The season of graduations and weddings is upon us, and that means it’s also a time in which parents are rejoicing in their kids’ achievements and expressing hopes for their futures. Moms and dads boast in their children’s scholarships and acceptance to prestigious universities, take pride in the amazing job offers they have received, and beam over their excellent choice in a spouse. We can understand why. Desiring that our children be successful academically and professionally comes naturally to us. We hope our kids will be financially secure, make lifelong friends, choose good mates, and be safe, happy, and fulfilled. Although my oldest child is just finishing first grade, I already have these desires for her and her siblings when I think of their futures.
But lately I have been asking God to help me conform my longings for my kids to His. I know that my sinful nature tends to want the wrong things, but being a Christian mom demands that I lay my desires at the foot of the Cross, submitting not only to God’s plan for my children’s futures, but also to His will for more than earthly happiness for my kids. As Elisabeth Elliot said in her book Let Me Be a Woman, “The fact that I am a woman doesn’t make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does make me a different kind of woman.” Being a Christian makes me a different kind of woman and a different kind of mom, too. Above all, it changes what I want for my children. What exactly should a Christian mom want? In what should she place her hope and find her delight? Scripture gives us some principles.
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth,” says 3 John 1:4.
Jesus defined success for our kids (and for us, too!) in Luke 9:24 when He said, “Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
The abundant life God wants for our children is that they walk in truth, laying down their lives for Christ. In the abstract, I think Christians would all agree that this is what we want for our kids. We want them to believe the truth and follow God. But in the nitty gritty of real life, this can be difficult to really live out.
What if godly success for my child means he fails a college class for refusing to parrot the professor’s godless agenda?
What if godly success means that she struggles to succeed in business because she refuses to participate in dishonest practices?
What if godly success means that he sells his possessions and moves halfway around the world to share the Gospel with those who haven’t heard it?
Do I still want godly success for my kids if it looks like worldly failure or costs me something, too?
I hope so. Sometimes in my flesh I still want temporal happiness rather than eternal reward for my kids, but by God’s grace, my desires for them are being transformed as I ask God to replace them with righteous ones. I don’t know what path my children will choose, but I pray that wherever it takes them, it is a path leading ultimately to righteousness rather than merely a fat 401(k) or prestigious degree. Those things are well and good, but not good enough. It’s possible to live a wealthy life that is spiritually impoverished. I selfishly hope that my kids don’t have to choose, but in an increasingly hostile and secular culture, they very well might. And if they do, I hope they know that I will be behind them nudging them toward riches laid up in heaven over those that moth and rust will destroy.