Because I said I would.
My brain has been saturated with the horrible situation where this little girl was killed by her parents’ use of someone else’s guide to parenting. Many of my imaginary friends are writing all kinds of good stuff about it, if you click on some of the blogs of my imaginary friends, you can see what I’m talking about. But I don’t feel like I have the audience that needs to hear about it. I’d be preaching to the choir. But still, my mind has been wrestling with it. I’ll tell you what it’s made me grateful for though:
My Reformed understanding of how God operates leaves me with this enormous comfort: My children’s eternal fate does not rest in my measly, broken, misguided hands. Nor does it lie in their ability to make a wise decision. My children’s eternal fate rests in the hands of the One who made them, who loves them more than I ever could, who loved them so much he sent his own Son to die for them. Now that is what I call Good News! I’m crying just thinking about it as my firstborn and I have been butting heads (and butt heads) with one another for the last couple of weeks. Apparently a new developmental phase is dawning and we’re experiencing some relational growing pains. I thank God that Isaac’s entrance into the Kingdom is dependent on my ability neither to keep him on the straight-and-narrow, nor to convince him of wisdom found in the Gospel that he might make some sort of commitment to it.
It’s not. Really. For support of that assertion, see . . . oh, pretty much all of Scripture. I’ll just give my favorite for a start: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; is is the gift of God–not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Whether or not my children come to faith is not my doing, it is God’s doing. I can help him or hinder him, but I cannot thwart him, in either direction.
Now, as a Christian mother who loves her babies more than everything but the One who made them, my goal, my prayer, is to help God in his bringing my children to faith. My comfort is that whether or not they arrive does not rest on my shoulders. I teach them, I guide them, I hold them accountable to me and to their fellow humans. But their faith? Their redemption? Always and forever remains in the hands of the One who saves.
It is God’s job to hold my children accountable before himself. Each of my children is an individual before God. This might be the only context in which I will lift up individualism. (Ironically enough, it might be the only context in which those against whom I argue do not sing the praises of individualism.) My child stands before God on his own terms. Should he be among the elect, he stands before God in Christ on his own two feet. Again, my job is to make sure–at great risk to my own well being–I don’t cause them to stumble along the way.
I am Reformed and I am covenantal. What does that mean? This is where I step down from the Individualism Podium, and plop myself at the feet of God who, from the time of Abraham, dealt with a People. A group of people. Scripture assures me that the promise of the Gospel is for me and for my children. Because God’s habit has been to deal in covenants with a people, including in those covenants, the children of the household, I have hope beyond hope, that my own children are included in God’s covenant of grace. That they are, indeed, among his elect. It is for this reason that when each one of them was 11 months old, I stood in the front of a congregation and handed each one over to their father whereupon he baptized them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In claiming this promise on their behalf, I cannot help but assume that my child is among the elect, is indeed destined for salvation, until I have been proven otherwise. And I cannot be proven otherwise until the coming of his Kingdom, when all things will be made known.
This fact. This controversial little fact of theology, has an enormous impact on how I parent my children. I see before me not simply wards of my household, under my authority until they reach some sort of (arbitrary) age of accountability at which point they stand before God on their own. No. I see before me Children of God. Daughters and son of God, heirs to the promise, joint heirs with Christ. My brother and sisters in Christ. Not only that, as “the least of these,” the smallest, the weakest among us, I see before me Christ himself, commanding me to love him, commanding me to serve him, and warning of the gravity of my vocation along the way: “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
Does this mean my children live a free-for-all? Does this mean my children are never uncomfortable? Are never told “No,” are allowed to run all over me? Are they allowed to misbehave all the more so that grace can abound all the more? By no means! But it does mean that I take as my highest calling simply not getting in the way of God’s establishment of their faith. My job is to make sure that I don’t send them running in the opposite direction of God so that he doesn’t have to spend their lifetime chasing them down. It’s not that he can’t, it’s just that it would be a heck of a lot easier on them if he didn’t have to, if they could live their whole lives never in doubt of God’s love for them.
If I’m wandering around spouting all sorts of things about God and my faith in him–and you can be darn sure I am–I had better be representing him in a way that, first and foremost is faithful to who He is, and two, does not send them running away from him. To do that I, for one, err on the side of his grace. After all, it was God’s grace that made a promise to Adam and Eve ten minutes after they screwed up the whole world that he would make things right. It was God’s grace that led him to pick even one family out of the messy muck of early creation to rescue from a deluge. It was God’s grace that extended a promise to that same man to never again wipe everyone out with a flood. It was God’s grace, not his reward, that led him to pluck up a childless man of Ur and promise him a nation to bless all nations. God’s grace pursued Israel in spite of their grumpies, their idolatries, their blasphemies. It was God’s grace that sent his own Son to die because we should have so we wouldn’t have to. And it is God’s grace that bestows on us–on me, on my children–the gift of faith, that instead of dying, we might rise with his Son to new and everlasting life!
This. This is the God I proclaim to my kids. This is the God I attempt to proclaim to my kids, in word and deed, all day every day. And by God’s grace, they will recognize him as someone to whom they long to flee, to whom they long to cling, for whom they long to live a holy and pleasing life. Not out of obligation, not out of fear, but out of pure, unadulterated love for him who first loved them.