Thursday, August 22, 2013
We move our oldest daughter to college today. longer will she be under our roof and subject to our rules. No longer will we be in her physical presence to watch over her, guide and direct her. No longer will she have to do what is expected because she’s right under our noses.
She is free.
Free to choose life either on God’s terms or her own. Free to serve Him with all her heart, mind, strength and soul, or free to go her own way.
Doubts and concerns pepper my thoughts. What if she doesn’t like her university or major? What if the stress of adjusting to life on her own and a more challenging academic load is more than she expected? What if she and her roommate don’t get along?
My doubts aren’t about her ability to handle it, but mine. Really, underneath the outward circumstances of my concerns is a far deeper cry of a mother’s heart: Have we raised her in church or in Christ?
What will happen when she questions? When she doubts? When the Lord uses disappointment and hardship to make her more dependent on Him? To show Himself all He wants to be to her? Will she find comfort and assurance in Him when she returns to her room and is alone? Will she find in her heavenly Father so much more than her earthly father ever could be even though he’s daddy in the flesh? Will she “pick up the phone” and call on the name of the Lord in prayer?
My emotions are all over the place. I can only imagine hers are too.
Tears threaten even as I write. Not only tears of sadness, as I will miss daily having her here. I will miss her beautiful smile, tender heart, wit, and crazy questions. The way she calls me “Mother” when she’s exasperated with me. The drama in the stories she tells and the altercations with her sisters. Her sweet hugs. And yes, the tremendous help she is to me.
My tears are also tears of joy for this next season in her life when she will experience the challenge and thrill of what it means to walk by faith, totally dependent on the Lord because He is the only one there when she needs His answers. Joy for her knowing how exciting it is to follow Him and discover His faithfulness and His plans for her. Joy for the friends she’ll make, the experiences she’ll have, and how He’ll work everything together for good for her because she loves Him and is called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Joy for the thoughts He thinks toward her, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give her a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). Joy that when she seeks the Lord, she will find Him.
I am not excited for her to be gone, but I am excited to see what the Lord has in store. Excited to see her moor herself to Christ because He makes Himself real to her outside of His realness to us. Excited for her to experience what it means to live directly under His authority because He has drawn her there, not because it’s what we’ve told her to do all her life.
It’s time to witness the result of the counsel I give any new homeschooling parent wrestling with making sure they make the right curriculum choices. My answer is spiritual.
Scholastics are important, and we adhere to a rigorous academic schedule, but to me, the most important measure of my children’s time under my instruction, whether they are schooled at home or in school, is what happens when they leave. Not in respect to SAT or ACT scores, class ranking, the college to which they are accepted, their GPA, degree or job. No, success to me is a child who leaves the authority of our home and transitions seemlessly to the authority of Christ.
One who leaves the nest but doesn’t leave their faith.
I can’t say I remember much about the day I moved away for college. I’m pretty sure my ruling emotion was pure elation at finally being free. Sadly, the freedom I desired only resulted in bondage to sin.
I can only pray the freedom she pursues will be true freedom: freedom in Christ Jesus.
Having never done this before, I don’t know much besides the logistics of getting her settled, being on the other end of the line when she calls, regularly refilling her check book balance, seeing her as much as we can, and loving her like crazy from a distance.
And I know to:
1. Trust in the Lord, for it is He who saves. It is His grace that will continually turn her heart toward Him.
2. Pray. Often and hard.
3. Listen. Answer her calls, her questions, her cries for direction and help.
4. Answer. Be there, not to give the answers, but to point her to Christ, who holds every answer.
I know she will do well. The question is, did we? No matter what, I thank God for His grace. It is sufficient.
Lord, as we learn each day to be more wholly Yours, overcome our shortcomings with the grace You extend our children, and make them wholly Yours, too.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
Today ends my rant on parenting against cultural cancers that threaten our children’s spiritual health. Are you relieved? Have I beaten a dead horse? Please indulge me this last post, because what I have to say really doesn’t matter.
God’s word does, though, so let’s look at what He has to say: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world” (I John 2:15-16).
Our biblical duty is not to have kids that fit in; it is to train them up in the ways of the Lord, to talk to them about His word and His ways when we sit in our house, when we walk by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise up (Deuteronomy 6:7). When they are old they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).
We want to teach them to "enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). We can’t allow our kids to play on the wide road to destruction and expect them to enjoy a narrow road life. Why even entertain pleas to enter the wide road?
Scripture tells us to abhor evil (Romans 12:9), separating ourselves completely from all wickedness and anything that would create a life full of hardship and labor. Have no fellowship with it whatsoever. Don’t even let it be named among you (Ephesians 5:3).
That is the narrow road.
That should be our life.
One day they’ll have to choose to guard their hearts for themselves, judging whether something is indeed lawful but not beneficial or edifying (I Corinthians 10:23) and therefore not something they desire. Until then, we are their spiritual sentries.
We have a responsibility to keep our kids’ hearts with all diligence until they’re old enough to be diligent on their own. We’re the ones, as my husband says, who are accountable to the Lord for the environment in which they live. It’s our job to create a safe environment where they have the greatest chance to grow spiritually.
