This week I was browsing the comments on a friend’s Facebook page. Her son has just suffered a spinal injury and is now at the beginning of a long road to recovery. A wise occupational therapist advised her to keep in mind that even though she and her son are going to have lots of intersecting points on their journeys through this hard time, they are, in fact, each on their own journey.
At first glance that might look like a bunch of psychobabble to some. But, the more I’ve thought it over, the more I’ve come to decide that there is deep truth in what this man wrote. In fact, the truths that he alludes to are much deeper than an occupational therapist’s advice to a patient. What he said is startlingly true for parents and children of all ages, stages, and circumstances. And, Christian parents especially need to consider this man’s advice.
It’s easy for us to impose our own feelings and wants and needs onto our children. We get frustrated when our kids don’t desire the same outcomes that we do. But, in the end we see them as little extensions of ourselves, and because of that we tend to gloss over their sin problems and assume that God is working to sanctify them.
But, what if He isn’t?
What if we need to be on our knees, begging God to save their souls? What if we considered the fact that they are on a completely different journey, and that God may deal with them in a completely different way?
Too often Christian parents assume that our kids are going to be okay. We spend more time praying that they stay healthy than we do praying that He will bust their hearts wide open and set up residence there. We have to begin thinking of our kids as more than extensions of ourselves. They aren’t guaranteed to come to Christ just because we did. They aren’t necessarily going to be rebellious just because we were or goody-goodies because we were. We must deal with our children as individuals, and we must remember that God has His own plans and ways of speaking to our children.
In short, their journey is separate from ours.
Their hurts are different. Their temptations are different. Their weaknesses are different, and so are their strengths. There are many places on the road to sanctification where our paths will cross. Where our journeys will intertwine. But, make no mistake: our kids are on their own journey. It may be a short road to Jesus or a long and winding one, but let us never assume that our prayers aren’t needed. That our witness doesn’t matter. That our kids know how we “really” feel, even if they see us behaving in ungodly ways.
Let’s stop thinking of our parenthood as a way to drag our kids along on our path. Once we recognize that they are on their own journey, that we can’t force them to love Jesus, I guarantee that it will change the way we pray. The way we talk to them about the things of God. The way that we live in front of them. Are we walking our own path in a way that would make our kids want to go the narrow way of Jesus? Or are we unwittingly encouraging them to take every wide and busy and dangerous road that leads far from Him?
Chad told me about an exchange that he overheard between a missionary and her little child in Ecuador. The little girl asked, “Mama, when are we going to get a new car?” The dear mother answered, “We can pray for a new car, but for now Jesus is sustaining this one.” That’s a parent who understands how to instill a love for Christ in her babies. Can she force that sweet little girl to follow Jesus? No. But, by making her own journey one of authentic love and appreciation for the Savior, that mama is helping her little girl along in her journey toward Him.
Are we walking the path set before us in such a way? I feel a deep conviction that I am not. Ever the rule follower, am I satisfied to see my kids have a relationship with rules when I ought to be on my knees praying that God will show Himself to them in such a real way that they are never the same? Am I speaking about others in a way that makes them wonder what is so Christian about Christianity? Am I grumbling and complaining more than I am praising and encouraging?
Here we are, you and I, standing on the path that leads to glory. Are we acting like it? And, are we desperate to see our children experience the miracle of a real and authentic love for Jesus? Their journey is their own. Are we doing all we can to bless their pathway? Or are we sending them down all the wrong roads, assuming that it’ll all work out in the end?
When our children stand before God, they will do it alone. We won’t be there to make excuses or to argue in their defense. This is our time, right now, to get serious about our kids’ salvation. To get desperate to see them commit to Christ and follow Him down whichever path He has laid out for them. Just the mere thought of that day of judgment should inspire us to give up our lukewarm Christianity in favor of a reckless faith. We can’t be satisfied in thinking that they will be good, church-going Christians someday–we have to want more for ourselves and more for them.
Everyone is on a journey. Our children may be walking in their own way and at their own pace. But, one thing they should never wonder is what their parents’ journeys are all about. If it’s anything other than adoring Christ and living for Him, we are giving our kids a faulty roadmap that leads to noplace. They may find their way regardless, but their road is likely to be long and rocky and painful. Let’s bless their journey by walking in true faith, love, repentance, and soul-deep prayer for their salvation and perseverance in their walk.
And if, despite everything, our kids still choose to take the wide, smooth roads that lead away from Jesus, we will at least have the assurance that we are journeying in the ways that please God, and we will trust Him to bring them back to the narrow way.
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. Matthew 7:13