What is the best gift parents can give their children besides the Gospel? This question came home forcefully to me recently. I had a friend say, “my parents don’t know the Lord, and part of the tragedy is that I see them making the same mistakes again and again, now for 40 years. They are the same people today as they were when I was a kid.”
Sadness for this friend swept over me…what a tragedy! As I thought about it, I have concluded that, one of the greatest things parents can give their children is a life-long vision of sanctification. Imagine the power of seeing your parents becoming more like Jesus over 20, 30, 40 years or more! Imagine seeing them confess their sin and repent year after year. Seeing confession becoming more natural, more complete, with less blame shifting and less reticence to own all of their responsibility for sin.
At the same time, imagine seeing them have victory over sin. For some of those sins, maybe it took decades of hard fought battles to finally win the day. Overcoming other sins maybe seemed easy, at least looking from the outside. Imagine this – the power of transformed parents on your faith!
Imagine that as they get older, your parents become more kind, more gentle, warmer people. They laugh more and cry more. They celebrate the victories of others – including you – with greater enthusiasm and joy. They increasingly step in to carry the burdens of others with them – again, including you and your burdens. The older you get, the better they get. You want to be around them more and more.
Now imagine none of that. Imagine the lost opportunity. Imagine lives that are only testimonies of sin and lostness. For those of us with parents who are alive and growing in Christ, be thankful! And share stories of their impact on you because some of us need to hear about it. Soak it up. Talk with your parents about it. Make sure your kids start to notice it too!
For those of us whose parents do not know Jesus yet, take heart. The Lord is even sovereign here. I think a holy jealousy of others’ blessings in this is OK. Sometimes we can even borrow the parents of others and benefit from their growth in Christ. That’s a beautiful thing as well, but we continue to pray for our own parents. And, more than that, we remember that we are NOT orphans.
Christ promises us not only a multitude of sisters, brothers, mothers, and fathers through the Church in this age and the one to come, but also that we know God as FATHER now and forever. Though our parents disappoint or even disown us, the Lord will receive us (Psalm 27:10). We have a Father who want to sweep us up into His love, into His fellowship. Hallelujah!
Finally, why don’t you commit to being a parent who is passionately pursuing becoming like Jesus. Live in front of your kiddos in a way that they see the struggles and the victories. Demonstrate confession and repentance in front of them. Let them know how you are struggling, in appropriate ways, and let them know when you see victory. Eventually, they’ll see it without you mentioning it.
Imagine the ways they will be blessed by watching you. Imagine the depth of relationship that will develop. Imagine the impact your sanctification will have on your kids. What a gift you will give them!