A colleague recently posted a quote from “The Works of the Right Reverend Father in God, Joseph Hall D.D.” Volume VII Practical Works that says;
I remember a great man coming into my house, at Waltham, and seeing all my children standing in the order of their age and stature, said, “These are they that make rich men poor.” But he straight received this answer, “Nay, my lord, these are they that make a poor man rich; for there is not one of these whom we would part with for all your wealth.” It is easy to observe that none are so gripple and hard fisted as the childless; whereas those, who, for the maintenance of large families, are inured to frequent disbursements, find such experience of Divine providence in the faithful management of their affairs, as that they lay out with more cheerfulness what they receive. Wherein their care must be abated when God takes it off from them to himself; and, if they be not wanting to themselves, their faith gives them ease in casting their burden upon him, who hath more power and more right to it, since our children are more his than our own. He that feedeth the young ravens, can he fail the best of his creatures?
Children are a gift from God to their parents in many ways.
First, we must recognize the depth of the statement that they’re a gift from God, a reward (Ps 127:3 NASB – Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward.”) Children are not a burden to make us poor, drive us crazy or keep us from living a full life. God may not make us wealthy, but He supplies our needs (Philippian 4:19; Matthew 6:31-32; Luke 12:24) so that we can care for our children.
Our children prepare us and equip us to withstand attacks by our enemies (Ps 127:4-5 NASB): “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate.”
- Our preparation comes from how raising children changes us from the inside out — For some, the experiences of raising children helps us build generosity, kindness, patience, and a love that genuinely puts others first. For others, it may drive them to their knees, praying for God’s guidance and support because of any number of dire situations that they can’t cope with on their own.
- The equipping comes from understanding the context of these verses. Back in the day, the court hearings were heard at the gate of the city. Accusers could bring charges, but having a full family meant that our sons can stand and testify about what they’d seen and heard their father or mother doing during the days (and since raising sons/daughters back then was more of a “homeschool” and “apprentice” type environment, families spent more time together).
Clearly, children represent a real responsibility. Obviously, we are to care for them and raise them in safety, but we’re also called to instruct them in spiritual matters:
- We are called to protect the children who are put in our care, to raise them in the Word (Dt 4:10, Dt 6:1-9, Dt 11:19, Ps 78:4-6, Ps 127:3-5, Pr 22:6, Eph 6:4, Col. 3:21, Heb 12:9-10).
- We also have a responsibility to counsel youth based on scriptures (Isaiah 1:16-17, 2 Timothy 2:22-26, 2 Timothy 3 and Titus 2:6-8, et.al.) whether the issue is lying, cheating, stealing, extra-marital sex exploration, or substance abuse, et.al. The goal is to help them maintain purity, increase wisdom and stature (Ps 1:1-3, Jeremiah 17:5-8) and therefore, to be prepared for their ultimate vocational calling.
Children change our hearts as we take care of them from infants onward throughout their lives. Consider this quote from Arsenio Hall (late night show, comedian):
“Being a father changes a man. It explains life in a very interesting way, and it explains your purpose on this earth. I think it makes you a smarter, less selfish person. And what I needed a lot is to step outside of this body and be less concerned about me…You’ve heard parents say, ‘Take me. Don’t take my baby.’ I didn’t understand that. When you have that kind of love for someone on this planet, it changes who you are…”
As long as we try our best, and despite doing a great job or a miserable job of parenting (consider Romans 8:28), I think God will protect our children and use these experiences, mistakes, choices and victories to mold us into new people.
But what about other situations?
Much of the USA doesn’t find “ideal” homes as the “norm” when according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America (one out of three children) now live in biological father-absent homes. The consequences of this scenario are bleak:
- Children who live absent their biological fathers are, on average, at least two to three times more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse, and to engage in criminal behavior than their peers who live with their married, biological (or adoptive) parents (www.fatherhood.org)
- 63% of teen suicides come from fatherless homes. That’s 5 times the national average. SOURCE: U.S. Dept of Health
- 5% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control)
- 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average. (National Principals Association Report)
- “Adolescent pregnancy rates were approximately 7 times higher…among early father-absent girls than among father-present girls” National Institute of Health (click HERE)
Trail Life can be a blessing to these families in many ways….One group of boys we should consider reaching (as a priority) are the modern-day “fatherless”. These may be from single-mom homes, but may also be boys whose dads want to “be there” but simply can’t due to work schedules.
In other family situations, there may be a mom and dad relationship, but they’ve been struggling with parenting due to any number of factors (i.e. lacked strong parental role models as children themselves, or they’re chasing the latest parenting book fads, etc.). No matter the cause, they may benefit from some grace-filled coaching or quiet support while their sons are engaged at their Trail Life meeting.
Does your CO have a family support program in place? Are there parenting classes offered? Is there a lounge where parent networking and support coaching could be offered?
While we may put Trail Life into a mental “box” called “a boy’s outdoor adventure program” and American Heritage Girls is “a character building program for gals” — are we ready to assist families become stronger in their walk with God? Are we ready to support folks who don’t presently adhere to Christianity, but struggle for a richer, more rewarding home life?
We’ve touched on this topic before (http://wp.me/p42ywS-28) — the need and the opportunity to reach fathers and help them reconcile their own lives with the gospel message. The affect on the family will be amazing:
Of all the studies recently published, the most telling related to the fathers role in discipleship is this: according to a report published by The Baptist Press  if a child is the first person in the household to become a Christian, there is a 3.5% probability everyone in the household will follow. If the mother is first, there is a 17% chance everyone else in the household will submit to Christ. Here’s the clincher: If the father professes Christ first, there is a 93% probability that everyone else in the house will heed the Gospel call. God’s Word declares and studies affirm what this generation needs — an uprising of men committed to discipling their children.
1 Peter 3:15 “…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,…”
Our audience may be the boys (Trail Life) and girls (American Heritage Girls), but it’s also the moms and dads who struggle to be the best parents that they can be. Let’s be ready to give a gentle, respectful answer about the hope that is in us as Christian parents, relying on God to perfect both us and our children when we trust and obey.