From what my friends with adult children tell me, you never finish parenting. Evidently, we will always worry about and be involved in the lives of our children. That’s probably a good thing. For Christian parents, our finish line is getting to Heaven and having our children there with us. The longer we are involved in the lives of our children, the more opportunities we have of pointing them towards God.
If you have been working with your children this year on our plan to live more like Jesus, you may feel as if you are running a marathon. Like most of us, you have had good days and bad days. Weeks when you felt like you really were actively parenting your children towards God. And weeks where if everyone was still breathing by the end of the day, you considered it a major victory.
Endurance races are like that, too. Ask any marathon runner, and they will tell you that at some point in the race, they hit the wall. Their muscles are fatigued. They are hot, thirsty and tired. The idea of giving up and stopping seems like the best idea they have had in some time. Yet, if they can push through and continue to run, they will eventually reach the finish line. Reaching that difficult goal gives them the satisfaction and joy that no drug could provide.
Paul even admits living a Christian life is like an endurance race. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 22:1-2 NIV)
Although the Bible never specifically mentions Christian parenting as an endurance race, in Deuteronomy 6:7, God does command parents to teach their children His words in a type of daily endurance event. “Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (NIV)
Endurance events are tough. It is so tempting to give up when you hit the proverbial wall. If you can keep your eyes on your ultimate goal though, you are much more likely to finish the race. So, what is the goal for Christian parenting?
Obviously, the most motivating goal for us is that we want our children to spend eternity in Heaven. The alternative is so scary and so horrible, it is unthinkable. (Although, if you are more motivated by the negative, feel free to focus on what you don’t want to happen to your children.)
I have found though when running (which is as rarely as possible) or doing something else difficult, setting intermediate goals helps. Sometimes the idea of making it to the finish line is just too overwhelming. I can run one more block though – and then another and another until the finish line is in sight.
Set some intermediary Christian parenting goals for yourself. What is one thing you can do for each of your children today that will point them towards God? Having a really tough day? What is one thing you can do right this second that will point each of your children towards God? Make it your small goal for each day to make at least one impression on your child about God and His will for our lives.
And on the good days? Teach your children about keeping their eyes on the ultimate goal – eternal life in Heaven. Help them learn to make each decision in such a way that it moves them closer to their ultimate goal and not farther away.
How do you keep your eyes on the final goal in Christian parenting? What have you done to keep your children focused on the “finish line” of Christianity? I would love for you to share your ideas in a comment below.