So this is birth month for our first child, Hazel Grace. We’re at maximum excitement and anxiety about the journey ahead.
Two things I’ve read scare me to death about bringing this precious girl into the world under my stewardship:
1. A girl’s father is the most important person in her life.
2. Parenting is largely who you are and what you do as a person; not what you do or what you say as a parent.
Talk about pressure! The Lord created this beautiful soul and body inside Amanda’s womb and he’s entrusting her to my leadership (thankfully, with Amanda’s help). And that leadership isn’t as much something I learn from a book/lecture/class as it is an outgrowth of who I am as a person.
I am humbled the Lord trusts me and Amanda to raise Hazel to know him. But I also recognize his trust has little-to-nothing to do with my ability to earn or deserve it. I want to please the Lord more than anything, but boy do I fall short sometimes (cf. Rom. 3:23)! My laziness, fearfulness, apathy, complacency, anger, jealousy, and judging rise to the surface more often than my ability to control them.
So I’m a little anxious I’ll raise a lazy, scared, disinterested, entitled, mad, jealous, judgmental little girl. Overreaction? Possibly. But I still have doubts about my ability to consistently be the man of God she needs in her life.
But there’s one statement that continues to blow up these doubts.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
Paul had every reason to believe he was unworthy to preach the gospel and serve as an apostle. But he recognized God’s loving mercy and grace allowed him and empowered him to do just that.
I am so thankful Jesus came to extend God’s grace over my sin. And I’m thankful that as I grow daily in His grace, my daughter can see not how great I am, but how awesome God is.
While I want to be the perfect dad for Hazel, I’m thankful that she gets to see the perfect Father working through an imperfect one. And that she can learn she has the same hope in Him.
Intentional Parenting: Autopilot is for Planes by Sissy Goff, David Thomas, and Melissa Trevathan is a treatise on how to discover what to do as an outgrowth of parents’ relationships to God than simply instructing parents what to do.
Though the book focuses on the hearts of parents, it is not overly theoretical and abstract. The authors make a concerted effort to make the material practical with real stories and pointed questions throughout each chapter. What they have to say is well-worth reading, but their practical suggestions make it invaluable.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book. As I glance back over my highlighted sections, it is eye-opening to see how much these statements address me as a person as much as they do me as a parent. And that’s the authors’ goal. Who I am as a person will naturally and directly determine who I am as a parent.
I connected to two main principles: Being a Grown-Up Parent (Chapter 3) and Being a Spiritual Parent (Chapter 9). The authors make it clear that a child’s confidence comes in large part from seeing us be adults and act like parents. And their idea of being a “spiritual parent” is not following a list of “spiritual things” parents do, but rather modeling our personal dependance on God for our children to see, and thus know it’s important for their lives.
The book is written more with parents of adolescent children in mind, but is certainly helpful for parents with children of any age. I especially think it’s a helpful resource for those who might counsel parents. It would make a great resource to put in their hands.
The Internet is simultaneously one of humanities’ greatest inventions, amazing blessings, and dangerous threats. We are always one click away from danger no matter our age, gender, profession, naivety, or blamelessness. We must make sure we interact with the same godliness online that God expects in all other ways of life.
We frequently hear of children who are harmed by brutal and sick individuals who gain access to their lives through the Internet. We should do all we can to close up those loopholes.
As parents, you have the right–and responsibility–to know exactly what your children are doing on the Internet…no matter how old they are. You should have the same access to their accounts (with passwords, etc.) they do. You should talk openly and honestly about their online friendships, habits, and overall safety. But when you do, do your best to model the attitudes in yourself you wish to see from them. If you’re condescending and not understanding, you shut those doors of communication down.
But the most urgent arena of concern for your children on the Internet is that of sexual sin, specifically pornography.
The statistical likelihood of your child facing a child predator online is slim. But the chances of your child NOT viewing pornography online in some capacity is about 3% for boys and 9% for girls. That includes those who unintentionally stumble across it. If your child wants to find it, there’s a 100% chance he or she will. It’s just that easy.
The good news is that God forgives and cleanses no matter the depths of sin (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
More good news is that you don’t have to know everything about the Internet and computer technology to protect your child’s heart from spiritual threats such as pornography.
The most powerful weapons at your disposal are spiritual and internal; they should be aimed at his or her heart. Pray for them. Model purity, consistency, and propriety before them–online and off. Talk openly and honestly (with common sense) with them about temptations, sexual sin, and God’s purpose for sexual intimacy in marriage.
Would you rather them to hear the truth from you and God’s Word or error from the world and Satan?
There are other weapons that can assist you from an external perspective, as well.
The best place to start is http://covenanteyes.com. Covenant Eyes specializes in Internet technology that provides a safe surfing atmosphere for the entire family. They feature two softwares: Internet accountability software (browsing is monitored around the clock and reports are sent via e-mail to accountability partners) and Internet filtering software (specific sites are blocked and attempts to access blocked sites are logged and sent via the accountability reports). These softwares simply run in the background, but cannot be disabled without also disabling access to the Internet. This “two-pronged” approach is the best external solution, especially for homes with children. Covenant Eyes charges for using their services. While they are not free, they are more than reasonable. Amanda and I have used the accountability software for years and we pay for an entire year of service for less than what most Internet service providers charge for one month. There are a few free services out there, but research suggests the paid services are much more efficient and effective. If you recognize the legitimacy of this most dangerous threat, is any price too great?
Additionally, the Covenant Eyes website also features a wealth of resources for all kinds of Internet safety and protection. They have numerous (free) e-books, articles, statistics, podcasts, and a well-maintained and regularly-updated blog. No matter your relationship to the dangers on the Internet, whether totally naive or buried in addiction, there’s something to educate, challenge, and help you.
Every child born in our part of the world is a “digital native.” He or she will never know a time with less technology. He or she will never be less tech-savvy. He or she will one day view smart phones like many of us view rotary phones.
In a matter of a few decades, computers have moved from warehouses to business centers to living rooms to briefcases to front pockets. We as adults and parents will never be on the edge of technological advancement like younger generations. But that’s no excuse for letting this powerful tool destroy their souls. May God help us to use the Internet responsibly and ensure our children do the same.
I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman? (Job 31:1)
Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)
“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42)
The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him. (Proverbs 20:7)
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
The shortest distance between children’s hearts and Christ is their parents (Deut. 6:6-9).
From the beginning of creation, God designed the world to operate through parents raising children, who then become parents who raise their children, etc. Modern societies spend countless hours and dollars attempting to transform current generations into upstanding citizens. Yet God’s design places them into the care of people who are relationally and emotionally in the best situation to protect them, teach them, and introduce them to Him.
They are blessed to listen to you pray thanksgiving for their food.
They are blessed to see you show affection to your spouse.
They are blessed to interrupt your quiet personal study of God’s Word.
They are blessed to notice your graceful and calm response to difficulties at work.
They are blessed to discuss perplexing spiritual questions while you’re in the car.
They are blessed to ask you about sensitive and embarrassing things they hear at school.
They are blessed to cry on your shoulder when you tell them about death, pain, and loss.
They are blessed to observe that your commitment to the Lord guides your every decision.
They are blessed to approach God’s throne while you tuck them into bed each night.
They are blessed to receive the discipline you lovingly provide.
They are blessed to hear your words of praise more often than words of correction.
They are blessed to witness your example of service to the Lord and others.
They are blessed not just to have someone. They are blessed to have you.
The ugly side of this blessing is that parents are also the shortest distance from their child’s heart to hypocrisy, apathy, resentment, and rebellion. Each day’s decisions are building something in their hearts. You have the opportunity to ensure what it is.