“Johnny decided that he didn’t like church. He should be the one to choose what he believes. I don’t want to force him into anything. You know, just let him try a little of everything and maybe something will stick,” she said, already bored with this conversation. This mom’s unconcerned tone of voice about the future and faith of her nine-year-old son sent chills down my spine. But I’ve listened to this reasoning before. Even among life-long Christian mamas, I’ve heard concession to their child’s choice way too many times. But I understand from where this sensitivity stems. Parents are just trying to figure out this parenting thing as we go along. Some of us have a few tries, some only have one shot. But, it really doesn’t matter; every single child we raise has a completely unique perspective, personality, strength, and weakness. Parents begin to understand that there are a million choices that our child will grow into. Some decisions are harmless - like playing soccer, baseball, or tennis - but some paths are deadly. But as good and careful parents, it’s astonishing that the wisdom of God falls silent, buried deep under our other priorities.
Then again, maybe it’s not out of the ordinary if we parents don’t understand this strange wisdom of God. Maybe we don’t comprehend what we are really keeping from our own children. Sure, we can pick out our baby’s voice in a room of hundreds, and we know the terrible details of every illness they’ve ever had. Yet, again and again, we seem deaf to their silent cries for food. Over and over, we appear blind to the starving babies in our very own homes.
Christ crucified, the wisdom of God. Why is this so important for our children? Christ’s journey to the cross is not a decision our child decided to make. Christ’s sacrifice for sin was never a choice left up to us adults, let alone our second graders. Christ’s fulfilling all righteousness by dying and rising was an event that happened outside of our hearts and minds. Christ crucified for us is a precious external wisdom that changes everything.
Because, Christ crucified simply happened to our children; “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:8) they, themselves, never had a chance to decide if they wanted Jesus to atone for their sin. This Gospel, this good news of Christ crucified is given to them as a free gift of life. They were simply claimed by water and a word, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Crucified with Christ, life restored, made new. But, this was never about their choice.
So, it surprises me that we would hide Christ away from our children. Parents instinctively know how to give the good gifts of God, even though our children don’t want them. When our baby screams and cries, we still feed him the milk. When our toddler throws a tantrum about vegetables, we still put broccoli on her plate. When our teenager vows to drink only soda, we insist he must eat real food for the health of his body. So, when our moody pre-teen struggles and whines on a Sunday morning, we still feed her the Gospel of truth outside of herself. We get her to Christ.
It baffles me that we are short-sighted about the future of our children—who they are in Christ. Parents are built to envision and support the future of their little ones. We diligently research schools and programs that will provide the best opportunities for our child. We encourage directions and paths to set them up for college and careers. We put together a plan for their success and guide them over the bumps. But, knit together in their mother’s womb, they always were a beloved creation of God. They are restored by the blood of Christ. They have been gifted an honored place in life everlasting, no matter who they marry or where they end up. So, when our son dreams about his future, we boldly remind him of his true identity. We get him to Christ.
It worries me that we are ignoring our sick and dying children. Just like us, our children are diseased with sin. Their adorable smiles hide it well, but their evil hearts drag them into darkness, no matter how young. The world and proud voices will tell you they are fine. Their teachers and friends will praise them for deeds accomplished. We parents want to believe they are innocent, alive, and well. But the wisdom of God tells a different story. On their own, our children are in grave trouble. But, parents are blessed with a fierce urgency to protect the lives of their children. When our baby isn’t breathing, we rush her to the hospital. When we find our son mangled and bloody, we scream out for help. So, finally when we remember what is at stake, we rush our children to the place where life is promised. We get them to Christ.
God has created us, equipped with every good intention to parent our children. Our care, concern, love, worry, and sacrifice is natural to our job. But this strange wisdom of God, Christ crucified, the Gospel, is alien to our parenting experience. Christ and His shockingly simple salvation plan has invaded our lives from the outside. We can’t come up with a better way. We can’t look inside our hearts for a deeper purpose. Christ captured our parental love for our children. The food we feed them is His Word. The future we speak about is His gift of eternal life. The remedy for their failure and death is His forgiveness. Christ crucified birthed a new language between us and our children.
The wisdom of God has changed who we are as parents, and it also changed who they are as children. We don’t dwell on trivial paths that don’t matter. We trust and believe something outside of our own hearts and minds. Not one of these incredible gifts came from little Johnny’s rebellious soul. We just get him to Christ.