I seem to remember someone, somewhere writing something like parenting isn’t so much designed for our happiness as it is for our holiness. Or maybe that was marriage. Well, either way, I’ve noticed this trend MANY times over the past six and half years as a parent. Here are two things I’ve picked up just over the last weekend.
1. “He will not let you fall”
We sang this several times on Sunday, amidst the chorus of a song in church. Nate (our 5 year old) was standing with me on the back of the pew in front of us. Inquisitively, and a little louder than necessary being only centimeters from my ear, he asked about the line we kept repeating.
“Why does it say, ‘He will not let you fall’? Because when I’m climbing trees [or riding my bike, or running down the hill, or sometimes just walking] Jesus doesn’t stop me from falling and sometimes I get hurt.”
What could I say in the next few seconds that would answer his question in a satisfactory manner without disrupting those worshipping around us?
Similar questions arose while our family studied Psalm 121 this past year. God makes some pretty bold promises there. “The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121:8
How do you answer the 5 year old (or the 20, 30, 42, or 77 year old, for that matter) who submits real, hard evidence contrary to verses like this?
In the proceeding moments, I hurried off a whispered explanation that the ‘fall’ we were singing about refers to the one we are protected from eternally. God has us in the palm of His hand and NOTHING can take us out. Once God grants us salvation, He will never let go. Thankfully, this seemed to satisfy my precocious offspring, and we continued singing.
“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” John 10:28-29
I have had several conversations recently with students who live in fear of losing their salvation; they get so focused on the doing, they fail to recognize what God has already done. My consistent encouragement to them is that, praise God, our eternal security does not depend on us. He will not let us fall and we are secure in His capable hands!
2. “I’ll just follow you”
Ethan’s Kindergarten class held a class activity last Friday evening. This posed a unique opportunity for him to stay up late. Around 8:30, I went to pick him up from Titchie (the elementary school) and we started the five minute walk back to our house.
A few things to visualize about this setting: Ethan is rarely up this late and being outside after dark is even more foreign. Another is the uneven and potentially treacherous “foot paths” that provide shortcuts all over RVA’s campus. These often lead to scraped knees and twisted ankles in broad daylight, so you can imagine the challenge at night. Finally, it’s probably important to note that we were without a flashlight!
Ethan likes to mosey. Even if you’re walking “with” him somewhere, there’s a good chance he’s behind you. He enjoys stopping to smell the roses (or pick up the rocks, or stop and gaze into the trees, or jump in and out of the ditch, etc.) This evening was no different. He was following several paces behind me as we made our way home.
And then he floored me. In one line, he woke me up to the significance, the potential for influence, and the responsibility I hold as a parent. And it went way beyond parenting my own kids. Courtney and I feel strongly about the call to nurture the students here as well. For many of them, in the absence of their own parents, we can play a crucial role in their development as disciples of Christ and future leaders in His church. One line – my 6 year old summed it up in one line.
“Daddy, it’s so dark, I can’t see anything. But I can see you, so I’ll just follow you. Is that okay?”
This probably needs very little commentary, but let me probe a bit. Isn’t this exactly what parenting is supposed to be? As clueless as I feel as a parent most days, as dark as the world we’re bringing them up in seems, we have a responsibility to walk in a way worth following. Isn’t this exactly what mentoring a younger believer should be like? Paul recommended himself for this role, serving the Corinthian church as they struggled to find their way as baby Christians.
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” I Corinthians 11:1
Challenged by my eldest son, I replied, “Yes, Ethan. You can follow me. I know it’s dark and hard to see, but if you walk where I walk, I think you’ll be ok. You can hold my hand if you want.”
Even in my own response the lesson continued. Extending my hand for him to hold would require slowing down a bit, waiting for him to catch up, giving him concrete evidence that I’m there for him, walking alongside, supporting him when he needs me most.
Thanks, boys. Keep the lessons coming!