In the corner of the world where I live this week begins a new school year for most children. Kids are nervous and excited. Parents are nervous and excited. And kids (and therefore parents) are about to find themselves inundated with choices: new classes, new friends, new sports and arts and offerings of all sorts. It can all end up overwhelming.
Parents, how do you guide your growing child’s school-year choices? What will reign as most important in your family, and in your own heart, as you lead them? As you sort through all the choices, what’s the calling that overarches (and therefore simplifies) the decisions you make for them this year ahead?
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.””(Matthew 28:18-20)
“I cannot think of any directive from the mouth of Jesus that is a more appropriate call to every Christian parent than this one…Your job is to do everything within your power, as an instrument in the hands of the Redeemer who has employed you, to woo, encourage, call, and train your children to willingly and joyfully live as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is more important than how they do in school, or how positively they contribute to the reputation of your family, or how well they set themselves up for a future career, or how well they do in sports and the arts, or how well they are liked by adults and peers.
These things aren’t unimportant, but we must not let them rise to the importance of this one thing. Your children must come to learn early that their lives don’t belong to them…that they have been given life and breath for the purpose of serving the glory of another…that they do not have the right to follow their own rules…that their lives are meant to be shaped, not by what they want, but by what God has chosen…”
So I do want Paul Tripp’s words to be the rule for my approach to parenting. But how do I practically apply Jesus’ words in Matthew 28 to my daily decisions for my school-age children? In this way — I run all decisions through the filter of:
Does this activity, chosen for or by my child, woo, encourage, call or train my child to find joy in their life being lived for Jesus?
As I filter through the myriad of choices for my child in this way, I also remember this:
“If you are going to raise willing disciples of Jesus, you need to patiently communicate the story of his amazing grace to your children again and again…you have no power to transform your children from what they are to what they should be…You cannot make your children love, believe, surrender, respect, confess, forgive, serve, speak the truth, be pure of heart, and worship God. Only God can do these things…he simply calls you to be faithful, to do good toward your children day after day after day, knowing that the results are in his infinitely powerful hands…Fight the feeling that you are all alone. Meditate upon and celebrate his power and presence and go do what you’ve been chosen to do with courage and hope.” (Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family, by Paul Tripp)
Painting: Benedicite by Franze von Defregger (1835-1921)