One of the things I think about quite often are my future kids. This may sound strange given I’m so far away from actually having my own, but the idea of having little Davids and Davidas is something I am very excited about. I even have my very kind and insightful grandmother, Lola Tina, writing letters to my kids on values such as faith, forgiveness, and integrity. I want my kids to have the benefit of her experience and wisdom, and in a world of dying “old-fashioned” values, many of which have suffered even in my life, I would like to somehow transfer the wisdom, experience, and perspective of a generation when marriage was between man and wife, when a promise was a promise, when a hero was the one who laid his life down not the one who pretended on screen, when it was honourable to show restraint.
I wish I had paid closer attention to these things as they were taught to me.
Sometimes I wonder about what kind of world my future kids will enter. While half of me is excited, the other half is reasonably concerned with the degradation of society’s values. When dads are absent, unfaithful, and unwilling, when moms are entitled, full of emotional escapes, and so concerned with societies perceptions, when the children lose respect, lose trust, in their unreliable home leaders, a whole buffet of social problems arise.
If the world seems like it’s getting worse, in many ways, it’s probably because of having generation after generation becoming more and more spoiled and feeling entitled to things they don’t want to pay the price for.
This is why parenting, including foster parenting, adoption, and spiritual parenting, is so important. The identity of future generations needs to be set. People are more informed than ever but more paralysed by an inability to discern between options, say no to pleasurable evils, yes to tough commitments, to wait and persevere. Sons need to be commissioned, daughters embraced, and callings need to be spoken.
My dad pretty much finished every talk, every spanking reminding me, “This is who you are. And this is why you need to act this way.” I remember my mom always reminding me, “Do you remember what your name means? We named you David Michael for a reason. You’re going to defeat giants. You’re going to defeat demons.”
I’m very grateful for them. I’m grateful that they kept speaking into my life, even during the many times I was difficult and resentful, and always saying “I don’t care what anyone says, this is who you are. You live differently.” To be honest, I never really understood and for most of my life I really disliked the burden of responsibility and rebelled in many ways. But now I really see the value of it and thankful that someone persevered with me.
I think too many parents are trying to be sexy parents, cool parents, their kids’ “best friends” and failing in the areas that are most important. Parenting is leadership at its most important in my opinion – and a man pleasing leader, even if it is our kids we’re trying to please, is historically known to be a recipe for disaster.
Instead, parents should mark ourt very clearly for themselves and for their families: these are our values and this is the vision of our family, this is where we are going, and influence everyone to go there together by consistently communicating the values and vision through words and actions.
But of all the things I was taught by my parents, and through the other people and circumstances God has allowed me to encounter, are three simple values that have profoundly impacted my life. If I have kids, or should I say, when I have kids, these three will be the emphasis:
Inspired by one of my favourite chapters, 1 Corinthians 13.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love…
– 1 Corinthians 13:!3
Let me give you some simple thoughts on each. I like to simplify as much as possible so that the ideas are actually applicable.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
– Hebrews 11:1
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
– Proverbs 3:5-6
Faith is simply putting your trust in God. It’s saying, I believe in You, God. I believe that You exist. I believe that You are everywhere. I believe that You have all-power. I believe that You know all. I believe that You are good and love me. So I trust that Your ways are best.
This is very well illustrated in this classic story (click on the story to read the whole article):
In the nineteenth century the greatest tightrope walker in the world was a man named Charles Blondin. On June 30, 1859, he became the first man in history to walk on a tightrope across Niagara Falls. Over twenty-five thousand people gathered to watch him walk 1,100 feet suspended on a tiny rope 160 feet above the raging waters. He worked without a net or safety harness of any kind. The slightest slip would prove fatal. When he safely reached the Canadian side, the crowd burst into a mighty roar.
In the days that followed, he would walk across the Falls many times. Once he walked across on stilts; another time he took a chair and a stove with him and sat down midway across, cooked an omelet, and ate it. Once he carried his manager across riding piggyback. And once he pushed a wheelbarrow across loaded with 350 pounds of cement. On another occasion he asked the cheering spectators if they thought he could push a man across sitting in a wheelbarrow. A mighty roar of approval rose from the crowd. Spying a man cheering loudly, he asked, “Sir, do you think I could safely carry you across in this wheelbarrow?” “Yes, of course.” “Get in,” the Great Blondin replied with a smile.
The man refused.
That makes it clear, doesn’t it? It’s one thing to believe a man can walk across by himself. It’s another thing to believe he could safely carry you across. But it’s something else entirely to get into the wheelbarrow yourself.
It’s not enough to believe that Christ theoretically could save you. Until you “get in the wheelbarrow” and trust all to him, you are not saved.
