I respectfully disagreed.
My response generated quite a few grateful emails. It was evident I had struck a nerve. It made me wonder how many Christian parents are living in fear that if they don’t do everything “right,” their children are going to turn their backs on God and it will be all their fault.
I agree that one of our best responses to the culture is to train our children in the ways of the Lord. And I also used to think that the primary responsibility for the way my children turned out was up to me. If I homeschooled them or didn’t homeschool them, sent them to youth group or didn’t send them to youth group, had devotions with them, taught them to memorize Scripture, took them to church every time the doors were open, then they’d grow up to love God. If I messed up somehow, or failed to do something important, it would be my fault if they went astray.
When I’d see families with wayward children, I’d secretly assume (but never say aloud) that there must have been some inconsistency or failure on their part as parents. Maybe they look spiritual on the outside, I’d think, but behind closed doors, well . . .
I’ve come to realize, however, that I was presumptuous in thinking I held the power to make my children turn out “right.” I realize that I was powerless, through the force of my will or the conscientiousness of my parenting, to compel my children to love God.
I now know that I can till the ground and plant the seeds of faith, but only God can make them grow. By assuming the misplaced responsibility for what were, ultimately, my children’s decisions to make, and thinking that if they turned out “bad,” it was my fault, I had assumed a responsibility that wasn’t rightfully mine.
If your children grow up to love God, it will be because of God’s mercy and grace (Gal. 1:15). If they grow up to reject him, then they alone will bear the responsibility for their choices. Your parenting can put them on the right path, but only their choices and the work of the Holy Spirit can keep them on it. Thinking it’s all up to you is assuming a burden and responsibility no parent should bear.
I’m not saying we’re not responsible to rear our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, because we are. Deuteronomy 6 gives Christian parents very clear instructions. What I am saying is that we can do everything right (as if we can really do everything right), but the choice to follow God is, ultimately, up to our children.
As I look back on my active, homeschooling, child rearing years, I’d still homeschool. I’d still take them to church. I’d still teach them to memorize God’s Word, and so on and so on. What I would do differently would be to pray more diligently and earnestly for God’s Holy Spirit to draw my children to himself and conform them to his image. Because this is something only God can do.
This is my prayer for you all, as you parent your children in faith.
" . . . God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace. . ."