There’s nothing like holding our babies (or toddler in our case for baby #3) for the first time, is there? Instantly, our world changes. This incredible love we didn’t know existed consumes us, and there’s literally nothing like it.Though our children do change our worlds, can I urge you with this? Don’t make them the center of your world.
Let me make it clear, I LOVE MY KIDS. The love I have for them is unexplainable, and goodness, they really have changed my world. Sleeping late is a thing of the past. I’ve seen more episodes of Paw Patrol than I can count. It’s a joy to serve them and be their mom. They’re one of the greatest gifts, answered prayers, and pictures of God’s faithfulness the Lord has given me. Most importantly, God has used them to chip away at my selfishness. There’s deep sanctification when a toddler throws up in the middle of the night, right?
However, I wouldn’t love my kids well if I made them the center of my world. Scripture is very clear on who should reign in our lives, and that’s Jesus. In the Old Testament, God commands sole worship of himself in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before me.” In the New Testament, Jesus even applies this to parenthood, “…and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matt. 10:37b). I should love Jesus first and most, and teach my children to do the same.
Placing our children on the throne of our lives instead of Jesus is idolatry. When our children are the center, with everything revolving around them, that’s idolatry. When we look to our children, their accomplishments, and their behavior to give us peace and satisfaction, that’s idolatry. We buy the world’s lies that their biggest needs are the best clothes, perfect sleep schedule, and Pinterest-perfect birthday parties. Therefore, we spend extreme amounts of money on their clothes, but then cringe at the thought of generously giving to the church or a ministry. We’re afraid to tell them “no” or lovingly confront their sin, because they may not like us at that moment. Church is too difficult because it may interrupt their nap. Though a strong marriage is vital for our children, we refuse to allow someone trustworthy to watch them so we can have a date night.
Our children do have a lot of physical needs, and it’s one of our responsibilities to meet those, stewarding the resources well God has given us. Their physical needs aren’t their only (or even most important) needs we’re called to meet. What they need most is Jesus, and our biggest responsibility is to disciple them in toward Christ. Our children, as precious as they are, are born sinners, separated from a holy God. The only way back to him is through salvation in Christ. Our children need to know they’re not the center, but Jesus is. They need to know their need for Jesus. If a child spends their entire childhood being fully accommodated to and made central, why in the world would they realize their need for a Savior? Why would they realize their need to accept Christ and then live their life dying to self for the sake of the Gospel?
When Hunter was born, the best advice we were given (besides teaching him to love Jesus, obviously) was that he was coming into our world, not the other way around. We didn’t stop doing the ministry God called us to, engaging in the local church, or opening our home to students just because this little 7 pound baby entered our lives. Did some things look different? Definitely! For example, I nursed Hunter and put him to bed instead of playing board games with our college students. However, the college students didn’t stop coming because of that.
It’s important to note that our children and families are our first ministries. The work of motherhood has immense eternal value. Part of our children being our first ministries, though, is to bring them along in the ministry God has already given us. It’s teaching them Jesus is central in our home and families, not them (nor even ourselves – that’s a whole other temptation!). It’s teaching them it’s good that Sundays interrupt our schedules in order to prioritize church, because it’s a weekly reminder to take our eyes off ourselves and put them on Jesus. It’s teaching them mommy’s Bible reading is more important than their juice refill (I’ll get that later, of course). It’s prioritizing feeding my family dinner, but also including them in making or bringing dinner to a friend in need. It’s explaining to them why we open our home, and teaching them to wait their turns to fix their plates so guests can go first (a big deal to kids!). There’s a million implications to this, where we love and serve our families God has given us, while also bringing them along in the Great Commission God calls us all to – to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20).
Our world constantly encourages us to put “me” on the throne. “You do you,” “love yourself,” “do what’s best for yourself,” and other phrases are mantras of our culture. These messages come for our children too. These messages fall short, though, because we’ll find we can’t fulfill ourselves. When we idolize our children, it puts immense pressure on them! This leaves both us and our children either prideful or frustrated. Instead, the Gospel is the better message for all of us. It’s the message that yes, we’re born sinners with a bent to live for ourselves. This is slavery. It brings oppression, a lack of peace, and all of us wanting more. The Good News is though, that Jesus bore the weight of all of our sin on the cross, taking on the punishment we deserve. When we put our faith and hope in Christ alone for salvation, both us and our children find freedom from worldly pressures and an eternal peace and satisfaction. In Christ, we’ll find our identity is in him, not parenting. We’ll be able to give worship to the only one truly worthy of it, Christ. Both us and our children will mess up, but the Gospel is Good News that Christ gives us grace upon grace for every failure.
Mamas, let’s love our children best by loving Jesus first.
p.s. Be sure to check our last week’s post where the theme is also idolatry, but I specifically talk about the “altars” (sports, academics, etc.) we may be pointing our kids to worship instead of Christ.