Many years ago, I worked for a large health care company and became friends with a doctor who was on staff as a consultant. He helped us organize our first aid response team, taught our CPR training, and participated in many employee health activities. He was well respected, extremely helpful, and genuinely friendly. We were all shocked when he was suddenly fired. Turns out he was not a doctor and, for many years, conned his way into prominent healthcare positions and even practiced medicine. This man was living out a false identity.
Before condemning this man, I think we should learn from his mistake. Our kids are growing up in a culture that wants to define them. Their identities are being shaped by what they see, hear, and do (or fail to do). Although these voices are strong, they are not always true. The things our kids see on TV, hear on the radio, and do on the sports field do not define who they are. These voices do not have the authority to define our kids’ identities.
In 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV) God proclaims, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Only God’s voice matters when it comes to who we really are.
This month, my church's children’s ministry will be focusing on the environment of Identity. This environment, from Michelle Anthony’s Spiritual Parenting book, highlights that we belong to God and He loves us. Our children need to hear this true message over and over again to overcome the many false messages they hear from others. I believe there is no better time to speak truth and grace over your child than when they mess up. As much as we may want to lash out with words of condemnation, we must stop and reflect on how God sees them. Paul tells us in Romans 5:8 (NLT) that “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” While we were acting like enemies, God was demonstrating his love.
Our children are going to fail. We’ll fail them as parents. The good news is God’s grace declares that neither our value nor our identity is defined by those failures. The truth is, we are all children of God. His love is our one defining reality. What would our homes, workplaces, and neighborhoods be like if we lived out that true identity?
One of my favorite rides at Six Flags is Superman: Ultimate Flight. You get strapped in, and then they tip you over onto your belly before take-off so that it feels like you’re flying through the air.
Parenting can often feel like a rollercoaster ride, with its ups and downs and unexpected turns. As is true with rollercoasters, parenting is NOT for the faint of heart. And there’s always a sense that life is whizzing by, and it can often feel out of control. Then, before you know it, the “ride” is over. After all, Dan and I have already sent one kid off to college.
God didn’t write about rollercoasters in the Bible, but he did know a thing or two about the joy of flying. Though we were not designed with wings, God designed us to soar! Sixteen years ago, as I was preparing to give birth to our daughter, I took these verses from Isaiah 40 into the labor and delivery room with me “… those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40: 31 NIV). As I parent, I am still clinging to those verses and the ones that precede them.
When I read Isaiah 40:11, I am reminded that God is gently leading and guiding me as I raise my children. He is for me and with me at all times. When I read verse 12, I am reminded how big God is – the waters of this earth fit into the palm of his hand. He is the creator of this world and everything in it, and caring for it is no effort at all for him. Verse 22 reminds me that God is King of all, including me and my children. He is the ultimate ruler and authority, and it is to him that I am accountable. Verse 28 reminds me that God always is and always has been. He is constant and never grows weary. He is always strong, always present and perfectly understands the hearts and minds of each of my children. And best of all, in verse 29 it says that God gives me strength when I am weak and weary. When my human reasoning and efforts fail, which they often do in parenting, he offers me himself and his God-ness to not just persevere, but to soar!
He didn’t create me to just get by. He created me to thrive and live life abundantly. He put the kids that I have in my household for a reason and he will give me everything I need to raise them. And you know what? He has created you for the same purpose—to live life abundantly. Life is the ride, but God is on it with us. So buckle up and soar!
Francis Bacon famously said, “Knowledge is power.” If that is truly the case, then why does getting our kids to do their homework seem so difficult? I am working through my second year of graduate school and I can relate to feeling overwhelmed with schoolwork. I am working towards a theological degree so all my work is focused on God and his Word. You would think all of this work has brought me closer to God, but sadly it hasn’t. I am discovering that there is a big difference between knowing things about God and knowing God personally. In the busyness of reading books and writing papers, I have found less time to just read the Bible and spend quiet time with God.
While I’m being completely transparent with you, let me share my biggest fear about our kids. What if all we are doing for our children is giving them knowledge about God, but they never really get to know God personally? Please don’t misunderstand me; I believe bringing your child to church is crucial, but sometimes we might assume that is all that’s needed for their spiritual development. My biggest fear is that we give our kids just enough information about God, but they never experience Him personally. Like a vaccine, this little knowledge inoculates our kids, preventing them from understanding the real transformational power of God. So many kids who attended children’s ministries are leaving their faith behind in high school and college. I wonder how many of those kids were missing a personal knowledge of God. I wonder how many of them are from our children’s ministries.
I suggest that, “Knowledge is personal.” A vibrant faith is one built on a personal knowledge of God. We must help our kids to experience God in tangible ways. I believe this is the only way we can help them develop a faith that will stand the test of time. We have made important changes to the children’s services at my church. We still teach kids important truths about God, but we also take time to quiet ourselves and respond to God. We also provide a monthly HomeFront magazine that is full of practical ways your family can experience God at home. This resources is free and available from David C Cook.
This month, the children’s ministry at my church will be focusing on cultivating an environment of Knowing. Based on Michelle Anthony’s book “Spiritual Parenting,” we will be reinforcing the truth that, “God knows me and I can know Him.” My prayer is that all of us we will help our children really know God in personal ways. Jesus prayed these words recorded in John 17:1 (NLT), “And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.”