At the end of 2016, my husband and I reached a parenting milestone. Our youngest turned twenty. With this birthday, our era of raising teenagers came to an end! Right now some readers might expect me to make a joke about surviving those dreadful teenage years, but that’s not gonna happen.There was no fight for survival. Sure there were some challenging times, but I’m sad to see these days end. I’m sentimental about it and can’t help reflect back on the precious years we were blessed to spend raising our children. In looking back, I have joyfully seen that the expectations or prophesies that many people had about our kids teenage years and other stages of their lives proved false. Instead, my vision, founded on Jesus, came to pass. Maybe not exactly as I had hoped, but it was far better than what many expected.
Let’s roll back the clock twenty-two years. I remember being a young mother and beginning this journey with lots of hope and prayer. Way back then, I had a vision and some pretty precise ideas about parenting. Serving as the foundation for my vision and ideas was the belief that in Christ things could be different for our family. I had seen many examples of brokenness in families, and I wanted better. I had also seen the positive affect of knowing and following Christ in my own life and marriage. It only made sense that a similar result was possible with parenting. God is far wiser than any parent or parenting guide. I trusted Him to help our family be whole and hoped that in the process we would glorify Him.
While I fully relished in the joy of being a mom, I also felt a huge responsibility in the Lord. That responsibility and love for our children helped shape my vision. I don’t think my vision for parenting was anything extraordinary. I’m sure many Christian moms shared it back then and share it today. I wanted our children to grow up in a happy and whole home. I wanted to protect them and help them be well-behaved and well adjusted. More than anything, I wanted our children to come to know Jesus.
Though I knew their salvation was in the hands of our sovereign God, I also believed we could and should play a big part in shaping their spiritual and moral life. To that end, my husband and I taught them about God and His ways and worked to develop good and respectful behavior in them. Additionally, my husband and I sought to be obedient to God in our own walk. Our methods were not the ways of parenting and marriage common in our society. Instead, we lived as husband and wife according to God’s will for marriage, and raised our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22-33, Ephesians 6:4)
We believed God’s ways worked and that by His mercy and our obedience to Him, our family might grow in faith and could escape many of the snares and troubles that plague so many families in the world. We would not have unruly, disobedient, or rude children who ruled the house and possibly grow up to follow self-destructive paths in the future. Instead we would work hard (and it is work – no way around that) through every stage of their development to have a close and healthy relationship with them that would stretch into their adult lives.
Not everyone expected us to be successful. If I had a dollar for every time someone said “Oh, just wait till the terrible two’s” or “Just wait till they’re teenagers”, our kids could have gone to college for free. Ok. Not really, but it did happen a lot. Those comments came from acquaintances and “kind” strangers who would smile at our children one second and predict doom the next. They truly expected that our children would throw frequent temper tantrums and angrily and rudely rebel just like the “typical” toddler or teenager. Summoning up some courage, which wasn’t always easy, I would kindly say that we were not expecting that as we were bringing them up in the Lord. That would usually be met with a quick half-smile or a barely audible “Oh, that’s nice.”
Later, I would sometimes revisit my disappointment that this mindset was so prevalent. Why all this consistent speaking of doom and failure into our lives? Actually, I already knew the answer. I hadn’t just arrived on planet earth. All my life I had heard stories about the nightmarish periods of parenting known as the “terrible-two’s” and “the rebellious teenage years.” I knew that is what people expected to happen. It was the norm. And since the predicted misery was inevitable in their minds, they promptly tried to bring my family into the fold of despondency.
Different In Jesus
As often as I encountered these comments, I knew in my heart it did not have to be that way. Not in Christ. I knew we had something working in our favor that could prevent their predictions of future doom from coming true. In spite of the doomsayers, this belief anchored the mother’s heart in me and guided and encouraged me through the years. I truly believed things could be better for us because we knew Christ and followed Him. I worked every day to avoid the foretold disasters. Too strong a word? Not to me. In my mind, if they were to come to pass, they would be heartbreaking disasters. I saw those outcomes as painful and not something to accept as inevitable. I believed my family could experience better order and unity, and I wanted that. Looking back today, at the passing of this milestone, I praise God that we did. Much of the discord I have seen in the world was not experienced and the prophesies of many failed. I thank God for what He did for us and give Him all the glory.
I am not saying that our children (or us) were/are perfect. Not by a long shot. They (and we) are sinners and have been guilty of disobedience and disrespect and various other things. We had to discipline and correct countless times. Yup, discipline. Contrary to the world’s opinion, because of the Bible and not so common sense, we believed it was OK to discipline and expect obedience. It was more than OK. It was necessary. We taught them about the obedience that God had called them to and tried to direct them to do well for His sake and because it was right.
Our children learned that there were consequences for their actions and that no meant no. In all my parenting years, I never once counted to three. You know – that thing parents do to get their children to listen. “Sit down, Logan. Logan, I’m going to count to three. One… Two… Two and a half… Two and three-quarters…” My husband used to say the only thing that accomplished was teaching kids fractions! Of course we both knew it actually accomplished something else. It teaches kids that obedience is optional; or at least, it can be delayed. That lesson leads nowhere good. It is far better to consistently and lovingly – both are so important – teach them to be obedient and respectful. That lesson is good for the moment and for their futures; so they may develop into the kind of people that understand limits, personal responsibility, and the value of self-control.
Through the years, with the grace of God and the encouragement of fellow Christians, we sought to stay consistent with our expectations and apply God’s word in our parenting. It was work, but it was well worth the effort. I am filled with gratitude for my children and for the close relationships I have with them today. They are precious and fill my heart with joy. Every stage from newborn to the teenage years was my favorite because they were there. Looking to their future, I don’t know how things will be in one or ten or twenty years; but we’ll always be their mom and dad. We will always be there for them, even though our role will change. We will not shape their lives as their decisions will be their own. Though we don’t know for sure what paths they’ll take; we are optimistic. We hope and pray they do well, stay safe, and love God all their days. As always, their hearts and lives are in God’s hands.
To Young Moms
Dear young Christian moms, I encourage you to ignore the doomsayers and expect something different for your children. Be consistent and obedient in your own walk with the Lord and follow His plan for family life. Turn to the Bible for guidance and conviction and know that things can be different. There are many verses about parenting that can show the way. We don’t have to expect and accept failure. We can have happy and whole families in Christ.
I’m not promising eternal salvation for your children. That’s in God’s hands. And I know that sin and heartbreak are no strangers to Christian families. I also know there is only so much a parent can do. Nature can be very powerful compared to nurture and children can disappoint and cause great grief. But that does not mean you give up before the work even starts or give up when it gets hard. Do your best and follow the Lord’s way with all your strength. Set the bar high. There’s a good chance your kids will come in under any bar you set, so set it high. God did. Follow His example.
Our families won’t be perfect; but they can be far better than many expect, to God’s glory and our joy. They can also be a light to the world as they turn the world’s predictions into false prophesy. In addition to praying for your own family, humbly pray for the families that don’t know God. Have compassion for any sad situations and be not surprised by them. It is God’s grace that saves our souls and delivers us from the troubles that are so common in the world.
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