How can we respond to disappointment when our children reject the faith we’ve taught them?
Unfortunately, that’s a question I’ve had a lot of face time with over the years. While I’ve questioned the quality of my own parenting and character, I’ve never doubted the truthfulness of God’s Word. I’ll be honest, I’ve been tempted to blame myself. I’m certainly not perfect. But in the end, I always come back to this truth: our children have their own choices to make.
We’re responsible for pouring the truth of the Gospel into their ears, but what happens in their hearts is between them and God.
I got to go to a bridal shower last weekend. After some delicious refreshments, we gathered in the living room. The guests introduced themselves and gave one bit of advice about marriage to the bride-to-be. As the women took turns sharing their accumulated wisdom, I was struck by the rich Christian heritage this young couple enjoys. Grandparents, aunts, cousins, sisters, and brothers who all love Jesus and follow Him. They’ve been intentional in their family relationships and they’re all close. It was lovely.
As the evening went on, I enjoyed talking with people I know, and meeting new friends, but there was a stillness inside of my heart. Driving home, I tried to sort out my response, but I just couldn’t process the reason for that reflective feeling.
The next morning was Mother’s Day. My husband made me breakfast in bed and I opened up my laptop to check my email as I enjoyed the scrumptious food. There was a letter there from my oldest son, who lives in another state. I put my fork down and read his words eagerly. Tears ran down my face as I read his thankful statements and expressions of his own faith in Jesus, a faith his dad and I taught him.
I can’t tell you how those words soothed my heart. This son was lost to us for years, but recently has given his life to Christ and is working hard to bring God’s truth to every aspect of his life. Amazingly, the early lessons that seemed absent while he wandered from God are bearing fruit.
Pulling on a wrap, I walked out to the back deck to stand in the sunlight and thank the Lord for this Mother’s Day gift. As I prayed, I realized my heart had been struck by the vast difference between the family of the bride and my own. From the outside at least, theirs seemed a picture perfect example of what every Christian parent hopes for, and maybe expects, when their children are young.
My family hasn’t ended up that way. The lives of my children aren’t picture perfect, but messy. For a long time one of them was missing from the picture all together.
God brought him back. As I stood in the sunlight contemplating that, I understood that our heavenly Father is so good and kind, that He uses all sorts of “pictures” to illustrate His grace to us. That lovely bride and her family are a testimony of His faithfulness to those who will choose to accept the words of life, believe on Jesus, and follow Him. The endurance of those who persist in following Jesus is a testimony of the power of the Holy Spirit. My own family, with its challenges and prodigal hearts, is also a testimony of the power of the Holy Spirit. He brings back the wandering hearts and sets the captives free.
I can respond to my children’s choice to not choose Jesus in fear, or in faith. As I keep my eyes focused on God’s truth, and His promises about the power of prayer, I don’t fear their choices. The same love that got a hold of my own rebel heart is just as powerful to get a hold of theirs. So I pray for my children who wander, and for my children who follow Jesus, and entrust each one to the care of the One who cares for me.