weeded, watered, planted and planned to get some results out of this seemingly weak start. A year later, this is what our garden looks like.
Our fig trees have figs and our grape vines have grapes. Our melons, herbs and flowers are producing. Even our palm trees are showing some progress. Is God done with our garden? Can we stop working on it? Not if this garden is to become the teaching tool the children of our congregation need. It has even become a place where people can go to pray and read scriptures when they need a peaceful place to be with God.
Just like this garden, our children need God in their lives. They need us to help them find Him and to help them begin a lifelong relationship loving, obeying, glorifying and worshipping God. If we can do our part, there is no imaging how God may use our children in His Kingdom. We may not see the final results for years or in our lifetime. If we parent for godly results though, just like our little Bible garden, you may just start to see the beautiful plan God has for your child come to life.