By Pastor Domenico Danesi
After praying and waiting on what to write regarding parenting I feel prompted to bear my heart as a father. This article will simply share some things that I have learned as a parent over the last 12.5 years. As many of you know my wife Leslee and I have been blessed with 6 children. We love each one so deeply that words cannot express the depth of our love toward them. We have laughed, cried, yelled, prayed, played, supported, and failed many times with our children.
I have discovered that being a parent involves equal parts of two things: joy and suffering. The verse I would pass along to a prospective parent is this: “… for the joy set before Him He endured the cross …” (Hebrews 12:2a). Yes the cross, an instrument of death, in the end can produce joy. When Jesus was carrying His cross up to Golgotha He was suffering; when He was nailed to the cross He was suffering; when He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), He was suffering. The joy that was set before Him was the end result, the joy of rejoining the Father and allowing those for whom He was praying in the time of suffering to now have the power to become the children of god, (John 1:11,12).
I am going to list some topics and areas from my heart that have come through joyous-suffering. The aim is to pass along wisdom for you as parents, to help you, to challenge you, and to encourage you.
Count the Cost
Jesus said, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it…” (Luke 14:28)? Do you have what it takes to be a father? Do you have what it takes to be a mother?
This is the best advice I could give to any couple considering having children. Have you prayerfully thought about what it means to bring children into this world and be a father or mother? We are conditioned that we are to get married and then have children. Do not misunderstand; both marriage and children bring great joy, but both also bring great suffering. Have you considered the monetary cost? Have you considered the emotional cost? Have you considered the mental and physical cost? Have you considered that when you have children your lifestyle MUST change; if it does not your children will suffer. Are you ready to put your agenda, dreams, money, and life to death? The perception of having a family is not reality. I would not exchange my wife or children for anything! However, I have suffered over the years. I have suffered the consequences of poor decisions, making provision for the flesh, having no answers, not relying completely on God, and the list goes on and on. The joy I have experienced is of great measure as well. The smile of our babies, watching them play sports, hearing them pray, watching them grow, family vacations, and the list goes on and on. Raising children is not for the faint-hearted. We have fatherless children because fathers have quit; they did not count the cost. We have mothers who do not love and care for their children as they should because they did not count the cost. Brothers and sisters, count the cost before having children for the glory of God.
Keep Jesus First
It befuddles me to see people have children and then drop out of any Christian life. No question, your time is going to be stretched, but it also needs to be prioritized. The more children you are given by our Lord, the more you will be challenged to “find time” to have a prayer and devotional life; the more challenged you will be to lead your children in prayer and devotion; the more challenging it will become to get everyone ready on a Sunday morning or Wednesday evening, load up the car and drive to service as a family. My friends, I have not even mentioned serving in some “formal capacity” even once a month. Families are struggling with keeping God in their family. We must determine to press on and seek first the kingdom (Matthew 6:33) in word and deed as families.
Prepare to fail and prepare to praise
We as parents are big sinners, raising up little sinners. We all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Therefore we must realize and accept failure as parents. Countless times we have had to humble ourselves and apologize to our children. We must prayerfully seek God’s counsel through prayer, His word, and other seasoned parents. Do not condemn yourself for your failures or for your children’s failures. Rejoice in the victories! I call them “bright spots”. It can be your child holding a door open for someone without being asked to, or another adult complimenting you about your children. Praise God and your children for those “bright spots” because failure is inevitable in some capacity. I promise you according to God’s word, there are no perfect people, parents, children, or families. Do not buy the lie of “Look at that family”, or “If my husband or wife were only like him or her.” Have you ever put a hidden camera in their homes? If you could you probably would be disappointed. We do not live in a reality television show where you can edit the “ugly stuff”. All families fail at some point, in some way. There is suffering in the failure but there is great joy in the victories.
Enjoy God’s Heritage
A personal revelation of mine is that in Psalm 127:3, the psalmist writes, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord”. Did you get that? They belong to Him, not us! Enjoy the beauty of God’s image in your children. Enjoy every ounce of your children. God made them so beautifully and uniquely. They are all loved so dearly by our Lord, so let us also love them with no conditions for our love. There will without a doubt be heartache raising children, so please enjoy them as much as possible while you can. Always keep in mind THEY ARE HIS! God has lent our children to us. We are to pray for them, instruct them in the Lord’s ways, and love them. God has no grandchildren; meaning, we cannot save the children God gives us, but we can do our part and fully trust that God will be faithful to do His.
“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2a). Parents, endure the cross. We are praying for you; we are praying for your children; we are praying for your families. We love you.