It is the same pattern we are called to live daily: death to self, life in Christ. It is the same pattern that strips us of any reason for pride, but at the same time gives us an inestimable reason for living and power to become the person God wants, doing the things He has called us to in life abundant. A life well lived.
|"Jesus Resurrected" (Anna Kocher, 2006) |
Yet, we often don't want our children to go through the hurt of giving up self and the humility it takes to let Christ live in them. This is not the stuff of Saturday morning cartoons or reality TV episodes. It digs to the innermost hollows of bone and contorts our insides while it happens. It is at once something that we want for children because we know it is best, but we are afraid of it. Something that we prepare them for, but don't want to relinquish our control and the life we plan for them so that God can take over.
In all of our work as parents-support, protection, managing risks thoughtfully, providing opportunity, teaching them truth and surrounding them with people who do the same...in all of our work to prepare bravehearts, we are reluctant to loosen our control and let go of our pride at the most critical moments and let them go alone, which they must. We can build them strong and catch them after, but we have to let them jump. Moments where self is lost and Christ is gained are lonely, except for His presence.
Perhaps this is on my heart now not only because of Easter, but because of the current season in the life of schools. It is the season of awards assemblies and celebrations. Honor roles, "The Best of Class"...or whatever the name is in your world. Athletic awards, academics awards, citizenship awards, art awards, college admissions, scholarships, and the applause of spring plays. The list goes on.
It may be one of the most dangerous times for building bravehearts, depending on how mom and dad handle all of the honors being passed to children. If personal honor is important to us, it will be important to our children. If he or she isn't noticed in a play, doesn't get the award we dreamed she would, or is accidentally missed in the big presentation, what do we do? And, what does it say to our child? Personal glory is antithetical to dying to self and Christ in me. How big a deal is the honor to you, for your child? Are our words and actions as parents telling our children that life is about them and their glory, or about Christ and growing like Him?
Probably one of the saddest pictures I have stored in my head are the scenes of parents losing control with a teacher or coach because their child wasn't properly honored. Usually in public and usually embarrassing. And, always telling their child that personal honor is most important. Glory is what it is about, not growth. Children learn from mom and dad.
Let me share a piece by Henri Nouwen from In the Name of Jesus:
After describing the desolation of those who look for fulfillment in our secularized world and its glory and methods, Nouwen gives the solution:
"Before Jesus commissioned Peter to be a shepherd he asked him, 'Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these others do?' He asked him again, 'Do you love me?' And a third time he asked, 'Do you love me?' We have to hear that question as being central to all of our Christian ministry because it is the question that can allow us to be, at the same time, irrelevant and truly self-confident."
Love Jesus. Not self. Let Him live in you. Irrelevant and self-confident. What a fascinating paradox, the more our children seek glory, the more likely they don't make it and come up sad and empty, not growing and becoming what they can be. It is short sighted. But, when they focus on Jesus and others, not self, and let Him live in them, they actually grow more and are more likely to gain some glory, now or later. But, that glory means nothing to those children except a dangerous tug at pride. Applauding those who do well is great, but the applause that matters is from One Person.
What do we do? Applaud things like effort, selflessness, and unconditional love. Put them in places where they can see others model a life lived in Christ and the joy of growing, not glory. Model it: do those things behind the scenes that no one ever sees, because children do see and learn. If they get an award, say "Great job, You worked hard, and I am proud of you," but say the same thing if they don't get the award...if it is true. Talk about different gifts and abilities and how each is important to God. Let them know that God does not make mistakes. Show them how to live for One Person, not for the acclaim of others. Love them unconditionally, not only when they perform and achieve.
Peter says in First Peter 4, " And, all of you, clothe yourselves in with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the might hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time, casing all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you."
And, Paul in Colossians 3, "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory."