ENVISION THE FUTURE
The parenting journey begins full of hope.
When you hold your infant child, you dream of what he or she will become. A doctor. A professional athlete. Perhaps follow in the footsteps of Mom or Dad. Have a good career. Maybe of family of their own someday. Grow intellectually, physically, and spiritually.
You want your children to succeed in life. The possibilities are endless.
You begin to think about your role in your child's success, and you pledge: I’m going to give this child the very best opportunities. The best schools. The best coaches. The best social circles. The best family memories.
I’ll give you my best.
Then reality sets in. You wake up one day and do an honest assessment of your day-to-day life as a parent.
Some days, you hit a home run. Everyone is happy. The kids are fed. Homework and chores are done. There may even be a sense of peace and calm that makes you proud to be a parent.
Other days, you strike out. Everyone is miserable. You make it a Hot & Ready pizza night from Little Caesar’s because you don’t have time for anything else. Your children, who were demanding your attention on the way home from school and practice, now need to be motivated to get their homework done.
You give it your best, but your best doesn’t always feel good enough. How do I know whether I’m doing a good job? Focusing on the right things?
Where are you headed?
It’s good to ask this question from time to time – to take an honest assessment of where you are as a parent. Stephen Covey, bestselling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, coined a phrase for those who make plans: “Begin with the end in mind.” One of the ways he encourages you to put this habit into practice is by visualizing your own funeral. Who is there? What are they saying about how you lived your life? The relationships you had? How would you change your priorities if you only had 30 more days to live?
OK, this might be a bit morbid. What Covey is saying, though, is to think about where you want to be at the end of your life and then start living with those priorities. Where do you want your children to be in 10, 20, 30 years – or for eternity? What priorities do you want your children to have?
I want him to use his talents and abilities for good.
I want her to make friends.
I want him to be kind and helpful to others.
I want her to be strong and courageous.
I want my children in heaven with me some day.
It’s often said that children do not come with an instruction manual. As a Pastor, I beg to differ. The Bible is an excellent instruction manual for parents. The people in the Bible teach us a lot about life priorities. Take, for example, the Children of Israel. As we read the stories of their release from tyranny in Egypt, their wanderings in the desert, how God set them apart and protected them during their journey to the promised land, we see parallels to our own lives.
God released us from the tyranny of sin through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus on the cross.
He sets us apart in this world. As His dear children, we are to live lives that are different from those around us. He does this for our good, to keep us safe and close to Him as we travel toward the promised land, heaven.
He does all this out of love for us, because the God of the Bible wants us – His dear children – to be in heaven with Him some day.
You see, God has an end in mind. He wants His children to be with Him for eternity. That’s His top priority. He sacrificed His own Son because we are that dear to Him.
And because He has entrusted us parents with a new generation of His dear little children, He will provide us with parenting instruction, and the strength to do it.
“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32)
The highest priority for parents must be helping our children know and love the God who loves them so much.
Here is what God told the Children of Israel before they entered the promised land:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 6:4-12)
Those few verses sum up God’s instructions for parents. Over the years, you have the distinct ability to shape you child’s future – an ability that no one else on the planet possesses. Just as God wanted for the Children of Israel, you want them to have prosperity in the land. You want them to live here on earth fearlessly and courageously. You want them to always remember, “The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
And then there is the eternal future. When there is so much youth and vitality in our children it’s difficult to envision anything less than a long life. And yet, you don’t know the length of their days, let alone your own. So, let’s live with the end in mind: heaven is our destination.
We must parent every day with the mindset that our children are on loan from God. We as parents are blessed to be in the position of guiding these precious children to that place of joyful reunion with God and all His children for eternity.