I’ve been running like crazy for the past several days.
Last Thursday we traveled to Cincinnati, OH to speak at the Home School Legal Defense National Conference. When that was finished, we packed up and drove to Illinois to launch four days of teaching parents, sharing Steve’s 9/11 story, television shows, and men’s and ladies events.
It’s been busy!
But tonight, for the first time in these busy days, I’m taking a few moments to sit, and think, and consider what I’ve been learning during this trip. And, as I’m sitting and thinking, the view outside my hotel window is the Illinois state penitentiary. Somehow, it seems a fitting vista for my thoughts.
May I share with you that my heart is heavy? I’m burdened by what’s been shared; both up front during the conference, and one-on-one by the dear folks with whom I’ve conversed.
I’m burdened by the pain I’ve seen in too parents’ eyes and the hurt I’ve heard in their voices.
I’m burdened by the recognition of the consequences that too many young people are facing as a result of their poor decision-making.
I’m burdened by the reality of the multitude of young people who are rudderless; longing for direction, but with no adult willing or equipped to provide that direction.
This past week, I heard Michael Farris speak about the number of homeschooled young adults who are walking away from their upbringing, their families, and their faith, breaking their parents’ hearts in the process.
I spent time talking with a pastor of many years who is mourning the loss of a son who now resides permanently in the State Penitentiary. A son, who through his willful choices, turned his back on all he knew to be true and now will spend his life behind bars.
I counseled with a dear woman who watched a daughter turn her back on God when she became involved with an unsaved young man.
We spent time teaching older folks, who should be enjoying the grandparenting years, but who, instead, are now parenting another generation. They’re caring for children whose own parents simply walked away from an unwanted responsibility.
My heart cries out, “It just shouldn’t be like this!” But, it is.
What’s missing? Why are so many young people walking away from what they’ve been taught their whole lives? Why are they leaving their families? And, most importantly, how can they so easily abandon Jesus?
So, I sit and think and ponder and sort through what I’ve been hearing from all these dear folks and I recognize one oft-repeated refrain.
All of the parents and grandparents I talked to shared one regret. They all recognized on lack. To a person, they all acknowledged that although they had taught their children about obeying Jesus, they hadn’t passed on the beauty of relationship with Jesus.
They had been careful to make sure their children aligned with Jesus’ teaching; but they hadn’t demonstrated how to abide in Jesus.
They had systematically taught the rules of religion; but they hadn’t demonstrated the reality of relationship.
They had dutifully recorded neat checks in the “Christian family” block; but missed seeing an absence of change in their children’s hearts.
Don’t get me wrong… We can’t force our children into relationship with Christ, only the Holy Spirit can fill that role. However, if all our children experience is rules, self-righteousness, and religion, why wouldn’t they walk away from our teaching? “Looking right” is an exhausting business and without the refreshment of relationship, belonging to Jesus becomes a burden… Not a blessing!
So, what should we do? Should we stop establishing standards? Stop enforcing rules? Stop family devotions, and scripture memorization, and service to others?
As the Apostle Paul would say, “May it never be!”
All those things are good, and honorable, and praiseworthy; but only in the context of a joyful, abiding relationship with Jesus. Only as we demonstrate, on a daily basis, that Jesus isn’t just something we’re “doing,” but rather, a relationship of “being,” will our children see that it’s their hearts that we care so desperately about.
Only as they see us joyfully abiding in our own relationship with Christ, will they long for that same relational intimacy.
Let me be honest, there have been too many times that I slipped into the “doing” category. I just wanted my children to look right, to act right, to get all the checks in the block. Thankfully, at those times, the Holy Spirit was always quick to rein me in and to remind me what it was that I really wanted for my kids.
And what was it that I really wanted? I wanted them to know Jesus… deeply, intimately, passionately, and finally, obediently. I wanted them to walk with God out of a relationship of love, not a responsibility of self-righteousness.
This is serious business mom and dad!
None of those parents whose children have walked away ever planned for that eventuality. None of them kissed their sleeping babies goodnight, imagining that someday they’d be saying goodbye through a prison window. None of them tucked in their toddlers, wondering if someday they wouldn’t even know where those toddlers were living. None of them planned to lose their children as they were trying so desperately to show them love.
These weren’t bad parents! They weren’t neglectful moms and dads! They weren’t disengaged or disinterested! They were just like me and just like you. They love Jesus with all their heart, but in their fear of losing their children to the world, they turned Jesus into a rule-maker to be obeyed, rather than, first and foremost, a loving Lord to be worshipped through relationship.
Who do your children think Jesus is today? Is He the voice of rules and regulations? (Rules and regulations that, by the way, can never earn them a place in heaven) Or, do they know Him as the passionate pursuer of their hearts? Do you know Him as the passionate pursuer of your heart??
It’s time for some self-evaluation… Before it’s too late. One child lost to the world is one child too many! Let’s show our children the beauty of Christ and watch Him change their hearts for eternity.
I’m praying for us all,