It may not have been that long ago … ten years, give or take … but there is truly very little I remember about my years in high school. I don’t remember much of the content I was taught, my locker combination eludes me, I doubt I could list all the classes I took or the names of my teachers, and I certainly don’t recall any of the juiciest gossip. In fact, when I start to reminisce about that time, I am consumed with feelings of pressure, stress, and overwhelming busyness. Between maintaining a 4.4 GPA, competing in 4 years of varsity softball, volunteering for numerous organization, involvement in several clubs, missions trips, homework, tutoring my peers, babysitting, working a job, college prep., children’s ministry, boyfriends, etc., etc., it’s no wonder I barely slept and had to visit the doctor several times for stomach issues related to stress. It unfortunately was a season of little joy. One I was excited to escape and be done with.
But what really breaks my heart is that I know I am not alone in feeling this way, and, without a doubt, the pressures and expectations being put on our school-aged kiddos are getting immeasurably worse. It’s at the point where students in kindergarten are coming home with hours of homework and are being made to feel like failures by age 5 if they aren’t measuring up to the super high standards set before them. Our teenagers are juggling activities and schedules equivalent to those of adult CEOs; taking on overwhelming responsibility – leading to a state of constant striving where the goodness, joy, and peace of God is rarely experienced.
Now, schooling systems, societal standards, and secular ideals and expectations aren’t soon to change, but what really concerns me the most is the suspicion that even as Christian parents we are exacerbating the problem. We are prioritizing earthy gain and secular pursuits while negating the spiritual well-being and growth of our children.
Please let me be the first to raise my hand in admission that my flesh naturally has extremely high expectation for my children- that I struggle to not allow my kiddos to become idols in my life. When assessing my value and defining my success, I am often tempted to draw meaning from my children’s behavior and accomplishments. But that is so incredibly unfair to them and has devastating consequences. It must be crippling for children when they feel responsible for their parents’ happiness and pride.
What an impossibly difficult burden to bear!
There are many parenting philosophies and expert opinions out there for child raising, but among the many loud voices is the quiet whisper of God who calls us to model our parenting after Him. Imagine the incredible freedom our children would feel if our love for them was even a sliver of the overwhelming, unconditional love of God.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
1 John 3:1
God loves us – absolutely and indescribably!
There is no way to earn His love and no choice or mistake that can separate us from it. Despite living in a performance-oriented society, God offers us a love that is free and is powerful in its pursuit of us!
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Imagine for a moment if our children could experience grace, mercy, forgiveness and encouragement from us on a daily basis. This is not negating the importance of discipline – for it certainly has great importance as well. But I want my children to rest soundly in my unconditional love for them. To know that their performance does not reflect upon me or change the way I see them.
My kids aren’t trophies to be displayed! Their accomplishments are not fodder for my self-worth! I find that in God alone. And goodness knows my kids will stop sinning and making mistakes when I do.
I have been leading a powerful Bible study this summer through which each session is written and taught by a different woman. These women are the leaders of incredible ministries that are changing the world and saving thousands of souls. Do you think God looks at these women and cares one iota about their GPA, what college they attended, or how extensive their resume is? Do you think their somewhat non-traditional career paths, where they are seeing lives transformed, have left them longing after bigger paychecks or greater material possessions? I very much doubt it. I bet you they could testify for days about the provisions and blessings of the one true God.
So what does this really mean for us as parents? It means we need to encourage our children to attend church, engage in daily devotions, attend Christian camps, go on missions trips, serve their community, and worship God unceasingly. And once done, we need to listen ever so closely and carefully to the visions they have for their own lives as God calls them to fulfill His unique and perfect will.
I find myself reading the Bible these days with a mother’s heart and perspective:
What if David had been my son as he headed off to fight Goliath?
What would I say to Moses as he went to confront the powerful Pharaoh?
How would I have pleaded with Daniel as he refused to pray to the king?
Would I have told Jonah to run?
Would I have discouraged my son from being Jesus’s disciple?
I’m disappointed and ashamed to admit that I might not have championed these men the way God desired if they were my sons. But I can learn from that as I continue to grow daily in my faith and trust in God’s love for my kids.
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40: 28-31
I’ll end this post with one of the greatest examples of a mother’s sacrificial love given to us in the Bible. Hannah was a woman of deep faith, passionate devotion, and amazing patience. She was married to a man named Elkanah and struggled for many years with infertility. (Childlessness was one of the worst hardships a woman in her culture could endure.) In her desperation and longing, she cried out to God and made him a vow. “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life.” (1 Samuel 1:11) The Lord heard Hannah’s cry and gave her a son, Samuel. And just as promised, Hannah took the boy to the Tabernacle and fulfilled her promise.
I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and he granted my request. Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life.
1 Samuel 1:27-28
Samuel was left at the Tabernacle with Eli, and he grew into a mighty man of God, a Spirit-led prophet, the leader of God’s people. His story is one recorded in the Bible – never to be forgotten.
I pray that I too can have strength and discernment like Hannah, who was able to recognize and submit to the will of God for her child. His plans are so much bigger and better than our own. So, will you trust Him? Will you release your children from the tyranny of earthly strivings so they can freely experience the abundant, satisfying life God has planned for them? Let’s be a powerful reflection of God’s goodness and love for our children!
You cannot bless them with a greater gift.