I found myself in two different situations today with both my boys. My younger one, because I was checking on something minor that happened to him at camp, I spoke to tenderly. My older one, because I was trying to reveal a truth to him, I didn’t. But I didn’t just not speak tenderly. In hindsight, I probably spoke too harshly. The message was correct as it was about giving his best in order to improve in something athletic. However, I know I spoke in a tone that didn’t help encourage him. And for that I was wrong. I know some folks might say, “Well, he’ll understand.He knows you love him.” And yes, I do. But that’s not good enough. This is something my associate pastor has talked about on several occasions. He has pointed out that the way you react to your children affects the way they react to you. And when you try to do it right, they respond with pure love and joy. But what if you don’t? Then they begin to separate themselves from you. And if you don’t see it and try to do something about it, they will grow so distant that there is no relationship there. Then you are effectively giving up on your kids.
“You shall also say to the sons of Israel: ‘Any man from the sons of Israel or from the aliens sojourning in Israel who gives any of his offspring to Molech, shall surely be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones. I will also set My face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given some of his offspring to Molech, so as to defile My sanctuary and to profane My holy name. If the people of the land, however, should ever disregard that man when he gives any of his offspring to Molech, so as not to put him to death, then I Myself will set My face against that man and against his family, and I will cut off from among their people both him and all those who play the harlot after him, by playing the harlot after Molech. – Levitcus 20:2-5, NASB
When it comes to my children, I have a sober responsibility to raise them up. Raise them up could also be said as “build them up.” I am supposed to build them up. They are supposed to be strong in their faith. They are supposed to be sure about their value in God’s eyes. They are supposed to be able to know dad is firm but loving, not harsh and therefore apologetic. Otherwise, I am effectively sacrificing my children to this world. And if I expect the world to raise my children up right, I will be sorely disappointed. The values of the world don’t match with God’s values. The world’s values are all over the place. So if I want to see them raised right, I’ve got to do the raising. Anything else means I’ve given up. It means I’ve placed myself before them. In other words, I would be guilty of the same crime dictated here, sacrificing my kids, only I would be doing to what ever my “god” was instead of Molech. And God says absolutely not. That’s abominable in his sight.
If you’ve not had children yet, you probably have little cousins or nieces or nephews who will look up to you. Or you may have friends whose children look up to you. And they will want any time you can give them. Whether or not you do give of that time and how you spend it will have a great impact on them. Whether you’re a parent or not, it’s important to realize how important raising a child is. We can’t sit back and be idle. We can’t let things come as they might. We have to be constantly on guard for them. We have to love them. We have to give them our time, our affection, and our undivided love. When we don’t, we risk what God was warning about in Leviticus 20.
The next steps for me will be seeking forgiveness from my older child as well as a conscious effort to do better with him. I need to think about the tone of the message I’m delivering. I need to carefully choose the words as well. My intent here isn’t to not hurt his feelings. Sometimes that can’t be helped. But my purpose is to determine the best way possible to talk about matters and show him how much I love him. I could sit back and do nothing. But then I am in grave danger of giving up on my child. That’s unacceptable. I do know that I have a friend and supporter in all this. That would be God Himself. And therefore if I seek to honor Him and ask Him for wisdom, I know I’ll get what I need to be the father my children should have. That’s my long term goal. I know it’ll be painful. I know there are things about me that will happen to change. But my children are worth it, as is my Lord and my God.