Friday, June 29, 2012

Reality is sobering!

This year--this summer, really--has been very surreal in a lot of ways. Many life changes, many things I thought were years away are happening now. Probably the most notable is that not only my own daughter, but also two of her friends are having their first babies this summer. It's kind of funny to think that many of my high school friends and I still have children in diapers, yet now I'm also a grandmother. No, I don't feel "old". As far as I'm concerned, "old" is something you are when you spend most of your days looking forward to the next life because there is no longer any joy in this one. I'm not there yet. Lord willing, I won't ever be.

The little hand in the picture above is my little grandson Levi's hand. He is, hopefully and prayerfully, just a few days away from ending his stay in the NICU and going home! He's doing incredibly well, and we couldn't be more thankful to God for the abundant blessings that have surrounded the little guy since his birth. This picture really got me thinking about what an awesome and scary task three young families (among many, many more) are just beginning as they bring their little babies into this world. It would be far too easy to think that having a child that isn't malnourished, abused, or neglected makes one a "good" parent, but really, when you look at that little hand, his physical welfare is only a small portion of this journey he is just beginning. In less than a decade and a half, the tiny little fingers will no longer be clinging tightly to Mom's and Dad's. They will have let go and will be grasping in this dark world to hold onto something that they can call their "own". Those little hands will work to find their own identity in this big world ... and it is the big hands that they hold on to right now that will determine what direction those little hands reach.

I think every parent reaches a point in their child's development that they wish they could stop the clock, go back, and un-do some things they did in their child's formative years. We all make the mistake of thinking our children aren't really watching what we're doing, or that we can "teach" them out of habits they learn from us. The reality is that a child will learn lessons from what a parent does, not what he or she says. In the first years of life, that child soaks in information from every source in his or her environment. TV, movies, music, how Mom and Dad react to the crazy drivers, and especially the company Mom and Dad keep and the activities they participate in. They learn what is important in life long before they can verbalize it. They learn right and wrong before they ever start testing Mom and Dad's patience.

New mommies and daddies, you don't have a few years to waste. Once that child comes home from the hospital, your job is to shield him (or her) from not just germs that can harm the body, but evils that can poison the soul. It is your responsibility as a parent to LIVE the example you want your child to follow. If you wouldn't do it in front of a 6-year-old who will repeat everything you say and do, you shouldn't be doing it at all. If it's something that is going to be a detriment to bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, then it shouldn't be a part of their life--OR YOURS!

I remember several years ago hearing some of our peers (I'll not call them friends, they really were just job associations who happened to be in the same season of life as us) telling us that they'll quit having their drinking friends over to the house for BBQ's when their kids are older and "more impressionable", because they didn't want the children thinking that they approved of social drinking. Guess what? That child is now a 17-year-old drunk. Mom and Dad never did stop having friends over to drink--they never made the mental connection about their son being conscious of what was going on. The behavior they already thought was acceptable was passed on to their son, because they never did anything to change it. He doesn't see anything wrong with his behavior. Why should he?

We have other friends (these *are* friends ... although our acquaintance has drifted because of how different our lives have become) who thought it was adorable to dress their little girl as an infant and toddler in skimpy clothing and encouraged her to role-play popular dance routines they saw on MTV. It was, back then, "cute" to see a 2-year-old shaking her booty provocatively. Now that she's 21 ... not so much. Of course, all the young men drooling over her at the pool would think otherwise. So would her boyfriend. Whoever he is this week.

I know these are 'extreme' examples, but life is never lived halfway. Choices new parents make about influences they are going to allow in their child's life in infancy are very difficult to reverse. Let "friends" who don't share your moral beliefs and values get close to your children, and your children will inevitably gravitate toward them as the "aunts and uncles" that they have been allowed to become. Let TV programs play in the background that are full of immorality and filth, and don't be surprised when your toddlers repeat things that would make your toenails curl. Children accept as "normal" those things they see on a regular basis. And they will become like tiny little magnifying glasses to their parents' spiritual struggles!

New mommies and daddies, you have a huge, HUGE task lying in that little crib. Your job is to protect them, to shield them from the outside world, to mold them into the people God can use to do grand things. Don't make your own job any harder by inviting things into your life that you will have to un-teach when it's too late. Fill your lives with good, pure, lovely things that please God and your children will learn to do the same. They will actually learn to love it. Fill your lives with the Lord's people, and your children will learn to love them as well. Please ... don't take a minute for granted.

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