I well remember the first moments of holding my son in my arms after he was born. It was the perfect intersection of terror and ultimate joy. Within my arms lay a child who, while no longer dependent upon me for oxygen, still would require my constant care when it came to feeding, clothing, and sheltering him. Firstborns have a greater challenge in life, because they have rookie parents who are thrust into the roles of mother and father, learning as they go. Additionally, for those born to yet to be converted parents, they sometimes have the added hurdle of living through some significant worldview alterations of those who are in authority over them.
My son was just over three years old when I came to faith in Jesus Christ. My husband’s conversion was about four months after mine. It wasn’t until years later, after my second child was born, that we had a major worldview shift. We went from looking to the Scripture as a series of guidelines that would “help” us approach life to embracing the concept that learning and applying God’s law was the way believers in Christ demonstrated their faith. As a result, our family orientation shifted from what we thought was best to what God required of us.
Homeschooling was a natural outworking of this new found perspective and we took our responsibilities in the education of our children seriously. We understood that the buck stopped with us and that we would answer to God for the stewardship of the children He entrusted to our care. However, it was all too easy to step outside the bounds of stewardship and cross over into the realm of ownership. Over the years, as my three children grew, these concepts were tested over and over again.
Young children need guidance and boundaries. Thus, we don’t ask their permission to apply the law of God to our family and to their behavior. It is the duty of parents to establish God’s standards and to communicate to their children that we, like them, are under the authority of God and thus, subject to blessings for obedience and cursings for disobedience. The evidence of such upbringing is readily apparent to those outside the family. While they may consider such parenting “old-fashioned,” there is little dispute that children raised this way are more pleasant to be around.
A trap for parents is that they sometimes seek to apply a formula approach to family life. If mom and dad have a particular affinity for certain practices (or disdain for others), their preferences can become family law. The problem arises when one of their children doesn’t embrace their particular approach. It is the wise parent who examines such situations and takes care not to overstep one’s boundaries in parenting.
- Some families consider that young ladies should always wear dresses or skirts. There is nothing immoral about such a requirement. However, what if, as a girl grows up, she wants to make other clothing choices? Providing she has been instructed in modesty and appropriate dress from a Scriptural perspective, is she sinning if she wishes to dress otherwise?
- There are families who spend time outlining a five year, ten year, or hundred year plan for themselves and future generations. Is it appropriate for parents to tell young children what they will be doing well into their adult years? I wonder how many would have wanted to be compelled to follow such plans of their own parents. If we view our offspring as property, we will mandate such things. If we view them as those entrusted to our care, we will seek to influence and persuade.
There are many other areas that could be cited. My point is that, as children grow, we move from actively directing their lives to helping them take more and more responsibility, teaching them to exercise Biblical self-government in the process. Their choices may be in line with the faith without being carbon copies of ours. Especially for those of us who came to faith as adults, we need to recognize that our children are being raised in a different context than we had, and we should exercise care not to come across that we own their consciences, their lives, and their futures.
Ownership of our children belongs to God alone. We would do well to examine our thinking and actions regularly, to be certain that we do not overstep our jurisdiction as we endeavor to be obedient to God’s Word in our role as parents–a most terrifying and joyful calling, indeed.