My wife and I have been married for 31 years. We have six children aged from 20 up to 33 years of age.
Our four older children are married and have blessed me and Tania with nine beautiful grandchildren. Our second-oldest grand-daughter went home to be with the Lord earlier this year. She was 9 years old.
All our children are involved in some way in the life of a local church. They are all involved in children, youth, and music ministry and as associate pastors in various churches, throughout New Zealand and here in Rarotonga.
They all come from good stock, as we have been in full time ministry since 1993, their grandparents before them were leaders in the church and even planters of churches!
Now, before you start conjuring up images of the perfect TV soap opera family, you need to know that we walked through many years, where we thought all hell had broken loose, and we seriously questioned our parenting skills and even wondered if our ministry for the Lord was over!
There is a gift, which God, in His love has given to all of us. It’s called sovereignty.
Sovereignty is simply our freedom to make our own choices. God will never take this gift away from anyone, even when we choose to hurt others or ourselves, or defy Him, or even crucify Him.
It is this sovereignty that our children, in their teenage years, began to exercise, in all its fullness, that turned our dream family into WWFF (World Wrestling Federation Family)
I was the assistant Pastor in the church in NZ, and to be honest, it was embarrassing knowing that your friends and church family knew what your teenager was up to, sometimes before you did (thank you to Facebook!)
During these years, I asked to be stood down from my role in the church, three times, as I felt it was not a good example to our people.
I read scriptures like 1 Timothy 3:5: “If any man does not know how to manage his family, how can he manage the family of God!”
And I would feel disqualified.
I look back now and I am so glad, that my pastor and friend saw the wisdom of rejecting all three of my requests. He saw something I couldn’t at the time.
I felt the shame settle in around me as I was hopeless to do anything to intervene in our teenage children’s illegal activities, especially since they had left home (without our permission I might add).
The shame only grew as our responsibility in the church grew. Now as the Senior Pastor of the church, whose children were up to no good, I was embarrassed to be in this situation and ashamed of their behaviour.
The shame I carried, developed into disappointment in my children and the disappointment only increased the already growing divide between us.
This was my journey through the valley of the shadow of death. What I couldn’t see during those dark years was that the Great Shepherd was still with me, leading me.
One day, during these dark times, the Lord spoke to me, about my burden. He simply said: “Do not carry the shame of your children’s behaviour. It’s their behaviour not yours.”
I had to ponder this statement for some time.
“It’s not my behaviour” I would tell myself.
“It’s theirs!” I would say.
“So why am I covered in shame, when it’s not even my behaviour?”
“That’s right,” I thought to myself, it’s not my behaviour, not my shame.
Truth be told, it was easy to tell myself this, but a lot harder to shake off the shame, and disappointment.
I decided to tell myself every day: “Don’t carry the shame of their behaviour. It’s their behaviour not mine!”
After a month of changing my thinking an interesting thing happened; the shame was lifting off me, and I felt no shame for my children’s behaviour. As the shame lifted, I also noticed the disappointment left me too.
As I was no longer ashamed of them, I could not feel disappointed either. The shame brought the disappointment. The disappointment only increased the divide, pushing my children further from me.
But when the shame and disappointment left, so too did the divide and something else overtook me; I can only explain it like this; It felt like, a whole new love for my daughters, had over taken me, and it was from this new place that I began to pray differently for our children.
It was through these valley years of shadows, despair and what felt like death, that God had shaped my wife and I, to love our children back into the Kingdom.
It is this very key that we have learnt to love all people back into the kingdom, regardless.
It is this very key that the apostle Paul described in 1 Corinthians chapter 13.
It is this very key which the disciple John encouraged the church.
If you have children who are exercising their sovereignty, allow God to address any insecurities in you and simply love them back to Him.
Remember, God loves your children more than you, and he paid the highest price to save them and if He can save you, surely, He can save them. Selah
You may be walking with others whose choice of lifestyle are challenging your very values and belief systems, perhaps a conversation with the LORD is needed first, before a public outcry.
I’ll leave the closing words to Jesus, but before I do, I just want to highlight two areas.
1) He was only asked for the greatest commandment, yet he couldn’t separate the greatest command from the other, which is just like it.
2) He finished his answer by saying, “everything in God’s law hangs from these two commands”. I paraphrase this by saying, everything else finds its bearing from these two, The Great Commandment.
I pray you find hope in His words from Matthew 22:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.