We spend most of these early, formative years with our children in the throes of training. Once we get them past the lumpy, squishy infant months where our main objective is merely to keep them alive, we move into the toddler years where, well, the objective is still to keep them alive. But a considerable effort is spent on teaching them life basics like sharing, saying please and thank you, asking and not demanding.
Then we move into the elementary years, and this is when solid life training begins. This is also where I think many American families begin to break down the training in the wrong ways.
This is the stage we are currently in, and as we navigate these extremely important years with our children, I’ve had to really evaluate what it is I’m trying to teach them. The American lifestyle, as dictated by the American Dream, demands that we teach our children to be “good.” Study hard, pay attention, get good grades. Be nice to others, don’t be a bully. Think of your future. Prepare for college. Say please and thank you, and keep on sharing your mountains of toys.
But the Lord has been whispering new lessons to my heart these last few years as we’ve navigated some bumpy life roads. I don’t want to raise “good” kids who do all the things needed to get into college, then get a job, and then from there make a “good” living for their families.
What a box we’ve created for our children!
While there is wisdom in teaching our children to work hard and prepare themselves academically for the future, we cannot put so much stock into those things that we make them the gospel. We can raise “good” kids in Christian homes who grow up with strong moral guideposts…and little passion for the world around them.
While we place in our home a proper amount of respect on good morals, I’m challenged to take my kids a step further. What does it mean to have integrity? How do we live a life of action, rather than one of complacency? Rather than waiting to be served, what if we were the ones who served?
I fight the urge to place my children inside the American shaped box – the one that dictates they find a solid job with a steady 401K, and a savings account that will give them the chance to retire at 60. None of those things are bad things, of course. We live inside those bounds ourselves. The point is, I don’t want that to be the emphasis of training in our home.
I want my boys to know that there is more to being the provider of a family than simply holding down a good job. I want my daughter to know that there is more to being a wife and mom than simply cleaning and preparing meals and kissing skinned knees.
There is a whole, big world out there filled with needs. Children are washing up on seashores, precious little chubby arms limp and lifeless from the life stealing waters. I cannot sit on the sidelines and merely cheer my children on to comfort and apathy when the world around us drowns. Action is required, and my children need to be aware.
I want to be a family that thinks of those desperate needs first, far above living a “good” life. And not because we have to, or we should, but because we can.
For a long time, Lee and I operated under an umbrella of fear when it came to giving and serving. We only did those things that fit well inside what was comfortable for us. Then God took everything comfortable away, and we came face to face with our own brokenness, our own weaknesses, and our own short comings. For so long we had brushed those things under the rug.
We were “good,” and we thought this made us good enough. It’s easy to live a “good” life. It’s easy to say and do the right things. It’s easy to live in apathy.
But it’s uncomfortable to care about the needs of the world.
I’d much rather not see the picture of that little boy on the beach. But apathy is a dangerous place to dwell, and if I don’t push myself through it, then my children cannot be expected to, either.
And so it is that the more time passes, the less I’m less concerned with raising “good” moral kids.I want to raise children who have a deep and passionate dependence upon Christ, who see the needs of the world and don’t shrug it off as someone else’s problem, but who stand up and ask, “What can I do?”
This is a hard lesson to teach children who’s bellies are full, rooms are stocked, and who swim in more opportunity than they can possible process. This is a hard lesson for a mom to grasp when she has money in the bank, a full pantry, and more opportunity than she can possibly process.
But it’s not a fight I’m willing to concede. I don’t want to merely raise moral kids – I want to raise passionate kids who aren’t afraid to take risks, to drop everything to help a neighbor (near or far), and who realize that they are only worthy because God has given them everything they need through His Son.