Your children don’t belong to you. Okay, technically you do have ownership over your children, but ultimately they belong to Someone else entirely. The Lord gave me this reminder one day while I sat shaking in the Goodwill parking lot. He pulled the reigns on my renegade fear and anger and offered me truth.
The experience began with an adventure to a new thrift store with my baby daughter in tow. I unthinkingly followed my GPS straight to a crumbly part of town. I tend to persevere even when things go wonky, so I trundled inside with my six month old and hesitantly buckled her into the grimy cart. I tentatively snaked around customers and aisles stuffed with glass wares and knickknacks. With growing anxiety, I prematurely pushed the cart back to the front, the scene of my mortification.
As I worked to stuff my daughter back into her coat, a stooped woman in patchwork clothes with a rattling cough hobbled into the store and approached us. Before I even registered her intention, she extended her withered hand and stroked my baby. I froze. She rasped a compliment. My thoughts surged, “No! Don’t touch my baby!” but somehow I managed a slight smile before dashing to the car.
I shakily collapsed into my seat and anxiously wondered what awful exposure my daughter suffered. I failed to protect my baby, but what should I have done? Maybe not stand in statuesque horror but certainly not claw her eyes out either. During my mental sparring, a clarifying question formed. How did the Lord want me to respond to this unfortunate woman? The answer rose unbidden: with kindness, the very kindness that characterized His own earthly ministry of loving the diseased and outcast.
But how? How can I respond in love when I perceive people threatening my child’s health or happiness? (Please note I am not talking about true danger). I respond with grace when I accept that this child belongs to God. He formed her small body and ignited her soul (Ps. 139:15). He numbers her hairs (Luke 12:7), keeps her lungs in air, and ordains all her days (Ps. 139:16). She’s a gift on loan from Him not to selfishly squander but to share with others.
Right there in the parking lot, the Lord demanded my child. She may lay in my arms, but God formed her with His hands. God wrung out my fear and anger and filled me with gratitude. I realized the truth. I cannot adequately protect her from disease and pain, but He can. I cannot protect her from sin or heal her soul, but He can. God loves my child infinitely more than I ever can in my sinful humanity; He loves her perfectly even to the point of death (Phil. 2:8). I can entrust her to His care. In obedience, I can respond to that well-intentioned woman with love because God loves her, He loves me and He loves my child.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that we should be reckless in the care of our children. We must steward well His precious gift. But our stewarding lasts only a season. We raise our children to send them out as His disciples edifying believers and evangelizing the lost. We train our children in this ministry now even though it may mean discomfort.
Should we take precautions with our children? Absolutely. I do my upmost to protect and love them. I stay home from church when sickness strikes. I limit TV time and selections. I decline an invitation after an exhausting weekend. I’m choosy with babysitters. But I strive to make parenting decisions based on truth not fear. I continuously surrender my children to the untiring protection of my Abba Father. I put my toddlers in the nursery on Sundays to focus on God’s Word and His people. I respond graciously to a well-meaning stranger who peeks into my baby’s car seat. I keep the play date with my friend even though her kids’ have runny noses. Why? Because God intends believers to live in community. Because God calls us to raise our children to be His disciples. Because God’s love and care far exceeds my own, and I can trust Him. Because none of this happens in the isolation of my living room. Because over-protection teaches my children that life is about them when in truth, all of life is all about God, and all belong to Him. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:36