In an entry by Rich Bledsoe over at Biblical Horizons blog, I read something that set my mind to work. It was an illustration of the main point of the entry (which is well worth reading in its own right). But the illustration is rich.
One must for example, at some point in late adolescence, begin to judge ones’ parents. This is inescapable. “What of all that I have received from my parents is good, and must be kept and strengthened, and what is not so good, and perhaps even bad, that must be jettisoned, modified, or exchanged?” This cannot be avoided. But, if one is not first grateful for all that has been received from one parents, and grateful for them, and thankful to God for them, one will become a false judge of what has been passed on.
This struck me as a profound truth for Christian parents who are training toward covenant faithfulness.
My goal is to nurture my children and guide my children to the point of maturity where they can judge what they have received from their father and mother. But as Bledsoe counsels, there must be the right kind of heart in place for that judging to be righteous judging and not mere scoffing. My training of my children must be oriented toward shaping a grateful heart, a heart that recognizes and loves the gifts it is being given.
The goal is not to produce children who think certain things that I can check off a list, but children who have a basic orientation toward the truth, toward the standard, toward the precious things they recognize they are being given. Then when they come to maturity, they can judge what they were given and, as Bledsoe suggests, “jettison, modify, or exchange” what is lacking. This is my only hope if my children will be a generation that surpasses their father in wisdom, godliness, and skill at glorifying God. I want my children to reject my sin and my foolishness. I want them to judge my life and, certainly, embrace my loyalty to the Lord God, but also eschew my inconsistencies which I may not even be aware of.
It strikes me that most parents invert the order. They give their children the freedom to judge them at an early age — “Accept or reject what we believe and how we live — it’s up to you. Be free!” But then when their children grow up, they try to appeal to their loyalty and attempt to win them over. Many even expect the teen years to be a time when children consciously rebel against their parents, and parents hope that “some day they will come back.” It seems that we must win over our children, gain their loyalty, train them to love the standard, from their youngest years. Then once they are mature, give them permission — indeed prepare them, train them for the moment — to build on what their parents gave them. That is the heart of the covenant, it seems to me.
I need grace — lots of it — to place a grateful frame in my children. That is my greatest task right now, so I will look to the hills whence comes my help.