Sunday, January 21, 2007

Thoughts on Children

(If you have come to this web site to read the initial writing of my experience with surgery to correct a blocked cardiac artery, click here to see that post.)

Since we have so many children it only seems appropriate that they should all appear in my writing somehow, some way. Certainly no particular part of my life brings me more joy – and heartsickness; more hope – and fear; more encouragement – and conviction. There is only one human relationship closer, more precious, and that one is with their mother, my dearest Judy.

She first appeared as a grammar school child in my summer music class, and as the subject of my Dad’s comments about his many students. I didn’t know any better, but she already knew something of future meaning, of hope and faith. She had a plan . . .

Sweethearts from the age of 15, married at 18, we were in trouble early on from such a young beginning. I had much to learn about the responsibilities of manhood, of what it means to love a woman. I had not given anyone the time or the respect to help me grow into it. So, we suffered the consequences of my pride and arrogance. Ah, youth . . . . If you are like me, you NEVER want to go back! Ah, but the fruit of those youthful days lives on.

We did discover many joys as we both grew up and faced our sin and ignorance. Chief among them are the eight children that God has graciously lent us. With the three eldest, we also received the first of our children by marriage, as precious to us as our own, making the “number” of our children eleven (so far). And with these three couples, we also have six grandchildren and another on the way. Precious are these little ones, the children of a new generation.

That which tops my thinking at this time is the reality that children challenge us and reveal our weaknesses faster and more effectively than many a well-preached sermon. I have heard plenty, and always feel like I could hear more (read on and YOU will be convinced as well!). I’ve also read the many books offered by others who have found it necessary to parade my flaws publicly, and for a sometimes painful price tag! But I can ignore the sermons, as long as those who gather around me don’t see my sins too clearly. And I can shun the books and their advice – I mean, when was the last time you met a famous author? So God chooses to use my children.

Take the issue of my slothful ways – yes, I am lazy. Through the unusual presentation methods of my Redeemer, I might be presented with a child, who thoroughly and unashamedly demonstrates the character quality of laziness in such painful ways that I am completely convinced of its evil and odious nature. Then another child might point out my own sloth – right as I am in the midst of enjoying it and perhaps even justifying it (bless her pea-picking honesty). A third child might shame me through their hard-working dedication that completes a project or household task truly worthy of parental praise. And like a prize fighter overcome by the up-and-coming challenger, my knees buckle and down I go.

What provoked this line of thinking is the way I find that I use my free time. It is bothersome to have a household full of those who can justly and insightfully point out my weaknesses. And I am constantly convicted by their accomplishments. But this is a reality that I also appreciate. Who else will do this odious task, the one of challenging and confronting me, and all the while still loving me? And my children do that so very well!

One of the fine examples that have encouraged me (from within the midst of conviction) is how my children are raising their children. They are working hard at not only doing what we taught and modeled for them, but also attempting to understand and put into practice the instructions of the Scriptures that we haven’t done so well. When I see how the grandchildren relate especially to their fathers, I am challenged to do better with the five that we still have at home. And all my life, this example and challenge will remain before me, and help spur me onward.

Take for instance my son-in-law Kevin, who prepares and ministers to as few as two, and as many as – well – “half of half” a hundred parishioners in his rural congregation (that’s 25, but somehow it sounds better to our numbers-oriented way of thinking to count using fancy words). His faithful and hardworking example is humbling to me, who finds it hard to serve on many an evening. And his patient and fun interaction with his children makes me wish that I had had him for a dear friend when I too was raising my own young family!

And his wife, my daughter Elise, working out her maturing faith in writing, all the while as she serves her family. That challenge has led to this blog – in fact, she set it up, and remains my inspiration for producing not only high-quality writing, but writing that is challenging and useful, that is beautiful and gritty, and most importantly, that glorifies God. So she looks to redeem her time, and I am further convicted that I must also redeem mine.

One would think that my recent brush with death would have made me into a passionate aficionado of time and its value. Not so. My prior bad habits continue to plague me. Hence my ongoing need for the push my children provide. And so my great thankfulness for the gift that they are to me.

In various and in similar ways, all of our other children also challenge and encourage. To focus on just two is to spare you the long and involved story it would become were we to discuss them all. Just know it is so!

Which brings me to the subject of Humility. Why does the Lord use those things which are humbling in my life – my own children to do better what we taught them to do – and to confront that which is displeasing to God in my life? But that is a discussion for another day.

Finally, my children, a word to you. Thank you for your faithful love and concern for us. Yes, we value these lessons, and are grateful that the Lord would so care for us by lending you to us. And we pray that you also may have many children, that your lives might be similarly challenged and blessed. We pray for our children, all our children – for the children by birth, for those who come by marriage, and for those who are adopted – that all of you, throughout all the generations of our family, will come to know and bow to the Lord of all Creation. We pray that we will see you all around the throne of God on that last day. For there we will receive our reward, brought about in part by the faithful love of simple children.

3 comments:

Elise said...

Papa!

What a great post! And I'm not just saying that cause I'm in it! :)

You make me laugh, you make me teary, you make me contemplative. But most of all, Papa, you make me remember how wonderful it has been to be raised by you, and to still have you in my life. You are a wonderful father. A wonderful example. Flawed, yes; perfect, no; the best earthly example of my Father in heaven? Absolutely. He paired us, you and I. And your "prototype" led to my choice of a husband. I'm so glad God didn't break your mold! :)

Love you, sleep well, see you soon.
t.d.

kevin said...

Papa:

My service and interaction with my children humble you??? YOU humble ME! Thank you for your kind words and for your presence today during Tom's funeral. See you soon!

Love you!

Tami said...

Hmmm... how can a parent of a large family still wrestle with laziness? I believe I heard the Lord whisper that it will take 5 children to undo me (remember that day - you & Judy prayed with us). That leaves one more at least to come, by which means he will determine.

Many mothers have come to me lately and asked for advice as they consider "just one more..." I will certainly forward this post to them - you have captured one facet of the blessing! How God uses them each to refine us, and how in turn we are more refined to be better parents. What a beautiful method he chose!

I'm blessed by your heart toward fatherhood, and can only hope that similarly our children will start out stronger than we did. ;-)

Tami