Karen and I thank God that our children love the Lord, love us, love each other, and love themselves. We see them raising children and doing a better job than we did. We also thank the community of faith that certainly helped raise our kids. Others got through to them when we couldn’t. Karen and I recently reflected on some of things we did to shape our children. Here goes:
WE ATE DINNER TOGETHER.
We worked hard to make it fun and interesting. I often came with questions that we would discuss, like “What was your funnest vacation?” “What has been your most difficult life test?” Talking sometimes lasted longer than the meal.
WE WORSHIPED TOGETHER.
Both of us learned from parents that bringing the family together for prayer and scripture was a non-negotiable. I don’t remember them resisting it, because we tried to make it interesting. Sometimes we succeeded. They learned to pray early and are now teaching their kids.
SUNDAY WAS A NON-NEGOTIABLE.
I learned that as a boy when I skipped church–once! Never again.
DISCIPLINE HAD A PURPOSE BEYOND PUNISHMENT.
We knew that God’s correction didn’t feel good, but it communicated love. We tried to do the same. Hey, it worked–usually.
WE TOLD THEM THEY WERE SERVANTS,
not rock-stars. Servants work hard. They concentrate on their responsibilities, not their rights. I told them to do the dishes at their friend’s house. I modeled it for them when we stayed at someone’s home. They knew we would be cleaning the garage or working in the yard. When they said that they worked harder than the kids down the street, I asked them if they knew why. They answered, “No.” I responded, “Because you don’t live down the street.”
WE LAUGHED A LOT.
Still do. You might hear us on the deck some evening when they are here. We love being together. They would rather be with their now extended family than with anyone else (I think). At least it looks that way to Karen and me. Some of us will be together on the North Shore in October for several days of fun, maybe three-wheeling (or snowmobiling?). They even travel together–to Greece, Ireland, California.
WE LEARNED VULNERABILITY.
Didn’t happen at first. I was a recovering Pharisee and had not discovered the joy of weakness. By the time I did, our kids were learning it as well. Andrew wrote his siblings in 2013, asking forgiveness for not being the elder brother he wanted to be. Two weeks later Gabriel wrote and asked forgiveness for goofing off too much and for giving more advice than affirmation. Vulnerability releases grace. Gabriel caught it. Wouldn’t have happened had not Andrew led the way. Then one night the kids got up from dinner to play a game. Somehow I convinced them to “talk” instead. We gathered in the family room. Here’s what I heard coming out of my mouth: “I’d like you to share with me where I have failed you as a father.” You’d think they would have waited for a few seconds. They started right in. Difficult for dad, but it turned into a two-week healing time with another meeting as a follow-up. I wish every dad could have two meetings like what we had.