“You’re about to go insane.”
I had noticed that the soon-to-be-teenaged young lady standing in front of me had grown at least six inches in the last month. And I knew that I needed to have a word with her, warning her about the challenges and temptations of the next six years of her life. As I spoke with her, my fourteen-year-old daughter stood beside me nodding her head knowingly. Knowingly, because her own insanity had been manifesting itself, involving her in a battle she never saw coming.
Why would I go and speak with someone else’s child about temptations she’s about to face? What business was it of mine? What would her mother think about my meddling in her family’s business? When should pastors, elders, and godly women of the church meddle? Only after our children crash and make shipwreck of their lives and souls?
The church is given a charge in Hebrews 3:12–13:
Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Who is the “one another” in verse 13? Does it include someone else’s soon-to-be teenager?
I’ve noticed that entire families mature and come of age just like children. The wisdom, guidance, and care that parents need as they negotiate the challenges of the spiritual development of their children change over time.
For example, many young mothers are stressed just because their little ones won’t obey a simple command—a command like “No” or “Come.” They need help. This problem is so frequent that whenever a young married couple in our congregation become new parents, we set up a special meeting just to instruct them in the basics of teaching their children early obedience. As families age, the type of wisdom, guidance, and care given by the church adjusts to the need of the hour. In little children the issues are “No” and “Come.” In high school the issue is insanity—insanity just being my word for what happens when raging hormones and blossoming sexuality and the need to individuate from your parents all converge in one big emotional typhoon. You know, insanity.
Assuming that the church desires to be faithful in the care of the children within her ranks, what is the biggest obstacle that keeps that care from happening? Answer: Us. Parents.
We’re afraid that the sins of our children are going to expose our own sins. We’re afraid of being judged for our failures as parents. So we keep things under wraps and pretend we have everything under control.
Our lack of faith in God’s Word, our lack of trust in His people, and our pride and insecurity keep us resistant to those who love us and want to help. I have known all these fears and sins personally and I can testify to the incalculable help that God has given my wife and me through His church.
In Colossians 1:28 the Apostle Paul tells us his goal is to “present every man complete in Christ.” What is our goal as parents but that we would present our children “complete in Christ”?
We are fools if we refuse to lean heavily upon the church as we strive toward this goal. And we are wicked if we place our appearance above the good of our children.
The day when our children are out from under our direct authority is coming quickly. It is inevitable; there is no escaping it. Soon they’ll stand alone before the many authorities that exist above us: the government, the university, the employer, the church.
This transition can be smooth or difficult for all parties concerned. We can make it painful. We can try to delay it. We can try to hide ourselves and our children within the confines of our compounds. Or we can embrace it as a good thing, the right thing—another step in the process of our children being made mature and godly men and women, complete in Christ. And another step in preparation for the day when they will stand alone before God, the ultimate authority—as will we all.
The more our children have witnessed us embrace and submit to the authorities in our lives, the easier it will be for them to individuate and come under those same authorities. And the easier it will be for us to watch them do so.
But this takes faith and humility. Without faith, that transition will be painful. But it won’t be less inevitable. It is coming, as surely as the day of judgment.
Have faith for God’s abundant provision for your children through His church. Lean on her for wisdom, for strength, for guidance, and for support. She is “the pillar and support of the truth.” And, by God’s grace, she’ll keep you and your teenage daughter from going insane. Or at least she’ll help make sure the insanity is only temporary.