The best way to teach your kids faith is to get in the “wheelbarrow” yourself. Do we really think our kids will embrace wholeheartedly what we have embraced half-heartedly? No. To do this is to communicate, “I’m not sure about this God, so the wise thing to do is to make arrangements for my own security.”
If there’s anything true about faith (as well as hope and love), it’s either you believe or you don’t.
A practical way to teach this is to pray with your kids. Teach them to pray for things. Don’t worry about their hearts getting broken or their getting disappointed. Instead use even disappointments to build their faith. Remember, your kids will follow your lead. If they see you whining, crying, grumbling, and rationalising because God didn’t give you what you prayed for they’ll do the same – to God and you.
If they see your enthusiasm for God, if they see that you’re persevering in faith, and that you are thankful when God doesn’t answer your request because you trust, you have faith, that God is protecting you for His best, then your kids will adopt the same perspective.
You want joyful, faithful kids? Be joyful and full of faith. If you find your kids are always whining and grumbling, look in the mirror and deal with what you need to deal with.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. – Romans 5:3-4
One of the things I noticed with young people (including me) today is our inability to wait, to persevere, to be still, to look forward to a better picture that is so real that we live in such a way that we delay gratification for this more beautiful picture.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say it’s ok to flirt or play around because they’re still single anyway. Or how they can take their time because they’re still young. Or how they better take what they can now because they never know if that’s as good as it gets.
In other words, because they can’t picture a brighter tomorrow, they’re not hoping for anything better, the end result is a life that has settled for mediocrity or even ugliness. We fill our need for hope by living vicariously through the lives of people we follow, movies, tv series, and books. We get all worked up for shallow things that we lose our ability to live through uninspired times, to persevere through tough times, and we wonder why our lives are simply more of the same frustrations.
Without hope in a better tomorrow, there’s no reason to work towards a better tomorrow. Without hope that there is heaven, a place to eternally be with God, there’s no reason to live faithfully before Him today. Without hope that someday your dreams will come true, there’s no reason to persevere and sacrifice.
There is a better tomorrow. There is a heaven. And dreams do come true BUT the process is not through day dreams and lotteries. The process is actually made plain in the Bible:
Suffering leads to perseverance, perseverance character, character hope.
Suffering? Yikes. We don’t like that word. We don’t want it for us and we surely don’t want it for our kids. What kind of cool, sexy, “best friend” parent will make their kids suffer? They won’t. It’s completely uncool, unsexy, and seemingly unfriendly to make your kids work, do chores, pay the price for mistakes, learn how to apologize even when it’s embarrassing, learn how to forgive even when it’s painful, learn how to give up things for others, learn how to let others go first, and learn that way to live is to lay your life down.
But that’s the starting point. Kids who have never suffered, and I don’t mean making them suffer in some sadistic way, become weak and very oddly, become entitled and are more likely to lose hope.
Because more than what we’re amassing, achieving, and feeling in life, what is really important is WHO we’re becoming or in one word: character. Hope is the fruit of character ripened through perseverance in suffering.
Instead, teach them that one can face suffering honourably. How? By facing your challenges honourably and with faith, which I explained earlier is trusting in God. If your kids always see you settling and taking shortcuts when things get hard, guess what they’ll do?
If they see you losing hope, giving up, and not painting a beautiful tomorrow, they’re going to follow the beautiful picture someone else paints – and who knows if that picture is really a beautiful tomorrow or a painful experience in disguise.
Let us suffer what we have to suffer with faith and perseverance. Allow God to build our character, knowing that what we are hoping for will not fail. Show them that it’s good to fight for the things you love with faith. Show them that it’s good to wait for things to ripen. Show them to enjoy each season for what it is because you know that each has been designed by God to mold your character towards an unfailing hope.
One of the most impactful images in my head is seeing my parents praying during times of great need for our family. Hearing about our financial difficulties now, and realising how despite the circumstance, they fostered an environment of faith and perseverance has made me appreciate them for giving me this approach to life.
I believe God will come through for me, that I have a bright future. I know it because I’ve seen it in my parents’ life.
Like I said, that is uncool, unsexy, and unfriendly. But who cares. I would rather be the misunderstood person people criticised for being uncool, unsexy, and unfriendly for relentlessly moving people to embrace their values and to fight for their visions, than to be the cool, sexy, friendly person that gets along but actually is of no significant impact in the lives of others, especially my kids, except to entertain them.
Be the person that people will look back to and say, “He really loved me because he fought to bring out my best because he saw a beautiful tomorrow for me.”
And finally, Love.
This deserves its own post.