Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I Trained Them Up, But They Have Departed

                My baby girl will be nineteen years old tomorrow. It is hard to believe that my baby girl, my sweet, little, innocent baby girl has become a woman. She is living her own life, making her own decisions, following her own dreams now. When did this happen? When did my children decide that it was okay to fly the nest and start living their own lives? For me, letting them go has been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I have faced many trials; one of them being the loss of my own mother, but watching them pack up their belongings and drive away has been more difficult than anything else I have ever experienced. I think most of us mothers, who are now empty- nesters can relate to what I am feeling. But for me, I think it is even harder because they are not walking with the Lord. For me, watching them go out into this world without Christ in their hearts frightens me. Because I know what is out there, I know the darkness that can swallow you up and spit you out, leaving you broken, hopeless and deeply scarred. But, I have hope in my God.
“Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” 
Proverbs 22:6
                For the longest time I held onto these scriptures as a promise, a promise from my God that if I took my children to church, taught them about Jesus, structured their lives around Him that they would not depart from Him, they would be saved and go to church and be good Christian soldiers. But, unfortunately, that is not what happened. Both of my children suffered some harsh criticism and were made to feel like they were less than a Christian through a youth leader and some of their peers. This caused them to begin to question many things about Christianity, and about Jesus. Eventually the acceptance of the world took hold in their hearts and they both walked away from Jesus. For many years I blamed myself. I blamed my husband for not being a more prominent spiritual leader in our home, and I blamed myself for not showing them Jesus more. I blamed the church for not being more open and for not allowing them to be who they were in Christ. I blamed them for not allowing them the process of sanctification and time to become more Christ-like. I blamed everyone for their walking away. But, the Lord, in His great mercy has shown me that for everything there is a purpose.
                I think for most moms today, we think that because we have raised our children in godly homes, done all the right things, followed all the godly Christian motherly advice, home-schooled, etc, that our children will just automatically want to know Jesus. But, I believe we must come to the realization that this is false hope, that this is not always the case. There is no guarantee that any of our children, no matter what we do, will ever come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I haven’t given up hope, and I have never stopped being Jesus to them and for them, but, just like me, they have to make their own way to Him. They too have to come to know Jesus on a personal level. They cannot ride my skirt tails into heaven, they have to enter in on their own.
                Paul writes that it is by the grace of God that he is what he is. (1 Corinthians 15:10) For we know that it is by grace that we have been saved, (Ephesians 2:8) and that by faith in Jesus Christ we have been given the glorious gift of His grace and mercy. It is always and always will be about grace. I can do all the right things for my children, I can take them to all the right youth group functions, read them all the right books, take them to all the right movies, do all the right things- but in the end it comes down to whether or not they receive the gift of grace for themselves.
                The road that I took to get to Jesus was a hard one. I struggled with drug and alcohol addiction from the age of 13. I took some pretty rough roads, but it was by His grace that I was brought to the cross. I had to become broken before I could see the great need I had for Him in my life. The same is true for my children. They too have many roads to take, and some of them are going to be very, very hard for them. They are going to face heartache, trials, struggles, addictions, and eventually brokenness. Both of my children gave their lives to Jesus Christ at young ages. My son was about 9 years old, and my daughter was about 14. But both of them have walked away, both of them have decided to try life without Jesus. Is that because I messed up? Is that because I did something wrong? Believe it or not I actually had some Christian peers tell me that it was my fault. They looked at my husband and I like we had not done what was godly in the lives of our children, and they had walked away because we had failed them. May I just say that that is not true, you and your husband are not the cause for your children choosing to walk away, and if any one Christian (no matter what their title in the church is) tries to tell you differently- walk away from them and don’t look back.
                We have no idea the life that God has planned for us, or the roads that we are going to have to travel. The same is true for our children. God has your children right where He wants them. He is always leading them, He has and will never let go of them. The Lord put it to me like this, “The same grace that I gave you to lead you to Me, is the same grace I am using to lead them back to Me. I am working out their testimony, just like I did yours.” Just like Paul, every aspect, mistake, stumble, and fall that I took to get to Jesus are the same ones that my children will have to take. We, as parents, are to show them grace. The way that God led me to Him was through grace. It was through love, mercy, kindness, sometimes discipline, sometimes reproof, but always with grace. This is the same ways we are to lead our children. How God leads you is how He wants us to lead the children He has given us.
                Unfortunately those who judged my husband and me for the way we raised our children have small children of their own. Right now they are in the happy stages of their children’s walks. They are teaching them about Jesus, doing all the right things, but sooner or later, even their children have to make the decision to follow Jesus on their own. My children gave their lives to Jesus at a young age, but they still chose to walk away. I am not saying that will be the case with your children, but do not be so blinded in the fact that it could happen; and don’t blame yourself when it does. We cannot allow them to ride on our skirt tails into heaven, and I do not want that for either of my children.
My desire is that my children will seek to know Jesus for themselves, not because I know Him, but because they want to know Him. I desire that my children will come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and that they will turn from this world and turn back to Jesus. But my hope is not in what I do; my hope is in what God is doing in their hearts. My job as a parent is to give them grace through it all. I know that my God is able to save to the uttermost, so no matter how far they may go- even to the uttermost- He will never let them go.                           The roads that my children are traveling are difficult roads. I see the decisions they are making, I see the struggles they are having, and sometimes it just breaks my heart. But, I also know that it is through those bumpy and dusty roads that they will come to the place that God wants them- broken before Him. That is what I want for both of my children, for all of my children. I want them to experience, to know and to accept Jesus on their own. I do not want them to do all the right things because that is what I have taught them. I want them to do what is right before God because they want Him in their lives. I desire nothing more than to see my children walking with the Lord, but, as a mother who is broken before her God, I also want them to be broken before the cross of our Savior and to be fully surrendered to Him- not because I want it, but because they want it.
                Do not lose hope, mother and father, do not lose hope. Our God is working in them the same grace He works in us. It may look hopeless, and some may point the finger and ask what you did wrong. But, the same grace that brought you to the cross is the same grace that must bring them. God is building their testimonies, and wants us to give them grace through the process. Do not desire for them to know Jesus through you- desire and pray for them to know Jesus for themselves. In the end, that is all that matters.

                I pray today that these words of mine will encourage that mother or father out there who is wondering what they did wrong. Father, I pray that you would bring back all our children who have strayed from you. No matter what roads they have to take, no matter how much suffering they have to face, I know that You are working in them a great and powerful testimony to Your glory. Let us, as their parents, not feel guilt, but let us point them always back to You, with grace and mercy, until they become broken and surrendered before You, forever and ever. Amen and Amen.