Raising the Kids We Have, Not the Kids We Were


If we want to show our children the Jesus they'll follow for life, then we must demonstrate love for broken, poor, and marginalized people. We must lead with our lives, not just our lips.

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free ..." Luke 4:18 (NIV)

Surely I'm not the only one who notices glaring differences between the kids we have and the kids we were. They are dreaming different dreams, thinking different thoughts, asking different questions. We zigged right where they zag left. Ideologies I swallowed whole without blinking give my kids pause, and I'm often left going, "Wha?"

My son Caleb recently initiated a lengthy discussion on missionaries. Nestled among the invaluable wisdom I certainly bestowed, I mentioned not all missionaries can freely worship God, and in fact, some even die for their faith. The next week Caleb's teacher sent a hilarious email recounting the class discussion on future careers, and Caleb, ever eager, raised his hand and said: "When I grow up, I want to be a missionary and tell people about God. Even though my mom told me that all missionaries get murdered."

Like I tell all teachers: Let's believe half of what we hear about one another, mmmkay?

My son's intense curiosity about missionaries is a sign we are on the fault line of a huge paradigm shift in our culture ... a transition from one worldview to another. Since this is the world our kids are experiencing, it is essential to any parenting discussion. We can't parent what we don't understand.

Here's a boiled-down explanation. Modern thought was the driving worldview for the last three centuries, marked by rational linear thinking. The emphasis was on the individual's capabilities, logic and knowledge.

This affected how the Christian life was interpreted: we proved our faith through factual research, organized around biblical knowledge or discipleship.

Today, postmodern thought is the prevalent worldview. Postmodern values include spirituality, experience, community and the betterment of the world. This generation is highly skeptical of authority and won't believe or do something simply because of tradition.

Because of this desire to better the world, postmoderns are wildly attracted to those who love the unlovely and the poor. Hence my son's questions.

Guess who else loves the poor? Jesus. In fact, reaching the poor was one of His chief assignments: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free" (Luke 4:18).

If we want to show our children the Jesus they'll follow for life, then demonstrate love for broken, poor, marginalized people.

As I've tried to apply this knowledge to my parenting, I find my kids understand God better through story, community and justice, than apologetics or dogmatic theology. And I'm discovering new opportunities to capitalize on certain postmodern ideals that line up beautifully with the Kingdom.

Since postmodern kids respond best to authentic and honest parenting, it's important to avoid any hint of a controlling, appearance-based approach. I must lead with my life, not just my lips.

Let's tell our kids, "It's okay to mess up. I don't expect you to be a perfect kid, as I'm certainly not a perfect parent." With the Lord's help we can create a house of grace. To model what to do with failure: to apologize, try again, try a different way, learn from it, and don't regret every mistake.

It's not always easy for me to trust God is playing a crucial role in my kids' lives. I'm just one piece of their story. Thankfully, I can fail and make all sorts of mistakes, and God is still sovereign over all.

But it is my role to teach my kids to love Jesus, not just a set of rules. To talk about His character, love, passion and heroics as much as I talk about biblical behaviors.

I believe our kids will be less likely to get lost in culture if they have experienced the dynamic, loving, radical Jesus. When they know Him in a life-changing way, they learn to engage culture as a change agent and advocate without getting tainted by its influence. This is how God designed the Kingdom. He raises up disciples and releases them on the planet.

It's easy to fear when our family colors outside the lines, wanders down unlikely roads or takes risks when everyone else takes the safe route. But if they love Jesus and contend for His glory, then they will hear one day, "Well done, good and faithful servant." And you will, too.

God, in parenting, above all else I ask for Your wisdom. Teach me to parent the children I have, not the child I was or the kids I thought I would have. Open my eyes to ways to show them Jesus every day in ordinary life. Give me Your heart for the poor and broken so that I may pass that onto my children. Lord, win over my kids to Your love and help me not focus on only winning them to Your rules. Help me raise disciples, and lead us all in the way everlasting. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Micah 6:8, "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (NIV)

Are there ways you are not parenting the kids you have, but the kid you were? What is the next right thing your child needs from you?

What is a beautiful way you can love someone difficult or poor, marginalized or forgotten in your life? How can you lead with your life, not just your lips?

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