Letting Go

Every Thursday on Facebook is “Throwback Thursday.” It’s a weekly movement for Facebook followers to reminisce in pictures about a particular time or event in the past. Often, you will find funny and cute school pictures and videos, impromptu family gatherings or “that picture” of yourself that you thought you had hidden away…until your mom posts it. Almost every week, I find myself sifting through the baby books and photos of my two children, now ages 28 and 26, hoping to find a picture of them or us to post. There are my favorites: the first day of school, vacations, and those cute baby pictures. It’s amazing how a picture can capture so many memories and fill my heart with so much emotion.

However, gone are the Legos, Barbies, and picture books. My children have grown up, moved out, and are now amazing adults pursuing careers and relationships. So, how does a parent let go and give them the freedom they need and crave? To parents who are watching their children sprout wings of independence, God gives strong direction followed by a powerful promise.

Strong Direction: our job as parents is to teach.

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deut.11:18-19 NIV).

Followed by a promise: as we let go, we need to trust our children will hang on to God.

“Teach your children to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it” (Prov.22:6 NLT).

Teach and then trust. Parenting is a divine partnership, with God as the controlling partner. Our acts of obedience to teach our kids merge powerfully with His promises to carry them through to the end. We need to trust God to finish the work He has begun in them. The work may not be evident immediately, and there will be bumps in the road, but teaching and then trusting helps this mommy’s heart to let go.

Family Memories

Even though Robert and I come from very different family backgrounds, we both have the same kinds of family memories. I remember the many times my family packed up the cooler with mom’s fried chicken, boiled eggs, potato salad, and delicious watermelon to go to on a picnic at one of the county parks. Robert says he remembers not so much the recurring events, but the special ones, like the time the family rented a cabin in the woods or the time he and his sister spent three weeks with relatives in Detroit.

Memories form in our minds for lots of different reasons. Sometimes it’s because someone planned to make an event memorable, but sometimes it’s the unexpected disaster or fortune that could never have been planned. Some memories grow with the retelling. Some memories hide themselves as simple routines or habits, only to be recovered years later through some triggering event or comment.

Nevertheless, memories can be created on purpose. It seems to us that good relationships should include intentional memory making. You don’t need to spend money or even go outside your home to make a memory. Here are some ideas:

  • Go do the unexpected, big deal thing (like an unplanned road trip).
  • Start a tradition around Christmas, Easter, or some other important date.
  • Choose to be consistent about something really important, even in the face of uncooperative children or spouse (like reading through the Bible for devotions).
  • Read aloud (or let someone else via an audio book).
  • Take pictures, and then let the kids make scrapbooks (physical or electronic).
  • Treat your children differently in tangible ways that say, “I see your uniqueness and rejoice in it.”

 

Our list is just a place to start. The idea is that we can create family memories if we just take the time to work at it. It is important not to stress over how well we have done this in the past. Let’s trust God to give us the grace to make our family’s life a joyful, Christ-filled experience.

Traditional Family vs. Modern Family?

As I thought about this month’s blog topic of “Truth,” the idea of Truth and Family led me to consider how the family unit is defined by today’s contemporary culture.

I grew up in a single parent home; my mother and father divorced when I was around five years old. I always fantasized what a “traditional” family would be like with both parents in the home. In many ways, I felt slighted as a young man growing up without a father, so I was determined that when I had a family of my own, I would be there as a father.

However, I was utterly clueless as to what God’s Word truly said about family. God’s Word is very clear on the matter. If we want to understand God’s plan for the family unit, we must begin where God began, and that’s in Genesis. In Genesis 2, we see God establishing marriage between one man and one woman. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Gen.2:24). God gave marriage as a gift to Adam and Eve. Marriage was not just for convenience, nor was it brought about by any culture. It was instituted by God.

Hollywood even has an opinion on what a family should look like. Regarding the critically acclaimed sitcom Modern Family, Brian Lowry, of Variety magazine, had this to say: “Flitting among three story lines, it’s smart, nimble and best of all, funny, while actually making a point about the evolving nature of what constitutes ‘family.'”

Did you catch it? ….the evolving nature of what constitutes “family.”  According to whom?! I believe the Apostle Paul was clear in outlining God’s desires for the family and family relationships: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart” (Col.3:18-21). This is simple, practical advice that contemporary culture often rebukes.

So, is my family a “Traditional Family” or “Modern Family”? Or a more relevant question is, “Does my family resemble God’s true definition of family?” I like what Alistar Begg says about this is in his blog, Truth for Life: “In truly Christian families, each member affirms that ‘Jesus is Lord.’ Husbands and wives display their love for the Lord Jesus in giving themselves wholeheartedly to the privileges and responsibilities of marriage. Children also display their understanding of Jesus’ Lordship by respecting and obeying their parents. When everyone in the family follows this biblical mandate it makes for healthy churches and stable societies.”

I say Amen to that and pray that my family will resemble this statement more and more by God’s grace.

Gimme Another Chance!

Have you ever had to ask anybody for a second chance? Maybe you wronged a friend, a spouse, or even your boss and you had to throw yourself at their mercy in order to make amends for your error. Sometimes people give you a second chance, but sometimes they don’t. You want to hear some real good news? God is a God of second chances! In fact, even better, He’s a God of nth chances; He specializes in helping broken, sinful people to start over.

So how does this truth apply to our families? Well, aren’t our families just a collection of broken, sinful people gathered under one roof? God is a God of second chances for individuals as well as families.