What that looks like may be radically different from family to family, and we are not sent to judge one another, “for judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). An unusually mature teenager from one family may be ready to live on the other side of the world for a summer of missions while a teenager from another family might not have the maturity to walk down the street alone.
What applies to every family and every child, though, is the truth as Jesus established in John 17:17:
“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”
We have to know our kids, but even more important, we must know what the scripture establishes as non-negotiable truth, and then each one of us must follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in making decisions for them.
Maybe we don’t have to expose our kids to evil in order to teach them how to recognize it. Maybe we don’t have to compromise so they don’t rebel against us and reject everything we stand for. Perhaps we just take them to the word of God and allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide them into all truth.
Perhaps we just show them how to find out what the scripture says about a particular belief or activity and let them measure it against the word of God.
And then we stand firm in the boundaries God gives us for their protection, teaching them to live Philippians 3:8-11:
I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him… For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame – who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
Our lives are “a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). We endure for a moment here on earth in order to enjoy eternal glory with Christ in heaven. Therefore, let us keep ourselves and our children “unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
Lord, keep us and our children from the evil one and sanctify us all by Your truth, equipping us with discernment, grace, and endurance as we become wholly Yours today.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
As our daughters approach new seasons of life – one adolescence, one the world of 16, and another moving away for college – cut-and-dry, black-and-white answers about boundaries can be as clear as mud! Don’t get me wrong, there are some easy absolutes, but when it comes to protecting them from bad choices and bad influences, how little or how much do we shelter them? To what extent until what age? When does a tight hold become harmful to their spiritual growth or survival?
Arguments that appeal to common sense simply make things murkier. How can we be relevant to the world if we can’t knowledgably talk from experience about the same shows, experiences, books, music, plays, etc.? Isn’t it better for our children to experience temptation and even fall while they’re living under our roof and we can walk them through it? Will their faith become their own if we don't place them in situations where it's tested and they have to press hard into God to resist temptation or survive a fall?
I’ve never read or heard a scripture that tells us to expose our children to evil so they’ll be better equipped to stand against it when they leave. Not only that, but scripture doesn’t give a whole lot of weight to our common sense. In fact, it says the wisdom of the world is foolishness to God. Conversely, the wisdom of God is foolishness to the world. He says not to lean on our own understanding but in all our ways acknowledge Him and He will direct our paths, not according to our thoughts and ways, but according to His.
That’s what I want. Not to check my brain at the door so I can bury my head in the sand, but to have God’s wisdom as it applies to common sense.
The bottom line is this:
Raising our children God’s way
is going to be foolishness to the world.
I recognize we can’t protect our children from everything, especially with the relentless onslaught of lyrics piped through speakers in retail stores, images and messages on billboards everywhere, conversations overheard and sexual behavior casually displayed in public settings, what once would have been considered R-rated television commercials and movie previews slyly slipped in with family-friendly programming and films, peer pressure to experiment and experience new things, and the general awkwardness when everyone is doing something you’re not.
We are in the world.
At the same time, we can do whatever it takes to protect them from intentionally participating in those things, even by proximity. We can point their eyes to the One more worthy than anything dangled before them as the moment’s must do or have.
We must desire something better than what this world has to offer, or what it offers will start to look pretty good. The heroes of faith in Hebrews chapter eleven endured because they desired a heavenly country. “Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:16).
Do we want this momentary home to be the best our children ever experience? Which do we value more, their temporary or their eternal? Which is harder, living with rejection in this world or acceptance in hell? Do I want my kids to be comfortable for the vapor they spend here or tortured for eternity?
“Oh, Shauna, don’t be so dramatic!!!” you might exclaim. Am I, though? Isn’t this all about their souls? Even if they are saved, the devil remains a formidable enemy against their usefulness to the kingdom of God and their availability to be effective.
So we must be their advocate.
That’s the reality we face as parents continually pointing our children to the cross. If we don’t, by default or neglect, we’re leaving them as prey for the devil, and we all know where he’s headed.
Am I going to let laziness or distraction or discouragement become a foothold for Satan to get a grip on their shoulders and pull them down with him? Or am I going to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5)?
The boundaries I set for my children are naturally going to expand as they grow older. As hard as it is, I do know there’s a time when we have to start loosening our hold. We are there in varying degrees with each of our children; have been for a while with the oldest. There is a gradual letting go to independence that must happen, a time when we do have to step back and let them live their lives directly accountable to the Lord. Ultimately, they are going to have to choose biblical convictions for themselves as the result of the work He is doing directly in their hearts.
The danger is the unrelenting pressure to widen the boundaries too far and too fast when our kids are too young to handle the independence successfully. When they’re too immature to make decisions in circumstances that require maturity. In a lot of cases, our “No” doesn’t have to be a “Not ever,” just a “Not now.”
Lord, challenge our common sense with Your wisdom even as it is foolishness to the world as we become more wholly Yours.