On one occasion some years ago, my three sons stood in line with me and their uncle (my brother-in-law) as we all scrutinized the sign before us. “You Must Be This Tall To Ride This Ride,” it said. The older two were in the “safe zone” but the youngest just barely “measured up”, so to speak. After breathing a hearty sigh of relief, he began to leap up and down in excitement. In between bounces, he managed to ask me why there was a rule about how tall one has to be.
“It’s to keep you safe,” I answered. “The ride is a very dangerous thing for someone who isn’t ready for it.” Although I suspect he would have found it far less satisfactory if he hadn’t been able to ride it, the answer seemed to satisfy him and he turned his attention back to watching those who were already on it. But as we stood there, my own thoughts remained on the subject, shifting ever so slightly to the ways that families thrust their children spiritually “onto rides” for which they’re simply not ready emotionally, socially, and spiritually.
Children, for example, are exposed on a regular basis to the emotionally charged and confusing themes that typical evening television broadcasts into typical homes in our world. Sexual themes, cruel and selfish behavior (often masquerading as comedy), and social ills labeled as “alternative lifestyles” are regularly presented without sufficient parental guidance to guide children in the “digestion” of them. Left to fend for themselves, our young people will have little to no alternative to assuming that the situations being painted on the silver screen before their eyes are the way life really is.
As I continue to consider that lamentable pattern of parental failure, the titanic stupidity of our failing to guide and guard our children strikes home to me. It is no small thing to be given the charge as father or mother to the children that God has entrusted to us. And we must expect an ultimate accounting of our job as parents to God Himself. While He knows that we are imperfect and doesn’t expect us to be perfect parents, He won’t wink at our neglect if neglect characterizes our parenting.
And we of course want to be wary of neglect in ALL its forms. Not only do we nurture our children physically, academically, and athletically, we also are called to guide them in matters of morals, justice, character, and (most importantly) spiritual things. But if you are intimidated by being that kind of mentor and guide, the anxiety that you’re feeling is the right emotion (that’s EXACTLY what I feel).
You and I must therefore learn to depend upon the help of God in the rearing of our children. After all, He has promised that “we can do all things through Christ Who gives us strength” (Philippians 4:13). “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10 ESV).
We each must become a “student” of God’s Word so that we might learn His heart, His ways, and His purposes and then in turn share them with our children. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7 ESV).
Neglecting to actively engage this most high calling of nurturing our children towards the things of God is to choose to be agents of damnation for these that God has entrusted to us. And we obviously cannot expect our children to begin to demonstrate any commitment or interest at all to things that God esteems if we haven’t taught them to do so and modeled it to them ourselves. After all, honesty, courage, love, compassion, mercy, faithfulness, and sacrifice have their source in Him. If we never work to connect our kids to the source, then we shouldn’t expect to see those things come to fruition in their character.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it…. But a child left to himself disgraces his mother” (Proverbs 22:6; 29:15b).
As we think about how morally and spiritually perilous the world is, let us confess to God the sin of failing to rear our children in His ways and let us turn to Him, wholeheartedly committing ourselves to not only walk in His ways, but to rear our children in His ways also. And as we consider how heavy but wonderful mantle of parenthood is when God places it upon our shoulders, let us remember that God Himself will be our strength and provider of wisdom as we lean on Him and let His Word shape who we are.
Since there isn’t a sign on each opportunity presented by the world to our children saying, “You Must Be This Tall To Ride This Ride”, the only “signs” our kids have to help them are their parents. Let us then be the best, most Godly parents that we can be. After all, the world “is a very dangerous thing for someone who isn’t ready for it.”