Jodi and I had another opportunity several weeks ago to talk to a group of Belhaven students about love, marriage and parenting. We especially like discussing the high calling of that of parenting. As we do so, I mention two complimentary concepts I found in two different books.
Begin with the end in mind.
This is one of the foundational principles in Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The idea, of course, is easy to understand. It is easier to complete a project if you have a concept of what it will look like in the end. Covey successfully employs the illustration of attending one’s own funeral. Think of attending your own funeral. Think of the individuals that might be present. Then envision several standing up to speak about you. What do you want them to say? How do you want to be remembered? Once you have that description in your mind, set a course to living that way this very day. I don’t know how you tick, or what motivates you, but that exercise definitely helps me. It’s helpful for parenting.
This principle came to us from a very helpful book written by Tim Kimmel. We read Legacy of Love: A Plan for Parenting on Purpose years ago. If I remember correctly, we read this book even before we were parents. Kimmel also stresses our need to know what we want our children to become. He employs the image of blueprints in this presentation. He wrote, “Obvious benefits come with knowing in advance the kind of adults we want to create out of the raw materials that live under our roofs” (p.36).
Have you ever thought about kids being “raw materials”? I love that. And Kimmel is correct. Obvious benefits are indeed seen.
I stated something when we taught recently that may have surprised the students. I said, “We are not raising children. We are not raising doctors. We are raising God-exalting, people-blessing adults.” At least that is what we deeply desire for all five of our children. We really are not concerned that they become successful in the eyes of our culture. Their future ability to earn a high standard of living is not one of our priorities. But we will be pleased if they truly know the Lord and if they truly make a difference in the lives of others.
These end results are both freeing and sobering. It is freeing to know that God is sovereign in the affairs of men, including the salvation of men, women and children. I have been called to talk about the Lord with my children (Dt. 6). We do that both formally and informally. On Sunday we took our children to Sunday School and church. Saturday night we challenged the kids to remember what God has done for them thus far in their lives (the book of Joshua). That next Monday, I illustrated how easy it can be to forget the goodness of the Lord (the book of Judges). Throughout each week, we take advantage of opportunities in our conversations and in their homeschool curriculum to show that God is worthy of our worship and obedience. In the end, however, we understand that only God can save their souls. God, the Author of salvation, must do His work. We are responsible to present and live the gospel. That, in a sense, is freeing. It is also sobering, though.
More is caught than taught.
We make sure we stress this timeless principle to my students as well. Children are like students. They hear some, but not all, of what is being communicated. Unlike students, however, children are with us day and night. They see how we act and react. They listen to how we speak. They watch what we do and what we refuse to do. Much of who we are, they become. That is some responsibility!
Are we good parents?
The jury is still out when it comes to our particular flavor of parenting. I will admit that we are far from being perfect parents. Some of the battles we choose to fight end up being ones better left untouched. Some decisions we regret. We live. We learn. We grow. We get up and do it again tomorrow. But we have a plan. We have an end in mind. We know what we want our children to become. And that affects what we will do today. And tomorrow. And the day after that.
As Kimmel’s book unfolds, he discusses some very important subjects: character traits and commitment to life goals. The character traits he mentions include faith, integrity, poise, discipline, endurance and courage. The life goals which make his list include: To love and obey God, To love their spouse, To love their children, To be a good friend, To work hard & To invest their lives in others. Good stuff.
None of which I was taught as a child.
But our home is a bit like a launching pad at the Kennedy Space Center. I am taking the raw materials of my children and putting within them the fuel needed for a life which honors God and blesses others. I must remain vigilant in this calling. Every parent must.
May every parent and grandparent, uncle and aunt, etc. et. al. not miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.