You Will Be Tempted, but God is Faithful
There’s just something about the first day of school. Just scroll your Instagram feed and you can’t help but see the influx of back-to-school front porch photos. You can almost smell the new Crayola colored pencils and hear the zipper sound on a new JanSport backpack. The kids are all smiles, holding their letterboard signs and showing off their latest coordinating outfits.
What you don’t see are the moments leading up to the photo –the first grade twins fighting over Paw Patrol lunchboxes, the fifth grader’s tears over spilled orange juice, the high school junior’s attitude about having to drive the 7th grade brother to middle school. The reality sets in that you’re back at it. The lazy summer mornings are over. It’s back to the grind: signed agendas, packed lunches, cheerleading spirit bows, permission slips, forgotten band instruments, bus stops, and parent teacher conferences. With these pressures come temptations. Temptations to question your calling as a parent. Temptations to do it in your own strength. Temptations to doubt the Gospel.
You will be tempted to teach your children morality instead of The Gospel. When your child comes home with an in-school suspension slip or zeros for failing to turn in homework, don’t lecture them with “be good” and “I raised you better than this” talk. Cultivate Gospel-centered conversation that focuses on Jesus bringing lasting, inner heart change (root), not self-help, temporary external behaviors (fruit). Ask them what lies they are believing about The Gospel internally that has produced the rotten external fruit.
You will be tempted to discouragement by perfectly curated Instagram feeds, comparing your children’s behavior, personalities, athletic ability, and academic achievement to others. You will be tempted to compare your life with decisions made by other parents; you may get defensive about your own choices. Model for your children that your and your family’s value rests in the risen Savior. Straight A’s, calendars filled with extracurriculars, and external morality will not earn merit with you or with God. Jesus’ merit is where we should look for our identify and fulfillment. Compare your decisions with God’s word, not the fear of man.
You will be tempted to worry about the world’s influence on your child’s life. You can’t troll the classrooms, hallways and locker rooms to protect them from the bullies or worldly philosophy. You can’t stand in the lunch line and remind them to resist temptation. You are not the Holy Spirit, but if He resides in their hearts, He will be there to speak truth to every decision. Teach, even your youngest child, about The Father’s protection - no one can take them out of His hand. No one can make them sin. No one is safer than one in whom Jesus is living.
You will be tempted to criticize a leader that is partnering with you and your student (teacher, day care worker, coach, other parents, pastor, youth pastor, youth leader or fellow church member). Remind yourself that each person is made in the image of God and has a purpose in your and your child’s sanctification. Value them as part of your Gospel growth. Teach your children to think biblically, to love, pray and support those that may annoy, disagree with or do life differently than you. Show your child the value of respect and listening to others, especially when it hurts.
You will be tempted to neglect gathering with God’s people. You will want to sleep in. You will want to avoid the routine bathroom, church clothes and breakfast fight. Teach your children to love and gather with God’s people even when it’s hard. Teach them to give God their best, not what is left. Teach them that God will defend His bride, The Church, till the end of time. Long after you won’t be there to catch them, speak comfort or give Band-Aids, Christ will be there to encourage and love them; He does this often through His people. Teach them to recognize their need for His people, and their natural need to give back to the Body of Christ.
You will be tempted to wonder if it’s worth it all. You will question if the scripture memory verse cards are doing any good. You will wonder where God is in the mundane laundry loads and “Have you brushed your teeth?” questions. You will be tempted to doubt God’s working in your teenager after another argument. Is it worth it all? Yes. It is worth it. It is worth it because HE is worthy and so much more. When you think no one notices your behind-the-scenes efforts, know that giving even a cup of water in His name brings reward. That reward is so often the indescribable, quiet joy that we are made to have in Christ Jesus. Do the work that He has called you to at this time.
You will be tempted to neglect your role to show love and affection to your children. Swallow your pride and break away from generational and cultural norms to create a loving home environment. Kiss and affirm your wife in front of your children. Sacrifice your dignity and dance with your children. Allow them to laugh. Allow them to cry. Cry with them! When you’ve dried their tears, show them the scriptures that can comfort and mend their broken hearts. They need to see Jesus in you.
You will be tempted to pass on a deep and difficult spiritual conversations. Embrace the awkward and trust the Holy Spirit to guide you as you shepherd their hearts. Lovingly discuss sinful behaviors. Ask about their hearts. Ask how you can pray. Talk about the goodness of the Lord during daily routines – a ride to the store or a rest during yard work.
You will be tempted to justify the excessive overtime hours with a shallow “I’m providing for my family” excuse. Your family doesn’t need the newest gadgets, expensive trips, or a bigger house. They need your time and attention. They need you!
You will be tempted to think “That’s a decision for Mom. I’m not taking responsibility for what my child __________ (watches, listens to, reads, wears). Bring your Bible and show your children that the scriptures lead the lifestyle choices you make for your family.
You will be tempted to trust your gut more than The Word. You can’t make Word-filled decisions until you know the Word, yourself. Get over your pride and ask someone to help you grow in The Word. Every man needs a mentor and accountability.
You will be tempted to look for admiration in your child’s talents, work ethic and accomplishments (or lack thereof), and not your child. They need to see that you love them the way God loves them, because of who they are, not what they do.
You will be tempted to lose your temper. Fix your eyes on Christ and His patience for you. All of their mistakes will pale in comparison to the grace Jesus has shown to you. When you do lose your temper, show them The Gospel and ask for their forgiveness. Show them how a godly man deals with mistakes. Admit your failures and discussing the grace God has shown to you.
Moms and Dads, be encouraged. In the Gospel we find the power of God in its highest concentration outside of the person of Christ (Rom. 1:16). The Gospel not only frees us from sin’s power and provides security of a home in heaven (Rom. 6:4), but it supplies our daily needs (2 Pet. 1:3). It gives us the strength to humbly love the child who rejects our teachings, serve the teacher who only sees our child’s faults, continue to give time and support to the football program that never gives field time (Rom. 6: 19,22). The Gospel provides an eternal perspective that this world is not our home (Eph 1:18). Don’t give up, Mom and Dad. Believe Jesus. He is more than enough.