How do you know if you have done an effective job raising your child(ren)? My wife and I were blessed with two children – a son and a daughter, born 13 months apart. To say that we love our children would be an understatement. From the moment we discovered that we were pregnant we began to plan, prepare, and dream forward what their lives would be like and how they would impact the world. When children enter the picture your marital focus changes, like it or not. You begin to consider, worry about, and fret over these little lives that have been placed into your hands. Schools and teachers…clubs and activities…friends and neighbors…all of this comes into play and, as a parent, you don’t want to screw it up!
In the book of Proverbs it states: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). I know that I have either read or heard that verse of Scripture thousands of times during the course of my lifetime. But when you are a parent you see this as a Biblical mandate of the highest importance: “Train up a child in the way he should go…”. But does God understand how incredibly difficult this task is? Does He understand the distractions, challenges, temptations, and global messes that are beckoning and luring my children to the precipice of utter disaster?!
In a very real way I get to see into the chaos of life every day when I walk into my office. As the pastor of a church with a Pre-K to 8th Grade School I get to see it all up close and personal. The challenges are not only for the parents these days – it is also for the children. The Biblically constituted home is not necessarily the norm anymore. Grandparents (and in some cases, Great-Grandparents) are called upon to raise their grandchildren…single parent homes created by divorce and, in some cases, death…cultural crises ravaging the identities of the traditional roles of mother and father (and male and female)…drugs and imprisonment ripping families apart…and caught in the cross-hairs are the children whose fractured homes have the same Biblical mandate that my wife and I had: “Train up the child in the way they should go…”
Into such a cultural cauldron there is no simple answer…no quick fix…no magic cure. But there is hope. It starts with a simple, yet powerful command by Jesus Christ: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). Today’s cultural maelstrom is so devastating that families need support, help, and…Love. In the midst of great familial challenges the children and adults of our school are not left on their own to “figure things out.” The Pastors, Principal, teachers, staff, and church community chooses to walk in the path of love with these families. Sometimes that means speaking the corrective word or directing a child or parent for help beyond our doors. Other times it means serving as a mentor, a helpful hand, or a listening ear, or a caring hug.
The kind of Love that Jesus prescribes is a selfless, sacrificial, and all encompassing love. It’s the kind of love the desires the very best for the other person; the kind of love that walks the extra mile whenever it is needed. So I ask you: “Who is it that you need to love?” “Who is it that needs you to walk the extra mile with their family?” I realize that these are dangerous questions because it will cause you to get involved in a way that will challenge, tax, and push the boundaries of your faith (and in some cases, your patience). But if we are serious about the transformative nature of the Gospel of Love in Jesus Christ, then we are required to put on our hip-waders and walk into the messy lives of those who are around us.
I know that over the years my children (Madelyn and Jarod) have frustrated me, challenged me, annoyed me, and pushed me to the very edge now and again…BUT I never stopped loving them and going the extra mile so that they would go “the right way” and “never depart from it.” And now my wife and I get to to enjoy those moments when they call and say: “Thank you for teaching me…pushing me…placing boundaries before me…and, well, loving me.” These are the moments parents live to hear. But then something even more miraculous happens – they begin to help those around them who haven’t been the beneficiaries of such Christian parenting. To witness your own child intentionally wade into the mess of a friend’s life to provide for them what they failed to receive from their own home. To know they have heard (and are now old enough to apply) Jesus’ words: “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” And when you see and experience this, you know that you have faithfully followed the proverb…