If you’re like me, you may not have been raised in a Christian home and the habits and patterns you learned from your parents may strangely linger in your own life, as evidenced in your actions or your speech. I never thought I would say, “Quit crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!” As a kid, I didn’t even understand the logic of that statement. It seemed silly to me. I mean, I was already crying and you want to make me cry more? However, as an imperfect father following in the line of imperfect parents, I have said it too. The point is that the way we raise our own families is often a perpetuation of what we learned by being children in a family; and not all of that is good.

Numbers 14:18 says, “… [He will visit] the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations. Like endless waves on the seashore, the idea is that if we perpetuate the same sinful patterns with our own children that we learned ourselves as children, the ripple effects can be devastating; generations may be ruined by what we do with our children today. Soak that in.

However, the good news related to our topic is that God is a God of second chances! The first part of that same verse says, “The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression…” There is an opportunity for forgiveness with God. We can start over! By God’s grace, we can turn our homes around and start a legacy of godliness that alters the course of our family history and that can lead to the betterment, instead of the detriment, of generations to come.

May God give us the grace and wisdom to see what we need to change in our homes that He may be glorified, that we may grow to be godly parents, and that a Christian legacy may begin. Lord, help us to start over in our families.

Family Change

Family life is one of change. Sometimes we are prepared for it, and sometimes not. Often we think we are ready, only to find reality far different from expectation.

When we find ourselves expecting the first child, we scurry around trying to do all we can to be ready for that change. We buy clothes, furniture, paint, and even books. We so want to be ready for the child to come into the world; only when she comes, we can’t believe how hard it is to console an infant who can’t tell you where it hurts.

It feels like they are children forever, and then one day you wake up and find teenagers who can’t get out of bed on Saturday before 11am. On top of that, they start to look and sound a lot more like adults than children. We might have bought a book on the teenage years before it happened, but most of us never had such forethought.

We are not prepared to fight with a teenager (perhaps, at least, not with the first one). Far too many of us fathers were not anywhere near ready to give away our daughter to some still-wet-behind-the-ears-but-thinks-he’s-a-man boy.  But let’s not pin all of our troubles on the children.

How about that spouse who found 30 plus pounds suddenly spread around his midsection? Wrinkles and age spots—those were supposed to be just for the grandparents. Then we suddenly realize, we are grandparents! It is almost too much.

Family change is an inevitable and irresistible force, ever threatening to destabilize us. It would be foolish to pray that all would remain the same. As Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 teaches us, there is a time for everything, implying that every circumstance will change at some point for a different purpose.

We would do well to help our children understand that change will be a constant and that it is not something to fear or rail against. Surely we’ve seen too many adults who inappropriately avoid change or over react to the challenges change brings. But such teaching is more effectively lived than spoken. We can live this lesson by being constant in our faith and happy in God’s providences. This lesson is also found in the book of Ecclesiastes.

May these two attitudes—consistency in our faith and happiness in God’s providences—be on a fairly consistent display before our family.

 

Secure Your Own Mask First

I was jogging a few weeks ago when I started to think about the oxygen masks that pop down from above people’s heads in emergencies on planes. In particular, I started wondering whether parents follow the rules regarding the masks. Almost all of us are familiar with the directive given by flight attendants: “In the event of a change in cabin pressure…secure your own mask first, and then help your children.” By God’s grace, I have never had to use the masks on an airplane flight, but I would guess that most parents would go to any lengths possible to ensure their kids’ safety if an emergency occurred. In other words, kids’ masks go on first, and the parents attend to themselves later.

This probably seems like an odd thing to think about. However, it painted a vivid picture in my mind about how I seek to love my family. As a mom, I often attend to the various needs of my family (especially my children) first, and then seek to address my own needs later. This, to my shame, can result in neglecting my spiritual needs. While I feel like I am showing love to my family by sacrificing my own needs to meet theirs, what I am really demonstrating is a lack of wisdom. Sacrificing time spent in private Bible study, prayer, and meditation in the name of serving my family is like starving myself of oxygen in the name of loving my family and assuming I can still function effectively.

By refusing to make my spiritual nourishment a priority, I am becoming weaker and will have less to give to them. Most importantly, neglecting spiritual disciplines in the name of serving the needs of my family demonstrates a lack of love for Christ. He is our salvation and the source of all the strength we have. Love is a fruit of the Spirit that resides within us, and when we strive to spend time in study and prayer, God, our source of life, will give us the refreshment and energy we need to serve our families. He will sustain us so we can meet their physical needs. He will teach us and humble us that we might lovingly serve our spouses and children and shine as a Gospel light in our households.

This is a difficult thing for me to practice. Too often, in order to attend to far less important matters, I push off study and private prayer until later in the day, which sometimes means it doesn’t happen. It can be easier for me to serve my yelling children before spending time with my Savior. I need to realize that taking time for private devotion is one of the greatest ways in which I can love my family. I will feel awful if my kids grow up knowing I loved them dearly but not being certain of my love for Christ because, too often, I pushed time with Him aside for them. May that never be!

Father, please forgive me for not prioritizing time with you as I should. Please help me to show love to my family by taking time to commune with you, to receive grace and to be refreshed. My family is a gift You have given me, and I need You to help me to love them as I ought. Please help my love for You to always supersede my love for anything else.

 

This guest post is from CASM member Sara Lack, wife of Pastor Andy Lack.  They have two sons:  Stephen and John.