The Child Who Challenges
Let me be perfectly clear. I am not ranting about a specific child of mine. I am not thinking about one of my own kids and baring all of our ugliness to the world. But I AM going to be transparent here.
This is coming from a compilation of struggles we have had over the years as parents-with-a-sin-nature parenting children-with-a-sin-nature. Do you know anyone else who struggles with that? It is easy to feel like I am the only one.
But this topic keeps popping up in conversations I am having with moms, and I think it is something we all need to think about.
What do we do when we have a child who challenges us? How should we react when they say they want to live life a different way than we do or they espouse different ideas than we have? Heaven forbid our friends find out. What if the people at church notice?
Have we failed?
Of course, we all will have a child who will challenge us. One of the first words these sweet little ones learn after “Mama” and “Dada” is “No!”
I once co-taught a middle school Sunday school class, and we were learning about sin. We asked the students if they thought little children were born with sin. Almost simultaneously, all the students began to shake their heads, some of them verbally responding that they thought babies were born “good.”
All except one student. He was vigorously nodding his head “yes.”
Well, we directed the students to several verses describing our sinful nature, how we are all born in Adam, and our need for a Savior. But I wondered why that one teen was so sure we weren’t born with a good nature. It turns out he was the only one who had a very young sibling who was going through those challenging two- and three-year-old years. He saw first-hand how these little ones have a nature to challenge.
We all have likely experienced that with our little ones. That is socially acceptable, too. We call them the “terrible twos” or the “training twos” or whatever alliterative way you want to frame it. It is still challenging and an opportunity to train them up! And everyone around us gets it.
But what if you have one who fiercely challenges you in the teen years? What then? That is not so socially acceptable. We can feel hurt, rejected, and dare-I-say embarrassed?
What did we do wrong? How could we have done things differently so this wouldn’t have happened? What will our friends say?
Let me stop the question-roller-coaster right there.
First, we need to remember that we are given our children as stewards. We do not own them…they belong to the Lord who has graciously given us charge over them to train them up in His ways. And God, in his infinite knowledge, knows that I am not a perfect person. He knows I will mess up (a lot) and will not always say or do things in a godly manner. I will miss some of those teaching moments. I will react in a frustrated way. I will not always season my words with grace…
He DOES call me to be faithful, though. He wants me to be in relationship with Him. He wants me to be in His word. And I need to be lovingly striving to grow in grace as I do this parenting thing.
But it is NOT MY RESPONSIBILITY to save my children. That’s between them and God. If you have a child who moves out and is living in a lifestyle that is not God-honoring, of course you can be saddened by it. And you can discuss with them the potential consequences of their choices and what God’s word says.
But let me tell you, if you turn your back on that child, you have already decided that communicating with them is not an option.
No matter the extent of the challenges our children give us, can I suggest that we do what God does for us?
He pursued me while I was in my sin. He loved me, even when I didn’t consider His existence.
We need to pursue our children like that.
Love them. Engage them in conversations. Ask them why they believe what they believe. Yes, encourage them to understand what we believe and why. But know that often your children will go through a transition. They have ridden on the coattails of your faith while they were young, taking it on as their own. Yet there will come a time that they begin to transition that ownership to be ALL their own. And YOU CANNOT MAKE them think or believe the way you do.
You can pray. You can encourage. And, most importantly, you can love, love, love them. You can pursue them the same way our Lord pursues us. In our rebellion, in our selfishness, in our ignorance of His magnificence he continually follows us. He tirelessly wants to dialog with us.
Doing that with your older ones will help to keep those conversations going. It will display for them the unconditional love of God and your continual love for them.
We have great power in our words to build up and encourage them. Make it a point to build relationships with your children so you can continue to keep the conversation going as they grow up and become adults.