As parents, in an attempt to shield our young children from physical injury, we often accomplish the opposite result emotionally and spiritually, leaving them vulnerable to the assaults of the world. I suspect this is rooted in a lack of faith. It’s as if we don’t trust the Lord with our kids’ physical well-being; but if we claim to trust Him with our lives, how can this be?
God has placed on us the responsibility to do our best to nurture, guide and protect the little ones He’s given us until they mature. But are we truly protecting them by insulating their days from any foreseeable hurt? God’s word makes it clear that being alive in this world entails making mistakes, enduring difficulty, often getting hurt as a result. But, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (Jas. 1:2-5)
We’ve sought God’s help in raising our children, His wisdom in disciplining them, and His grace in loving them. We pray for their future, ask God to claim them as His, ask Him to bless their lives and, in our faith, entrust their souls to His care. Still, fear often sneaks into our minds like wasps nesting in the attic, undetected and growing. Don’t be lulled by the illusion that Satan will wait to hunt your children’s hearts; he is already stalking them as he works to distract us. Let us wake up! We must know ourselves better, check frequently for the invader and expose his dark buzzing to the light before we’re deceived into listening. Otherwise, in time only our words will reflect faith in Christ. If it does not work its way into our daily response to our children’s desires and actions, what power does it have? How will we teach them to defend themselves against the evil one? Are we not a contradiction in their eyes, leaving our outspoken faith as merely a powerless wish?
I have come to suspect that, by responding with fear and frustration to our children’s desire to explore their limits (particularly boys), we are undercutting our own dreams for their future. It is an illusion that by worrying we can affect their health or well-being, or protect them from suffering. (Mt. 6:26-27) Any one of us must only think honestly back on our own years to discover this truth.
Being alive in this world requires suffering. It is not a mistake; it’s part of God’s design to bring us closer to His heart, the source of real life. (Rom. 5:3-4) Just by attempting to deflect suffering from them, we mock the very faith in Christ we’ve worked so hard to impart, hollowing the gospel of its relevance to daily reality. This can lead to recklessness and rejection, the very outcomes we long to prevent. If we succeed in the deflection, we fail our call as parents to prepare them for the reality of living in a sinful world and leave them raw and naïve, ripe prey for the deceiver.
So, what is the solution? I’m still working this out myself, but I grow more confident each day that we are intended to shepherd our children, not shield them. A striking set of questions from the Spirit put me on this path: is it possible I’m enjoying this role too much? I dearly love my children; but do I love the power, the authority over them more? I was speechless; I felt shocked, yet not quite totally surprised. I was sitting on a throne instead of pointing them to His. By putting myself in that role, a job infinitely beyond my qualifications or capabilities, I was hindering their intimacy with Him, my greatest nightmare. Through His endless grace, He continues to purify me.
We must grasp the truth that our Father Himself truly loves them; He is calling them as He once did us. We have been appointed their guardians for a short time, but as a reflection of the Holy Spirit, guiding them into truth and demonstrating through the example of our living faith that His grace is genuinely able to carry them through their lives.
In order for this to succeed, our dealings with our kids must have the flavor of the Father’s hand with us. We must trust Him with their well-being, allowing our fears to be swallowed by our faith, even sharing those events of our own growth with them. Am I participating in life with my children or merely acting as a referee? Am I serving as an image of the Lord, tarnished but nonetheless treasured by Him and growing brighter? Of course, part of my role as shepherd involves correction; but it must be administered in the same way God corrects me – with grace, not like the Law.
So take heart! The Father is right with you, and His desire and love for your children is even greater than yours. My wife and I love our children dearly, and our Father calls us to lead them as He leads us. I want to be attentive and share the joy my boys feel when they are climbing a tree or running through a trail in the woods or jumping in a lake. I want to listen and encourage her heart when my daughter longs to rescue an injured bird or help someone who needs it. I will certainly do my best to impart wisdom to them, even caution, but I will not prevent them from risking. For, as I’ve discovered through my own journey so far, if I am unwilling to risk, I can never truly love.
“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” – Mt. 18:10-14
Copyright (c) 2010 Jeffrey R. Snell
Scripture Taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.
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I agree... Protecting our children too much is not good, but during the young developmental years, they should not be put in a place where they will be taught by those who would lead them astray. There is a time to protect and a time to let them explore.