As I grow older, I become more aware of how blessed I am to have not just one godly parent, but two. I guess since I moved away from home 4 years ago, I’ve realized how much my parents did for me and how many critical lessons they taught me. And as my awareness of that and gratefulness for them has grown, so has my love for young parents who are still in the midst of raising their children.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
I remember hearing this verse from a very young age. I was asked to memorize it. It was repeated to me throughout my life. But a vital key to godly parenting is not just teaching a child truth… it is also living out those truths for your child to see. How could you expect for him or her to listen to you and take what you say seriously if you are not living a life of consistency and integrity? Why would your child believe you when you say the Bible is the ultimate source of truth if your actions and lifestyle do not align with Scripture? One of the most heartbreaking things a child (really an adolescent, 14 or 15 years old) ever told me was: “my parents always tell me to live by faith, read the Bible, go to church, etc, but they never live out the same faith they tell me I should have.”
That being said, I am eternally indebted to two parents who didn’t just teach me what to believe; they also lived out their faith, which I would now say served to be one of the greatest points of persuasion for me when I experienced a crisis of faith during my senior year of high school. In the midst of that time, I doubted everything I had been told was true my entire life. I questioned the validity of the Bible, the existence of God, and the purpose of life. I read into secular philosophy and explored several other belief systems, not wanting to overlook potential explanations or theories that may have a better “sell” than Christianity. I wanted to know that I wasn’t basing the one life I had to live on a lie. And to be honest, given my personal/medical history, I wanted to know that I wasn’t holding onto this life and fighting to live for no reason.
Very few people knew I was struggling with my faith this much at that time, especially not my parents because I was afraid of how upset or disappointed they would feel if I eventually proclaimed to be an agnostic or atheist. However, one thing that my parents instilled in me from a very young age was this: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…”
As I considered the implications of both agnosticism and atheism, a weighty reality remained: if I concluded that God didn’t exist, or that if He existed He hadn’t made it clear enough to us, and then I lived my life according to my own will only to learn at the end that I was wrong, I would stand guilty before a holy and righteous God. I would hear the words: “Depart from Me, for I never knew you.” And I would spend eternity separated from those I hold most dear on earth as well as from the One Most Dear in heaven.
I share all of this for two reasons. The first being to publicly thank and acknowledge the gift my parents have been in my life and in the lives of my eight siblings because doing so was and remains to be a challenge in today’s postmodern culture. Their steadfast love for the Lord and unwavering conviction that His Word was the foundation for all learning and knowledge shaped each of us in ways we will never fully understand or be able to express, but I know my gratitude is shared among my brothers and sisters.
The second reason is to encourage parents who are seeking to raise their children up “in the way they should go.” It is a joy and wonder for me to have the privilege of observing the many forms godly parenting may take. I’ve recently heard several different people say that there’s not a formula to follow or a recipe to write that will ensure your child grows to love the Lord. And it isn’t one person’s right to say that another is wrong in the way they parent because, ultimately, every child is the Lord’s. No parent owns his or her child. Every parent has been entrusted with the life/lives of their offspring by a God who is sovereign over His creation. However, God has graciously given us His Word as the supreme ‘parenting guide’ (as well as the supreme guide for any other aspect of life).
In light of all these things, I want to share the letters I recently wrote to both of my parents for their birthdays. I do not share these to glorify my parents or myself. I share them to exalt the Almighty God who has graciously saved us for our good and His glory.
For parents who aspire to godly parenting, know that God is faithful to supply all your needs and to sustain you with His grace. If your child ever wanders or even runs from the Lord for some or even all of their life, plead on behalf of their souls, believing that God has greater purposes for their lives than you could ever dream of. If your child grows to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, plead for humility to constantly remember that it was the Lord who did the miraculous work of reviving their heart and opening their eyes to the glory of His Gospel and the great worth of Jesus Christ. In the end, no matter what the outcome is for your child, believe that He is faithful to His chosen ones. He will never forsake His children. And He will forever be the perfect Father who parents flawlessly.
Happy birthday! I am so glad that the Lord has blessed you with such a long and beautiful life. He has also blessed so many through your life. I cannot imagine having anyone else as my dad. I think I’ve told you this before, but as I’ve grown older, I have grown to love the opportunity to talk to other people about you and how much you influenced my life in so many positive ways. You have been a faithful father, husband, son, and friend. You are a testament to the powerful way God can use someone through gentle, humble servitude. You have always sought to protect and provide for us. You have always been an example of a godly man I can look to in a world that is filled with so many ungodly men. I know we haven’t always agreed about everything and that there have been times when I was disrespectful or unloving to you, but your love and grace have remained a constant in my life and have taught me so much about the great love that God has for His children. You have only served to reaffirm so many truths about who God is. You have been steadfast in your love, delight, and protection of me, and for that I am forever grateful. You have always been the person who made me feel the most safe in a broken world. I will never forget how many times you held me and reassured me and prayed with me when I was little and afraid of something. I will never forget how I have watched you strive to care for your children tenderly while seeking to balance grace and truth. You’ve taught me invaluable lessons regarding wisdom, hard work, and integrity.
I have consistently watched you pursue holiness and humility throughout your life, and I can’t think of anything more admirable a daddy could do for his daughter than to shepherd her heart as you have mine. I am eternally grateful to have you as my father and to call myself your child. You are and forever will be the first hero of my heart. Thank you for teaching me all the little things: to do what is asked of me as well as I can without having to be asked twice, to be sure never to take advantage of someone and to always seek to give more than I take, and to appreciate the glory of an incredible athlete excelling in a beautiful sport. You have shaped me in so many ways. Thank you for teaching me the biggest and greatest lesson my little heart could learn: that there is an infinite, omniscient God to whom I will give an account for the way I live the one life He has given me… and to live it well, for the glory of His name. The greatest characteristic I admire about you is how you don’t just tell me ‘this is the way to live,’ but you also demonstrate your beliefs. You live as a man of strong conviction and character, refusing to compromise the Word of God. You exalt His Word above all things and uphold it as our only source of Absolute Truth. Thank you for making the Bible your firm foundation and for pointing me to it as the Rock upon which I am called to build my life as well. The example you have set with your life is one that I dearly hope to follow and display for others in the hope that it will encourage and change them in the ways your life has encouraged and changed me. My heart swells with joy and love for you when I consider all the ways you have pointed me to the greatest Love and Joy of all. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Love always your little girl,