Then God said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” Genesis 22:2
When I hear about parenting small children, and the effort parents make to “grow them up in the Lord” I can sometimes feel a bit convicted. Not because my husband and I didn’t do that with our own children, because we always made it a top priority in our home…we did all the “right things.” We had devotions, dinners together where we shared all God had done during our day, church and Sunday school and AWANA, nature walks talking about God’s creation, admitting our own sins and asking forgiveness, modeling what we believed was going to be observed and imitated by our four young boys. I remember rubbing my swollen belly while reading the Bible aloud to my twins in utero; those same twins praying fervently for their baby brother when he cried and couldn’t sleep; and that middle son rocking his baby brother singing “Jesus loves me” to sooth him because he had a bad diaper rash.
The reason I feel convicted isn’t because of the way I raised my boys, it’s because I judged others before I had children and when my children were young. From what I observed, other parents obviously weren’t as serious as we were about sharing God’s love and grace and mercy and teaching their children God’s Word. Other Christian parents must have had some serious lack of parenting ability, not prayed enough, not spent enough time with their children…something they lacked or failed in…because their adolescent or young adult children were definitely NOT walking with Jesus. Drugs, alcohol, pornography, sex before marriage, defiance, lies, and the big one…turning their back on God. What in the world had those parents done to their precious babies?!
Recently, while I was reading the book of Genesis I noticed some of the things I had written in the margins years ago were extremely judgmental. For example: Abraham (Abram) has his wife Sarah (Sarai) tell the Egyptians she is his sister rather than his wife to save his own skin (Genesis 12); Sarai “gives” her maidservant Haggar to Abram so they can have a son through Haggar, then Sarai kicks out Haggar and her son Ishmael (Genesis 16); Lot’s daughters get him drunk and have their way with him so they can have children (Genesis 19); Isaac follows in his father’s footsteps and tells his wife Rebekah to pretend she’s his sister to protect himself from the Philistines (Genesis 26)… in all the margins I have things written like “really? he lies and yet God blesses him?” “he doesn’t protect his wife, but God protects him?” “What? No consequences?”
Reading through Genesis at this point in my life, I had to chuckle. Well, after I cried I chuckled. You see those same sweet baby boys that loved Jesus with all their hearts, shared his love with others that didn’t know Him, reverently placed their birthday money in the offering plate, prayed, sang songs, memorized all the Books of the Bible and got awards for their knowledge and understanding of God’s Word…became adolescents.
Early in our lives, my husband and I thought that we could do all the “right things” that our parents obviously didn’t do with us and ensure that our children would become those teenagers that rock their world for Jesus. Then they would become young adults that do all the right things in the right order…and continue to make a huge impact for Jesus…all without the struggles that we went through as teens and young adults. Their lives would read like one of those Christian tales of greatness and we would glow with pride and joy. Oh, how naïve and downright prideful we were!
It’s nice that Abraham was dead when Isaac lied to save his skin, using the same line that his dad did years earlier. Sometimes I wish I was finished with this life when I see all the bad choices my boys have made…and continue to make. I know the pain they are bringing on themselves; the pain that not only affects them, but others around them. The ripple effect is often overwhelming and it feels like we as parents suffer more than they do.
I don’t write this to frighten parents of young children, but to encourage parents with those sweet babies and young children to cut us middle-aged parents a little slack. That grace that everyone covets could be showered on parents of “almost-adults” and be the healing balm that gets people through those turbulent, frightening, and sometimes devastating years. And older parents, those that have adult children and maybe even those sweet baby grandchildren…we could use some authentic words of wisdom, empathy, and a heartfelt hug. Just knowing someone else understands the hurt is sometimes enough to get through another day.
Something an older friend told me once resonates with me and helps me get through the next 10 minutes. “It’s not the end of the story.” As I read the “story” of God’s children, those children that had it all in the Garden and made a choice to disobey, I am in awe of their stupidity. Sometimes, honestly, I’m in awe of my own children’s stupidity (let’s just clarify: stupidity is knowing the right choice yet consciously choosing the wrong one… stupidity is not ignorance, where one doesn’t know the right choice).
Thankfully, I’m not God. He doesn’t judge us for our stupidity, He loves us. Always, no matter what. He knows the introduction of the story, the characters, and the scene set up. He knows the turbulence and the pain and the conflict in the middle of the story. And He knows the end of each one of His children’s’ stories because He has a purpose and a plan and He is sovereign. That’s what I hold on to as I cry out to Him for those precious babies of mine that I love more than life. I’m no longer judgmental of other parents, but it’s been a hard lesson. I’ve also learned that I can’t love my children more than He does, and I can’t make my children my idol. I need to place them on the altar, no matter how hard the sacrifice, because God is the only One that knows the end of their story.
You are the creator of all life Lord. You have made the heavens and the earth and all that fills the earth. You gave me my children to love and to train up in the way they should go…but You alone know how their lives will play out. I trust You Lord, not my parenting skills, and certainly not them. I have hope and joy and peace because You know the end of the story and You are sovereign and full of mercy and grace towards me and my precious children. In Christ’s Name I pray…Amen.