I was recently talking to a couple of older men about parenting. These men had adult children my age. I’m always investigating and wanting to learn from those with wisdom. One question I like to ask is:
“If you could go back in time and have a redo as a parent, what would you do?”
As they laughed about all the mistakes they had made and shared stories of how they messed up more than once, one of the guys started tearing up. He said, “You got to show up.” He recounted times where he chose golf and work over his kids and he really wished he would have spent more time with them.
He grabbed my arm, looked me in the eyes and said, “Show Up! I mean really be there for them.” He began to lament the time he wished he had back.
I kept asking questions about his kids.
How are they now as adults? My thinking is that if he missed out on so much time, then his kids must be a mess now. They have to be selling drugs or in and out of prison because dad wasn’t around. Right?
He went on to brag about how successful they are, and he gushed about his grandkids. One of the men in our group chimed in and said, “Your kids turned out ok even though you missed a bunch. Don’t beat yourself up.”
I nodded in agreement and said, “You must have done something right.” He shook his head and simply said, “God did it, not me.”
Days later, I reflected on our conversation and began to ponder the real tension that Christian parents face. One hand, we want to strive and make the most of our time with our kids to raise productive adults who love and follow Jesus.
This is a real responsibility and privilege that we get to raise the next generation to love the Lord.
On the other hand, we want to trust that God’s plan is better than our plan for our kids. The tension causes anxiety and pressure to be perfect parents.
In the middle of this tension, many parents, myself included, struggle to balance these two things. We either are hands off and passive, using the excuse, “God’s in control” or we are overbearing and intrusive, feeling that it’s all up to us.
I would argue that a third option is better.
I want to be the best dad for my kids. I want them to know and love Jesus and grow up to become kind adults. In order to do so, I believe I must “show up” when it comes to my own relationship with the Lord. If I am living my life as a son, allowing God to father me, I will be the best father for my kids.
You see, we cannot pour out anything to our kids if our hearts are empty. In the same way, we will struggle to trust God’s plan for our kids if we don’t give over our own plans. God doesn’t change; He is the same yesterday, today and forever. I am the one who needs to “show up”.
Our kids need our time, affection, energy and love. They also need us to set an example of what it looks like to trust and depend on the Lord.
I was challenged by my friend to make the most of the short time I have with my kids. I was also challenged to make the most of my time with my heavenly Father.