Parenting is a big job. We are entrusted with little desperately wicked sinners, cute though they may be, who need everything from demanding physical care to consistent training in righteousness. Parenting certainly doesn’t need to be overly complicated since God really has equipped us as parents with everything we need for the task through His Word, prayer, and the help of other believers. But that doesn’t change the fact that dealing with these kids is hard work.
We knew part of our job as parents would be to help our kids physically with numerous tasks like getting dressed, learning to use silverware, and potty training. We also expected to train their understanding with information that would help keep them safe like looking both ways before crossing the street. We were prepared to take the knowledge of God they were born with and use it as a means to keep pointing them like arrows to Jesus and His saving grace.
But, as we enter our 7th year of parenting, I can see why people said to us after Stella was born, “Just be prepared. You really won’t get a good nights sleep for 18 more years.” Well, although Stella’s certainly sleeping through the night at this point, in some ways I feel like the hardest part of parenting is just beginning (and I can hear the collective “Amen!” resounding from you parents of older kids!). The talks, the questions, the explanations, the curiosity, and dealing with the newfound self-and-others-awareness are taking more and more time the older she gets. And I’m even with her all day every day AND she’s not a teen yet!
There’s a whole lot of living between what our expectations were of helping our children physically, helping them know how to function safely, and presenting them with the facts of the Christian faith. And it’s in that whole lot of living where sleep is lost and precious time is invested.
One of the many investments we are discovering we need to make is the investment in training their affections – what they should love and hate and why. We are having more hard conversations about the evils in the world. Stella knows our elderly neighbor wanted to die and took matters into her own hands by starving herself to death. She’s seen moms, whose gazes were set in determination, walk into an abortion clinic to take the lives of their precious unborn babies. She’s sensed the insecurity of being a minority, though only for a few hours, as she and Ruby were the only Caucasian children playing on the packed playground on Belle Isle. She’s delivered Christmas presents in a Detroit neighborhood were people were so fearful of crime they put bars over the doors and windows of their homes. Some of these things we exposed her to intentionally and some came about just through everyday life in this broken world.
We’ve seen her lip tremble and her eyes fill with tears as she started to grasp the sadness and hurt of sin. We’ve seen her struggle with the temptation to keep quiet and be ashamed of the gospel and ask, “What will people think? What if they make fun of us?” And in all honesty, we want her to deal with these difficulties in an age-appropriate way. We want these things to move her heart so she has some perspective. Perspective that there are things worth being angry about. There are things worth taking a stand for regardless of the outcome personally. There are things worth crying over. And in the big scheme of things, it’s not the absence of a DS under the Christmas tree. Of course, there are childhood excitements and disappointments, and joy and tears do and will continue to come from those things. But, by God’s grace, we want to keep before our kids the perspective of a life that’s motivated by God-centered affections and passionately poured out on things worth living and dying for.
“Who confronts them [our children] with urgency and tears? Who pleads with them not to waste their lives? Who takes them by the collar, so to speak, and loves them enough to show them a life so radical and so real and so costly and Christ-saturated that they feel the emptiness and triviality of their CD collection and their pointless conversations about passing celebrities? Who will waken what lies latent in their souls, untapped – a longing not to waste their lives?”