From as far back as I can remember, there was nothing I wanted more in this life than to be a wife and mother. Every cell in my body longed for the day when I would nurture children. If God had ordained a different path for me, His grace would undoubtedly have sustained me in it, yet in His sovereign providence, He graciously blessed me with a husband and three children who have all been a great joy.
Despite the fact that both my husband and I had grown up in Christian homes, neither of us, ironically, entered parenthood equipped for the awesome responsibility of raising a family for the glory of God, sincere as we may have been in our desire to do so. Yet the amazing grace of God was at work in our lives, even in the very midst of raising our children.
Initially, as a successful product of the humanistic educational philosophy that I had been taught in the public schools and in my college experience, I found that my primary focus as a mother, almost inherently, was to build my children’s self-esteem. At the time, I failed to recognize that my focus was frankly child-centered, in direct opposition to the Christ-centeredness of a family truly submitted to the government of Jesus Christ.
Ironically, both Dan and I would even have said at that time that we were committed to a Christ-centered philosophy of raising our children because without question, our primary concern was that our children would grow up to be Christians. The problem was that it was a basic “survival” mentality, kind of like a video game whereby the object is to get the airplanes from the left side of the screen to the right side successfully, without getting hit by all the missiles. As long as we could have succeeded in getting our children from infancy to adulthood with their faith intact, without having them shot down by the worldly attacks on every side, we undoubtedly would have been satisfied. After all, Jesus would probably return by then, right? Then we’d be home free.
So, armed with this philosophy, we started our family with the arrival of our first child, a beautiful baby boy we named Joel. Knowing pretty much nothing about babies, I was startled when after the initial weeks of adjustment, my beautiful baby continued to cry every two hours. I had no understanding about how, by virtue of his very birth, we were already in a teaching mode, so whenever he cried, I snatched him up and satisfied his discomforts by adjusting my husband’s and my activities around the baby’s wants and needs. I certainly did not want to risk damaging his self-esteem.
It didn’t take very long, however, to recognize that in reality, I was reinforcing to that little baby the idea that he was the center of the universe, the one whose life the rest of us revolved around. Inadvertently, I was propagating a child-centered philosophy that would ultimately produce the child “left to himself” that Proverbs 2:15 warns about. My baby was not too young to begin training in the idea that his life is not the center, but is in fact subject to a government far above his own.
Several years passed, and Joel was a first grade student at a Christian school when Dan and I were sitting in a regular training session for parents. In the context of his presentation, the guest speaker suddenly asked, “What if Jesus doesn’t come back in your children’s generation. What are you preparing them for?”
Quite frankly, there just aren’t words that can possibly describe the jolting impact of that statement upon me. With all the force of a sudden shock, I began to recognize how far short I had set my vision. What if Jesus doesn’t come back in my children’s generation? What if, instead, things got worse instead of better? (Which, of course, they did.) What if our children are suddenly responsible to be the leaders, the businessmen, the statesmen, the ones who will turn back the tide of immorality and injustice? Will they be prepared for it? If morality falls so far that the world will desperately be searching for answers, will our children be prepared to be the ones providing the only true and sure answers? In that parent/teacher meeting, Dan and I realized that of urgent necessity, our children must be trained with a true Theocentric, Christ-centered worldview that will affect every area of life and thinking. This realization literally changed our whole philosophy of child training.
For too long, Christians have departmentalized the Gospel. We’ve neatly applied Biblical truth to our private devotional lives, to our church involvements, and to evangelizing. We’ve only understood and successfully applied our faith in Christ to the salvation of souls, which in reality is only the first step of the life of faith that we are called to. As Mark R. Rushdooney once wrote, “If our faith is real, it dictates our understanding of more than our eternal destiny. Our faith must be the context in which we live, of our thinking, attitudes and actions. It must give us a perspective on both life and death.” In truth, our faith must affect every single area of life, with no exceptions.
In reality, it is not at all self-esteem that our children are in need of, but a true picture of who they really are and who God is. They must have a clear recognition of their own sin, of the hope and forgiveness found only in Jesus Christ, and the understanding that their faith in Christ determines every aspect of life and living, with no exceptions.
Child-training begins and ends with teaching the comprehensive nature of our faith in Christ, so that Scripture is the foundation of all training. As 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
Our job as parents is to apply true Christ-centered worldview training in every aspect of our child-rearing. With no exceptions.
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