Children Are Neither Idols Nor Interruptions
In October of last year we welcomed our fourth child. Ten days before his due date and weighing in as our heftiest bundle, Levi was immediately one of us. To be sure biology makes the least debatable case that he is ours and we are his, but experientially and behaviorally he is one of us without question. In other words he is immediately part of our family’s story—body and soul.
Like every child, at the moment he was born Levi became part of something that was already in motion, already true and already defined. However each child—from the first to last—immediately unsettles that status quo.
There are a few things to keep in my that Scripture teaches about our children and the deceptions that I will believe if I’m not grounded in these truths.
Children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3). They are a vivid display of our Creator grace and power. They are gifts to us. That means even if their arrival has surprised us or not been our specific intention, every child is purposefully given by God for the good pleasure of their mother and father, God’s own glory, and the good of the world.
If we’re not careful we can see kids as accidents contrary to our plans or, conversely, crowns of our achievement.
Children are sinners who need to be discipled (Exodus 20:12, Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:1). Since we are born with a nature of brokenness and a proclivity toward sin, children need to be shaped constantly and consistently by the power of the gospel. They—like all of us—need to be taught to obey all that Jesus has commanded (Matthew 28:19-20).
If we’re not careful we simply welcome kids into the flow of life and fail to consider what it is to shape them to become like Jesus.
Children are not idols to worship. The Bible regularly recounts stories of the people of God transforming his gifts into little gods (Exodus 32:1-6, Romans 1:24-25). Now this may seem like a silly thing to caution. However think about our parental social media feeds…think about the way we expect new parents to disappear for six months…think about the fact that we dress our kids exactly like us. We place kids at the center of our worlds. In doing we we’ve actual rejected the truth of their blessing and need to learn obedience. We have exaggerated their worth to supremacy. We have dismissed their brokenness and enveloped emotional perfect. This will always lead to despair because kids can’t live up to the expectation of being your perfect savior.
If we’re not careful we make kids idols that receive from us what only God is due.
Children are not interruptions to our dreams—wait—yes they are. It’s funny to think the extremes were are tempted to embrace. Either our children are treated as divine or discarded stealing what we perceive to be divine. In particular when kids are not expected we begin to see them not as blessings but those who threaten our goals. Often children are viewed as a threat to our vocational vision, recreational habits, and financial goals. And so we don’t disciple them we disdain them. We don’t teach them to obey God we want them to fall in line with our will, established by selfish ambition. The catch here of course is that they will be costly. But true community (especially family) also costs us something. Work, play, and money are all effected by our children. But this effect and change is for our good, not ill.
If we’re not careful our dreams become central and God’s heritage of children can be despised.
Children are born into something already in motion. When they’re born we shouldn’t ignore what God has already made plain about the mission of our lives. However they shouldn’t become the center of that mission. Children are neither idols, nor interruptions.