Parenting out of fear…or hope?

The question loomed up again this weekend. This time it happened at my daughter’s graduation from Lee University. Rachel’s experience at Lee has just been stellar. She has loved her professors and made deep connections with her peers. Both ceremonies (one a commissioning and the other a graduation) were very emotional moments for Heidi and I, leaving us in both tears. We had watched Rachel persevere through the rigors of college, and now she was finally finishing! We were both happy for her and sad to see her time at Lee come to an end. But to see the joy and hope on her face gave us both confidence. Her future is still unknown, but we know the One who knows the future. And that’s all that matters.

All throughout our journey as parents, Heidi and I have been tempted to parent out of fear. And we have fallen into it at times. Fear is a powerful short-term motivator, and there are so many things to fear when it comes to our children. Just pick up the morning newspaper: wars and famines, earthquakes and droughts, sexual abuse and bullying, car wrecks and crime. The face of evil leers at us every day, and we can so easily cower in fear. But fear is also a terrible long-term motivator. Children pick up on it from their parents and become fearful themselves, or they revolt at some point from the shackles those fears produce.

There are certain things Heidi and I have prayed for both daughters over the years to help us stay away from parenting out of fear:

1. “Father, you love our children so much more than we ever could. We can release them to your care.”

2. “Father, our children were never ours anyway. They were a precious gift from you for a season.”

3. “Father, we want our children to play whatever part they need to play in the story you are writing. Build your kingdom through them.”

These prayers don’t make the fears automatically disappear, but they sure do help us keep moving toward hope, the the hope of the kingdom, the hope of the resurrection, the great hope to which he has called us (see Eph. 1:18).

Heidi and I always tell ourselves that the best is yet to come. That’s not vapid optimism. It’s the gospel truth, for all us.

Including our children.