Taking a Slightly-Longer View on Kids Club 2013

As we believers raise our kids in the Christian faith, it is tempting for us to watch them grow up with a concerned, well-meaning myopia that is hopelessly focused on “desired results.” As we teach our kids about Who Jesus is and how He gave up His life for them, we want them to embrace that truth and choose a life of faith at an early age, avoiding all of the common rebellious paths that many take, along with the painful consequences associated with those rebellious choices.

The sad truth, though, is that oftentimes our kids choose a season of rebellion, particularly in their teenage years, and we might find ourselves thinking something like, “I raised my kid as a Christian his entire life, and now he’s off smoking dope with his idiot friends; where did I go wrong?” Even more tragic, we can begin to blame God for His perceived indifference to our plight: “Why has God abandoned my family?”

I am entirely sympathetic to those who have lived through or are now facing this situation. As Christian parents, we all “know” the right answer – God cares deeply about every blade of grass and every supernova in His good creation – but when pressed by heartbreak and disappointment these truths can be completely obscured by grief, anger and our own self-righteousness. In God’s good providence, however, I come at this problem from both angles, specifically to say that I have been both “prodigal son” and “expectant father” as illustrated by Jesus in His parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). (I have also found myself in the position of the legalistic “elder brother,” too, but that’s a blog for another day.)

My own story as a prodigal began somewhere around 1977, when I became far more interested in females, alcohol and drugs than church attendance or service to others. Though by God’s great mercy I achieved a measure of reconciliation with both of my parents prior to their deaths, I am absolutely certain that my 20 years in the wilderness caused them much pain and repeated heartache. As they had spent considerable time and effort to raise me in the Christian church, I have no doubt that they had cause to wonder why God had given them such a wild child. I know for a fact that just about every other family who attended our church would have been only too happy to slap the label “LOST” across my forehead. Certainly everyone had ample evidence to support such a verdict.

One of the more interesting locked-in memories that played a role in my conversion in 1997 was a small, “insignificant” conversation with one of my Sunday school teachers when I was in the 4th grade, sometime in the spring of 1971. I’d be willing to bet that this conversation had probably been forgotten by that faithful man by the time he got home for Sunday lunch, but the truth to which he had been pointing stuck. This man had just made a simple observation that radically undermined the idea that all of creation could be the result of evolutionary “time + matter + chance,” but the words he spoke were well-timed with God’s plan for my life and entirely faithful to Scripture. To be honest, his words annoyed me no end at the time.

I say all that simply as an encouragement to parents, volunteers and Crossing staff who are gearing up for the annual craziness otherwise known as “Kids Club.” If nothing else, my own life bears testament to the truth that as we labor to raise our children to love and serve Jesus, we have absolutely no idea how God might be pleased to use our efforts. The most difficult, “unreachable” child in your group may in fact be that one on whom your lessons land hardest, though you might not be able to reasonably expect him to admit it…at least not yet.

Some of my favorite passages in Isaiah speak plainly to the idea that even though we are beloved by God, He has not handed us the keys to the universe quite yet. He is busy in the lives of everyone He has created, and his Word does not return void. When we plant the Word in the lives of hundreds and hundreds of screaming, excited kids, we simply have zero idea how things will turn out in the short term. What we do know is that God is faithful to those who trust His Word and scatter seed.

The elderly man who bothered to take five minutes out of his life to make a simple illustration about how God so masterfully designed all of His good creation probably would have agreed with the other members of his church that I did indeed appear to be a lost cause, but I suspect he knew enough about how God works to suspend judgment. That faithful man died long before the lesson he gave on that particular Sunday began to germinate and grow.

How encouraging to know that long after we have worked in His fields, God remains the Lord of the Harvest. My prayer is that all of us at The Crossing remain faithful to continue sowing seed, without looking over our shoulders too long at the results that we can readily perceive. Have a great and blessed week, everyone! May God be glorified now, in 2013, and may the work of our hands still bear fruit decades from now, well after many of us are also gone.

Isaiah 46:8-10 (ESV)
“Remember this and stand firm,
  recall it to mind, you transgressors,
  remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
  I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
  and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
  and I will accomplish all my purpose,'”

Isaiah 55:10-11 (ESV)
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
  and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
  giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
  it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
  and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

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