My youngest daughter turned twenty a few weeks ago. The fact that we no longer have any teenagers in our home is somewhat unsettling to me. You see, Tracy and I have spent the vast majority of the past twenty-six years raising our girls. Yes, we have had work obligations and responsibilities to our local church and friendships to foster and a marriage to cultivate. But raising children is – or at least ought to be – a 24/7/365 consideration. But you turn around twice and they are out of the house – in college or on their own or starting their own family. You look around and wonder where the time went and what you do now. Some degree of nostalgia – even melancholy – settles itself in the back of your mind, tugging at your attention at the sight of a soccer field or the sound of a marching band. That’s where I am in my life. I made the turn and started the back nine some years ago, and now I’m playing the holes where my fivesome is becoming a twosome.
I’m starting to look back at the last twenty-six years and wonder if we did right. For the most part, my girls are living their own lives now. Yes, there is still a great deal of financial dependence and they still seek out advice occasionally (though they don’t seem as interested in my opinions when they are unsolicited). The birds still flutter around the nest, but they are basically flying solo now. I see our influence in some areas. At other times I watch their decisions and wonder if they ever listened to anything I said. Such is life as the parent of an adult. Our job has been to prepare them to live their own lives, to make wise decisions, to be good people, productive citizens, desirable neighbors, godly wives and mothers. But mostly, our job has been to point them to God. They have been His gift to us – His “heritage” (Ps.127.3). He has expected us to make our children His children. I pray daily that we have done right by them, and by Him.
Such are the meanderings of my mind today. The new year is upon us and I’m watching them go about their lives as I try to go about mine. For the past fifteen years, a new year would bring new busy-ness to our world. School soccer season and Winter Drumline were starting. We cooked and hauled and loaded and drove and cheered and celebrated and consoled and ate and slept and did it all again the next week. It was great fun. It was hard work. I loved every minute of it. We tried desperately to help them be active and involved and godly at the same time. God and God’s people were always the first priority. We wanted them to compete, to participate, to enjoy their activities, but to do so with character, integrity, excellence, discipline, righteousness. And involved they were.
But it was all temporary and, frankly, insignificant. None of the playoff runs, contest titles, state competitions, “all-whatever” teams, medals, or police escorts into town make much difference now. Now, I just hope and pray that they are serving the Lord.
What are you doing to save your kids?
If your kids are still at home then the chances are that you are as inundated as we have been. Great. Enjoy it. Cheer them on and help them learn all of the lessons that go with teamwork and participation and competition. They need the discipline that comes with education or raising livestock or marching with the band. Every kid ought to experience the joy of winning and the misery of losing, both individually and as a part of a team. They need to find their talents and develop them and they need your encouragement. But more than anything else, they need to know where they came from, why they’re here, and where they’re going. Soccer and band ain’t life. And preparing for life is your job, parents.
Deu.6.4f and Eph.6.4 offer directives for parents. Both passages essentially make the same plea – point your kids toward God. Ps.78.1-8 reminds us that the knowledge of God is to be passed from generation to generation through the family. This is what God desires from mothers and fathers. How to hit a curve ball or the proper embouchure necessary to play a bassoon are going to be irrelevant one day soon. But discipline and character, righteousness and decency, happiness and faith will serve your kids well throughout their life. Are you focused there? Are you introducing them to God, talking about Him and His word and His son? Are you setting priorities that are eternal in scope? Do you show them God in your life? Are God’s people more important that the PTA folks or the little league moms? Is worshiping God and learning His word more important than school work and deer hunting? Do you make them get their Bible class lessons as diligently as you make them get their math homework? Are you trying to get them to heaven, or just on the All-star team?
There are all kinds of practical directives that might be employed in accomplishing these spiritual ends. Much of the “how” involved is, honestly, personal and individual. Different kids respond to different approaches. Parents have their own personalities, and one couple may pursue these goals differently than the next. But they need to be pursued, and pursued passionately.
One day – and it won’t be long – you’ll come home from work to an empty house. A new year will be starting and it’ll hit you that your youngest is no longer a teenager. You’ll watch your kids living their own lives. You’ll still be involved to some extent. You’ll still be cheering and supporting and loving, laughing and crying. But there’ll be more looking back, as you play the last few holes. They’ll move on. And you’ll wonder if you did enough, if you did right.
What are you doing to save your kids?