Releasing a fledgling from the nest is a time for introspection. It’s a strange crossroads, watching a child transition into adulthood. Before you lies their future. Behind you are the 18 or 20 short years that you had to prepare them for it.
The questions that gnaw at you in that place are big and full of import. Is he prepared for this? Does she know everything she needs to know? Will he make it on his own, holding true to his faith? Did I do my job well?
It’s that last one in particular that can keep a parent awake at night. Regrets, self-doubt, and insecurity, that ugly trio, come calling. Longing for perfection in this one area if nothing else, you know that it’s impossible. Knowing, too, your own brokenness and imperfection, you wonder, in the dark of the night, if it was enough.
There is so much that a parent wants to teach his children that it’s hard to distill it all into a list. While mine is far from comprehensive, here are 10 things I want my boys to know.
1. I want them to know that real life is found in dying to self and living for Christ. Someone said that a person wrapped up in himself makes a small package. This is true, and down that road lies discontentment, disillusionment, misery, and spiritual death. Living for Christ, on the other hand, is where real meaning is found. It’s a difficult path, but there is joy along the way.
2. I want them to know that marriage is for life. The choice of a spouse is one of the most important decisions they will make. Much is riding on it. Having a strong, committed marriage brings stability and health to the local church, to society at large, and, not least, to the next generation.
3. I want them to have a healthy respect for authority. This is a biblical principle that brings blessings and divine favor when obeyed. What we sow is what we reap. The fruit of rebellion is bitter and brings grave consequences that affect not only us, but those around us.
4. I want our sons to know that they have a calling to fulfill. They have been put here at this time in history and in this particular place for a specific purpose. I pray that they will find out what it is and pursue it.
5. I want our sons to know how to think for themselves. If anyone has taught them this, it’s been their father who is himself a thinker. It takes eyes that really see and ears that listen to the one true Voice to walk with wisdom in a fallen world. Sleep walking through life, blindly swallowing whole the messages of culture, is a dangerous way to live. Those who do will be eaten alive. I want our sons to think.
6. I want our sons to know how to work hard. I want them to know the satisfaction of providing for themselves, for their families, and for other people by the faithful use of their gifts. I want them to experience the joy of working “heartily, as to the Lord and not for men (Col. 3:23).” Yes, I want them to work, but not too much. Far too many families have been sacrificed on an altar called “My Career.” I want them to find a healthy balance of work and play, of labor and laughter. Their children will thank them one day.
7. I want our sons to know the importance of healthy relationships. I want them to be part of a larger church family and to know what it is to give and receive. I long for them to have what a good friend once prayed for – that God would send friends farther along in the journey to teach him, for friends at the same stage in the journey, and for friends who were behind him, so he could be of help to them. This, I pray, our sons will find.
8. I want our sons to be engaged in the culture, to learn well the lessons of history and to be informed about what’s happening in our country. I want them to do everything in their power to impact and influence the culture for Christ.
9. I want them to know how to order their priorities and to live in the light of eternity. I hope they will learn that putting the first thing first (loving God) and all else second is the way to peace and a fruitful life.
10. Lastly, I want our sons to know that there is grace to cover a multitude of sins. Perfection is not what God requires, but rather a heart that is turned toward Him.
All of this and more is our hearts’ desire for our children. We pray that their compasses will be set to true north and that in spite of us, they will be healthy and strong men of God. This, in the end, would give us no greater joy.