The last few weeks have been eventful, to say the least. Vehicle issues, health issues, and much prayer later, I’m BACK to close on the series about the basis of this blog – Psalms 127:4 – and talk about the Target.
But first, remember my disclaimer (smile):
Phillipians 4:12-14 “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
As people who love God and believe Jesus to be our Savior, as we raise our children, we are responsible for pointing them to our Savior Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. That is our GREATEST responsibility. I’ve heard this said from Billy Graham to Dr. James Dobson to Francis Chan. We should be the first ones to lead them to Christ as believing parents. Yes, we are to provide food and shelter and educate them to become honorable citizens, but if our children do not hear about or are given the Gospel or SEE the Gospel from us as their parents, we have failed them in an even greater capacity. Why? Because food, shelter and degrees… STUFF… will pass away, unable to be taken with our children to the grave, but their SOULS and the fruit of their labor in Christ Jesus will be what remains and judged in eternity and even here on earth as through their legacy.
Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” I’ve heard this verse quoted many times, used in good/Biblical ways and then used otherwise. As I’ve grown over the years and watched myself as well as other children and teenagers and young adults go through transitions in their life, ones who I KNOW were raised in Godly homes, I often can’t help but wonder if God maybe said this verse wrong. I mean really God… “he will not depart from it”?? To me… isn’t it normal or even expected now and days for kids to grow up and, regardless of their upbringing in church and at home, have a time to “stray away” but then, prayerfully, come back? Truth be told, that IS what is expected even though not at all desired by the parents. I know that firsthand. However, I can’t seem to find that “window to stray” in the Bible anywhere as related to what this verse is commanding. “… he will not depart from it.”
So they will not…
“… leave a place especially to start a journey
… change something or do something in a different way
… deviate from (an accepted, prescribed, or traditional course of action)” Definitions of depart
The Bible has become my main and final authority, especially seeing so much in the world that I just don’t know how to respond to Biblically sometimes. So, with this verse, I had to wrestle with God and ask Him what is wrong with a time to “play/party/stray” then come back. I’m a mom now, and my sons will grow from cute boys at home to handsome young men away. I’m just trying to understand!!! Finally, I got an answer so clearly one day after prayer when I was looking at our sons: if God’s word is INFALLIBLE and the child DOES depart from what God’s Word says, the training has been flawed and/or we as parents have NOT shown them the RIGHT way he or she should go. In essence, we as parents have trained our children in other ways and aimed them towards other targets but not the one that matters the most.
I’m sure some hearts are beating fast and ears burning now, but this is such a beautiful opportunity for growth. I know of three families right now who, through ALOT of hard work and invested time, have purposefully aimed their children towards Christ and you can see the fruit of it. I’m very sure they had their bad moments. I even know of where one child began to have questions about the reality of God’s love for them at a young age. With much prayer and honest conversation and walking Jesus with them, that child is now a light now, serving the homeless and delivering groceries and singing worship songs to the disabled. She’s 15/16. At the same time, these parents didn’t ignore their children’s gifts or abilities, but what they DID do was zone in MORE on what it looks like to be/live like Jesus in our world everyday through these gifts. I teach one of them in my art class, and through our conversations, learn so much… teacher becomes student moments abound *smile*. On another instance, I had the privilege of teaching one of another family’s child in the public school system. I saw her verbally unashamed of Jesus Christ and in her 7th grade writing. She even organized prayer on campus (7th grade can be a brutal time, so you can imagine my awe lol).
I’m not here to point at parents whose children are or have strayed away or the children who have (hello!). I’m here to challenge US as parents in the body of Christ to seek after God’s Word wholeheartedly about how we are raising our children and what Target we are aiming them at. God is a God of reconciliation so it’s not too late!! When we make Him the target, we must know we cannot get the arrow there without guidance from the Word of God. It’s like our Instructions for our Bow & Arrow Kid… I mean, Kit *smile*. In the Bible, we see clearly how a mom and grandmother used God’s Word to aim an arrow at the Target of Christ in God’s Kingdom. This arrow was Timothy, a great leader of the faith in the New Testament. Here, Paul acknowledges Timothy’s upbringing in his encouragement to him as a mentee/brother in the faith:
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:14-17
Timothy’s guardians did a pretty good job aiming him. I mean… PAUL noticed. THE Paul.
(Okay… after the Trinity/Jesus, I sorta kinda idolize the Apostle Paul lol Dude was a beast living and sharing about Jesus)
So if the Kingdom of God in Christ Jesus is the Target, what are NOT targets?
Education/Elitism, Financial Stability, a certain Socioeconomic Class, American Dream, Military, Marriage, Humanitarianism, Entertainment, Sports, a certain Image, “Better than what I had” target. “Don’t want them to end up like that/them” target. Are these things bad in and of themselves? Not at all. We know of countless spiritual leaders who are married or advocates for financial stability and even play sports. These individuals do these things, but their words and their lifestyles LOUDLY proclaim their greater purpose – to be a light to all as servants of Jesus Christ. They are married but married Christ first. Play sports but unashamedly proclaim and pray Jesus as their help. Help others become financially stable while walking them through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These things are not bad when put into perspective – that they are NOT targets but mere wind behind the arrow aimed towards Jesus.
However, when these things DO become the ONLY focus, we end up with people who are over-consumed in getting to that target (by any means necessary) or exhibit detrimental behaviors due to not reaching that target (low self worth).
We weren’t created to hit these things as targets. We were created for God. Our children were created for God.
“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” Colossians 1:16
When we don’t aim our children/Arrows towards the Original Target/Christ, 1) what should have been additional blessings/gifts/what I call “extra wind” (NOT targets) become damaged because they don’t fulfill purpose and most importantly 2) our children suffer damage (pain and hurt) because they are unfulfilled. Their original purpose… what they were made for… has been missed/not achieved, us mishandling them while in our care. By definition…
Misuse: “use (something) in the wrong way or for the wrong purpose”
Ponder this quote…
“More money has been spent on their education, medical care, entertainment, and travel than any who have gone before. Yet we have failed them in the most important of all parental responsibilities: We have not taught them who they are as children of God or what they have been placed here to do.” Dr. James Dobson
In closing, I am trying my very hardest to not sound self-righteous in this post. I can only say what I know is Biblical to the best of my ability. I am just the messenger. With that, I pray you have been challenged as much as I have and will be, especially in raising three boys (African American boys) in a culture that belittles their Creator and beautiful creations everyday. As I’ve stated before, it’s not that I’ve got all of this down pat. It IS something I’m striving for, ESPECIALLY when I see my everyday mistakes and flaws in raising and aiming my arrows towards the target of God’s Kingdom in Christ Jesus. As God challenges me with this final piece, I pray it challenges you as well…
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Hear, O Israel: TheLord our God, the Lord is one.Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”