Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hope for a Dad-To-Be

The school year is only two weeks old*, yet with devoting two hours plus each day to cross country, I'm already finding myself falling behind. As such, it's easy for me to get freaked out about the difficulties of becoming a parent amid "real life." (In case you don't know, we're expecting our first child in early January, Lord willing.) But the truth is that there has never been a single parent who didn't live in a messy, pressure-laden, sin-filled world. Everyone has had to work to put bread on the table, to trust that the heavens will rain at the right time, to strain to find the energy to keep going, and to fight the battle (both within and without) to live wisely and nobly. That's true of all God's saints too.

I often think about how much easier it would be amid a tiring schedule to settle for the path of rearing well-groomed kids who are well-behaved yet whose righteousness is only skin deep--"whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness" (Matthew 23:27). The vigilance, time, involvement, patience, prayer, instruction, reproof, and encouragement needed to shepherd their hearts and to guide them to the cross will be so great. When Olivia and I are tired, frustrated at our lack of control, or ashamed of our kids' behavior, it would be so much easier to meet their neediness and stubbornness with anger and irritability or cheap rewards--or give up in complacence and defeat--than to press on another day in hope that the Lord will faithfully be at work in their lives.

But God will have none of that! As I've been reading Hosea and Proverbs, God has been showing me how he justly and consistently disciplines his wayward children while continuing to pursue them in tender, consuming compassion. "How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel?" (Hosea 11:8). Because he has created marriage, in large measure, for the sake of raising godly children (Malachi 2:15), he has delegated his own authority to parents. And because he has given us this authority in his image to rule, lead, teach, and guide our children as he does his own people, he will empower and teach us to be parents like him: sober-minded and watchful, consistent in discipline, faithful in presence, patient in hope, fervent in love, speaking truth and wisdom to transform the heart.

But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him, and his righteousness to [their] children's children. (Psalm 103:17)

"And as for me, this is my covenant with them [those who receive the Redeemer and turn from transgression]," says the LORD: "My Spirit that is upon you, and the words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children's offspring," say the LORD, "from this time forth and forevermore." (Isaiah 59:21)
*I actually posted this on September 15. For some reason Blogger tags the date the first time I write anything at all on a post.

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