"He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings." Psalm 40:2

The Greatest Fear I Have As A Parent

This is post #3 in the 30 Chances to Get to Know Me list. The assignment is: Describe the greatest fear(s) you have as a parent.

I’ve been a mother all of my adult life, and I know firsthand many of the fears which accompany that role. From the first flutters of life in my womb and the first gaze into that red, wrinkled face, the waves of reality, responsibility, and all kinds of possibilities far outside my control began to crash over me. We parents have so many things we can fear.

We can fear for our children’s physical well-being. We worry about their health and nutrition. Their protection from strangers, kidnappers, and abusers. Their exposure to risk and danger.

We can fear for our children’s emotional well-being. We worry about their relationships, the words they hear, the actions they witness, and the ideas they take to heart.

We can fear for our children’s future. We worry about their education, careers, and income. As they enter adolescence we worry about their potential choices, sinful actions, habits, and consequences.

We can fear for our children’s discipleship. We worry about their knowledge of right and wrong. We worry about their spiritual education. About whether they know enough scripture, and whether they understand it. About their understanding of doctrine and their ability to reason and win apologetic arguments.

I believe that many, if not all, of these fears can be healthy and good, when (1) in the form of properly portioned concern out of a heart of biblical love and (2) entrusted to God’s wise, loving, sovereign hand.

It’s part of our job to understand danger and to do our best to protect our children from physical harm, both intentional and accidental.

It’s part of our job to model for and teach our children to process their emotions biblically and healthily…to do our best to show them how to love, how to respond to hurt and injustice, and how to forgive.

It’s part of our job to care about our children’s future, and to diligently teach and guide them, knowing that they don’t have the experience to look far down the road of their current trajectory and recognize its potential outcomes and consequences.

It’s part of our job to teach our children right from wrong, who God is, and what He says about us and Himself and the world…to teach them how to study the Word and how to “give an answer.”

Yet as weighty as those responsibilities are – and yes, they are weighty – we’re never meant to shoulder them alone. As with so many other areas of life, we’re meant to be faithful in the areas we are individually assigned, and to surrender to and trust God almighty with all the other areas which are outside our control.

But we tend to find ways to avoid faithfulness in the areas for which we are clearly individually responsible. We tend to excuse our emotional outbursts instead of exercising self-control. We tend to expect our child to magically grow and learn the right information and behaviors without us taking up our teaching responsibilities. We tend to be blind to the emotional damage caused by our own words, attitudes and actions. We tend to do more damage in our sinful reactions to circumstances than the circumstances themselves cause.

We also tend frantically attempt to manage the areas outside our control…or at least make ourselves feel like we manage them. We tend to carefully orchestrate our child’s environment and then despair when things get through our wisely laid defenses. We tend to trust our prevention plans and lash out against God and others when circumstances prove that very little of life is in any way under our own control.

Fear consumes us when we try to work out every detail on our own. Without any way to truly secure a feeling of control we enslave ourselves to uncertainty’s choking grip. It’s only when we surrender control to God, trust Him to keep His promise to work all things for our good and His glory, and focus our activity like a laser only on faithfulness in only our individual areas of responsibility that we can live free from fear’s control.

Surrender. Trust. Faithful Obedience.

Those often feel like death at first, when we’re white-knuckled trying to grasp circumstances that run out of our hands like water. Yet through surrender, trust, and faithful obedience we are freed to experience peace. It turns out that this yoke which appeared so deadly is easy, and this burden is actually light.

*****

I’ve been a mother for 17 years now. During that time, I’ve learned to trust God increasingly. One fear at a time, by God’s grace, I’ve learned to walk in surrender and trust to God instead of dogged, frantic slavery to fear. Some areas have been easier to surrender than others, and some have been very, very difficult. Concerns still tempt me to succumb to fear’s tyranny instead of trusting God. Thankfully, it’s becoming easier for me to repent early on and place my trust back in God, especially with temporal things.

But my greatest fear as a parent…well, I have to repent of that daily. Sometimes multiple times a day.

My greatest fear as a parent is that one or more of my children will experience a Christless eternity.

You see, in Christ, there is always hope.

All sorts of horrible things can happen to my child physically and emotionally – accidents, broken relationships, abuse, illness, torture, death – but if, at some point during this life, my child is justified by grace through faith in Christ, then he has hope.

All sorts of painful consequences can be a part of my child’s future – low-income, poverty, bankruptcy, substance addiction, STDs, divorce, incarceration – but if, at some point during this life, my child is spiritually born again and adopted as God’s own child, then he has hope.

All sorts of deficiencies can be present in my child’s spiritual education and discipleship – inconsistencies, poor doctrine, misunderstanding, foolishness, lack of sound teaching altogether – but if, at some point during this life, my child is granted true repentance and faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, then he has hope.

Yet my child may live a life completely free from pain, misery, suffering, and consequences of his own sin. He may grow up in a doctrinally sound church with a love and zeal for Christ and good works. He may become an apologist, or even a preacher, and read classical Greek and Latin. He may never face any emotional or physical abuse. He may never suffer any major injuries or illnesses. He may never be attacked, robbed, or persecuted. He may live a morally upright life. He may follow the good old American script and graduate High School with honors, go straight on to college and earn a Master’s degree or Doctorate, then marry a lovely young lady and buy a McMansion in the suburbs. They may have 2.3 kids, a dog, and a garden, and live happily ever after with no scandals…not even an epic blowout argument. He may earn a generous income and provide his family a life of abundance and opportunity. He may serve faithfully in his church and reach out to help others in his community. He may live to a ripe old age and enjoy his grandchildren and great grandchildren, and then die peacefully, surrounded by family…but if my child is never born again, never recognizes the wickedness of his own heart, never turns from his sin in humble surrender and repentance to trust Christ alone as his Savior – then he lives and dies without hope, and his life was wasted.

This scares me so much.

It scares me for many, many people I love, but it especially scares me for my children. Some days the fear is almost unbearable. The uncertainty. The helplessness. The lack of control.

I can’t save them.

And I have no guarantee or certainty that they will be saved.

And yet, by God’s grace and mercy, I don’t have to live under fear’s tyranny in this area either.

By God’s grace, I can surrender the outcome to God, accepting that He alone is the one who changes sinners’ hearts.

By God’s grace, I can trust God’s promises, because He is faithful and trustworthy.

By God’s grace, I can be faithful to what God’s called me to do…to pursue Christ, to liberally use the means of grace, to pray, to feed on the Word, to live a life worthy of my calling, and to proclaim the marvelous truths of the gospel to myself, others, and my children.

By God’s grace, I can be content to trust, love, and worship God in Christ Jesus, come what may.

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