I am not responsible for my child’s salvation. And neither are you. Does that statement bother you?
Creating Perfect Christian Children
Some time ago I ran across an older article from Christianity Today entitled The Myth of the Perfect Parent: Why the best parenting techniques don’t produce Christian children. It’s been on the back burner as other things have demanded my attention.
The CT article is really very encouraging and worth the time to read even though it is long. It was freeing and confirmed some of the conclusions I’ve drawn over the past several years. Contrary to what anyone will tell you, there is no formula for raising children who love the Lord. There is no guarantee in the Scriptures that your child will become a Christian if you only do such and such.
But we live in a culture obsessed with getting ahead, cutting our losses, and ensuring a win. We have no tolerance for failure.
And we live in a Christian culture obsessed with someone telling us the “right” way to do something. We have books and speakers and bloggers and conventions and podcasts and retreats and gurus on and on and on. We want guarantees on everything, including raising our children to follow Christ.
Parents Become an Obstacle to Christ
It distresses me when I see how many children raised in Christian families trying to do it all “right” end up as atheists. I’ve lost track of how many blogs I’ve come across written by people (primarily women) who were raised in homes doing everything “right” and now have no faith at all.
In many cases (though not all), it was the actions and attitudes of the parents that drove their children away from Christ. The micromanagement and control became a stumbling block. In trying to guarantee their child
loved the Lord grew up to think just like them, the parents became the biggest obstacle.
Our children are not miniature versions of us. They are unique individuals from the womb with likes, dislikes, gifts, callings, and more. Our privilege as parents is to help our children understand who they are in all their individual wonder and show them how God created them to be that amazing individual. Our privilege is not to make them just like us. It is to make them run to Christ.
Pointing My Child to Christ
I have no idea how Caroline will turn out. I am not going to sit here and tell you she will accept Christ and follow Him faithfully all her days. I hope and pray that is true. I pray to that end. I have prayed to that end before I was married and for almost ten years before we were blessed to become parents. Many others pray for her to that end. I do believe in my heart of hearts that she will follow Christ because of the way I have seen God work in mighty ways in our little family as well as the lives of our parents.
But do I know it as a fact? No.
David and I are doing the best we can. We don’t have all the answers. We are trying to avoid mistakes we’ve seen others make, but in the process I’m sure we’re making our own new ones. We are trying very hard not be a stumbling block to her knowing Christ.
We don’t want to be hypocrites. We want to be honest with her. We always strive to give her a truthful answer. We take every question she asks seriously so she will never be afraid or embarrassed to ask us about anything. I’m trying to learn how to take my faith that tends heavily toward being expressed in the cerebral and model it in loving, concrete ways. This is hard for me in many ways, but I am trying to do it for her sake since she is less about the cerebral and more about the engaging activity than I am.
Hope for the Challenging Child
I’ve written often about the fact that Caroline is a spirited child. We joke that we brought this on ourselves because one thing we prayed over and over again for her before she was even born was that God would make her a strong person with strong convictions.
Yes, He answered that prayer!
Because of that prayer, I found this piece in the article interesting:
Jay Belsky of Birbeck found that the child most likely to adopt his parents’ values is not the mellow, compliant child, as one would expect, but the fussy, difficult child. The fussy child is genetically wired through the presence of dna variants to be more sensitive and attuned to her parents and surroundings. The mellow child is more like Teflon; good parenting, and even bad parenting, tends not to stick.
Now whether this DNA thing is real or not, I don’t know. And DNA is not the Holy Spirit. But even though it is very hard and very emotionally exhausting to have a child who pushes back, asks questions and has a mind of her own, I will take this every time over a quiet, compliant child who questions nothing and simply does as he or she is told. I would rather she push back and engage us with what she really thinks than have her do as we ask but seethe with anger or frustration that has nowhere safe to be vented.
My Child Belongs To God
I said in a comment on another post about this article:
I frequently remind myself God had plans for my life that my parents could not comprehend. And yet here I am today. God worked with willing but imperfect parents and a willing but imperfect child/young adult. I can see His hand all over my life. It is the same for my child. God gave me this particular child at this particular time. I have every confidence He was wonderful plans for her life. I want His plans for her life. I know she belongs to Him and I’m just a steward of her life until she is ready to launch on her own. If He can create her as the unique person she is, then He can work through willing parents to get her where He wants her. I have every confidence God knows our frames as parents. If we are willing and seeking Him, we have nothing to fear. He’ll lead us even when we don’t realize He is doing so.
So even though I pray for my child, I love my child, and I am doing my best to raise her in the fear and admonition of the Lord, if she chooses not to walk with Christ it is not ultimately my responsibility. She belongs to God. It is up to the Holy Spirit to call her. I can plant the seeds and water, but it is the Holy Spirit who harvests.
Just as I refuse to define my worth by our schooling choices, I also refuse to define my worth as a Christian woman and mother based on how Caroline decides to live her life. I will do the best I can do each day, ask for forgiveness when necessary, and trust the results to God.
I couldn’t save myself so why should I think I can save my child?
The bottom line from the CT article:
We must assume, then, that there is serious error in our beliefs about parenting. We have made far too much of ourselves and far too little of God, reflecting our sinful bent to see ourselves as more essential and in control than we actually are. It’s also our heritage as good Americans, psychologist Harriet Lerner observed in her 1998 book, The Mother Dance: We believe that we can fix every problem, that we are masters over our fate. The root of much of our pain in parenting, she writes, is “the belief that we should have control over our children when it is hard enough to have control over ourselves.”