“I wish you go at my house. I love you. I wish you sleep over. I wish you play with my toys with me. I wish you help me put on my new boots what auntie gave me. I wish you help me find both squeaky boots that kk made pink. I wish I tell my mom I can go in your car!”
This funny little message was sent from Hosanna, who is 3, to my cousin who was just about to fly back home after a visit. Hosanna has taken to my cousin recently, in much the same way as she has fallen in love with my mom and sister. I rejoice over, cherish and encourage these relationships even in this small one because I know that these days are the foundation stones of a lifetime of relationship.
It takes a village to raise a child is how the African proverb goes and although I know this has been taken down many paths, I find truth in it in my own life. I don’t think God designed parenthood to be a private endeavor, there are many hands in the lives of my children that help to shape and grow them. Grandparents, friends, mentors, authors, teachers, professionals, there are a community of believers that have an impact on their lives.
There are times when God intends to use others to speak into our children’s lives for their own good. When your kid hits a point where they’re asking questions about the existence of God and if it’s worth it to follow him. When your child hits a wall and turns their ears from you, when there is no way to get in, get through, make way. Then, friendship steps in, community steps in, life on life daily living kicks it up a notch and makes paths where the brush and weeds and thorns were too thick to pass through.
We hit such a point recently and while my husband and I could pray for, encourage and share wisdom with our son, we knew this was not something we were to handle on our own. Parenting takes time and patience, sometimes you have to wait for the right word in season to come from the right person. You have to be willing to hang on tight and pray hard while letting God do His work. Well that’s how it works for me anyway. There is a young man whom I’ve known since I was in high school, I even babysat him once, whom my son knows well and looks up to. He was recently married and he took a Saturday morning to spend time with my son and share life and wisdom with him. It was maybe four hours and it has saved my son in this season of life. He was struggling, floundering, wandering and wondering and a morning with this fine young man may have staved off weeks, months or even years of wandering for him. If we had chosen to keep our lives private and never let our children interact with those that are older than them, never let them go for Chinese food or even to Denny’s at an ungodly hour… the foundation for these life altering conversations would not be set.
I have found that child-rearing takes a community, it takes a way of living that allows my children access to believers. God has given us much opportunity in this and we have run with it. There is the 10 year old who I was praying for and worried over at 8 that God placed in a group of godly break-dancers that speak into his life and encourage him. Sometimes they are just dancing, eating, passing gas and being guys and my 10 year old is right there with them. Before we moved the entire team of them battled him in break dance and he was tired, weak and yet the fire in his eyes and the love and care of the other guys as they looked at him makes any risk of a trip to Las Vegas, Watts, Arizona, Japan, Chicago… totally worth it. These men have been gracious to pour into his life and when he needs them, I know they will be there to direct him towards the Father.
I could go on and on and I hope this post doesn’t sound boastful because I certainly do not take credit for this God’s saving grace work of relationship in my children’s lives. I have been blessed to have family, friends and ministry that have allowed us to be in the places we have. God did that, not me. My encouragement to other parents would be this:
HOW DO I GET THERE?
Deep, life-impacting relationships don’t come about on their own. God has to do a work in the parties involved, but there are things you can do to help this process come about. Please do not be that annoying mother that goes around asking people to hang out with their kid, pray and ask, God will be faithful to provide without your manipulation.
BE IN COMMUNITY
Your children will not be known if they are never in community and it matters what community they are in. The ball field might be a great place to learn skill and find community, if that is where you are spending all your time then be sure that is a place your children can come in contact with people that will be speaking the things you want them to hear. I would encourage you to be involved in your local body of believers, embrace them, live your life alongside them, be with them. This may require letting other things in life go in order to be in God’s house and with his people.
BE THE EXAMPLE
Many of the people in my children’s lives are those that we have done ministry with. We are take-your-kids-along-family-ministry type of people and so, when it is appropriate, we try to allow our kids to be with us as we serve. When you spend your life pouring into people, they are thankful and in turn they often pour love right back into you and your family. Don’t be afraid to follow God, He will take care of you and your family.
DO YOUR HOME WORK
This is very important to me. If we don’t do our home work and discipline our children at home then no one will want to be around them and it won’t be fair to anyone to have them around. There are times of growth outside the home obviously, like the time my son learned that even though you are teasing back and forth with this youth leader, you should not pour your entire soda on him… Those are teaching moments, but most of these should be happening in the home FIRST.
The second part of home work is discipleship. If your children are not used to being around prayer, bible study, gospel preaching, if they don’t know the great need of a dying world, they will not be ready to go out.
HAVE FAITH & LIVE RECKLESSLY
God is so very faithful and he will remain faithful. Living in fear of what may happen is no way to live at all. Be wise, pray, train your children in what to be aware of, but let them learn and grow under the safety of your watchful eye. Talk a lot, ask a lot of questions, prepare them for what they may see or face, PRAY WITH THEM, show them the way and then TRUST GOD. He’s got this, He really does!
“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.”