US: Who You Going To Be?

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One of my favorite quotes from Corrie ten Boom is “Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.” That is a lot of truth in one sentence but it rings especially true when raising your children. As our kids were growing up, it was fun to watch them and try to pick out aspects of their personalities and guess a potential occupation when they grew up. William’s analytical mind and understanding of math might have led to a career as an engineer or architect. Laura was outgoing and confident so she could possibly excel in public relations. Jordan was athletic and social and we feared that combination’s final destination, but knew God could mold that into something worthwhile. And, even though it is fun to play that guessing game, there are no guarantees on what will finally pique their interest enough to motivate them to pursue a career.

What we never wanted to do was put any of our aspirations on to them in the area of livelihood. We knew what was even more important than how they eventually made a living was how they approached life spiritually. We figured that if we spent more time on their hearts and got them focused on their core spiritual life, whatever came out of that in regards to career would be God-centered and right. We took every chance we could to let them know this was a 24/7 lifestyle and that our expectations for them began and ended with wanting them to be persuasive examples of Jesus and to make an impact on the people around them. To be Godly and spiritually mature and to be able to effectively communicate what they believe in a loving way. And then trust God to bless our efforts and handle the results.

Just like every other aspect of parenting, this toil looked different depending on the child. William was always more reserved, very thoughtful and others-oriented by default. And, being our first child, he was subjected to the fumbling, yet earnest, efforts of Hope and I as we tried to put into action what we wanted to accomplish. To augment our efforts, God brought us help in the form of Roshad, the youth leader at our church, and he was very instrumental in shaping William’s spiritual walk, beginning when he was 12 years old. (FYI: There is a full blog post about our relationship with Roshad coming up in the future. Stay tuned.)

We joke that Laura was born saved. She bought in to Jesus early on and was always looking for ways to share and encourage people to join her. I have vivid memories of her marching over to our neighbor’s house on Sunday morning and asking them if they had gone to church and what did they learn. She was four. And she has been a spiritual locomotive ever since.

With that kind of legacy in front of him, it was not a surprise that Jordan was less enthusiastic when he reached an age of thinking for himself. The expectations were great and assumptions were set in stone. His hesitation was at times frustrating and forced Hope and I to do some adjusting on our own. We tried to stay consistent in our approach but a lot of the phrases and platitudes we used on his older siblings were not as effective with him. And that was not a bad thing. I will not downplay the tears, anger and hurt that occurred, but I will not state that it wasn’t necessary to bring him to the place he needed to reach. And throughout the years of his searching, we chose to love and encourage him as well as discipline and let him know when he had crossed the line. It was hard, especially not knowing if and when he would change. There are no guarantees and there were times I lost hope, briefly, and it is a scary thing to sense that all you have done may never be enough. You realize that you are just a conduit with very little power to force change. And you lose your temper and have to apologize and you pray you aren’t screwing things up even worse by getting in the way. And then God gives you another dash of grace and you dive back in and renew your efforts at loving him. And always praying.

Eventually God answered those prayers but, ironically, it was after he left our house and moved on to another environment. And that was okay with us because, even though the journey is an essential part of the story, the end result is the most important when it pertains to your kids. Obviously, all three are still having their stories written and will be for the duration of their lives, but I am grateful and never take for granted that God brought them to a place where they believed in that essential core and have chosen to nourish it. And the most incredible thing is the lives that have blossomed from that core are all very different, even though they come from the same source.

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