The ditch on the other side of the effort to raise up sons and daughters is that of idolatry. For part 1 of the conversation, check out this blog post.
One of the central issues of the Old Testament is the Hebrew people wrestling with idolatry. And yet, this isn’t merely an ancient struggle. Author/pastor Tim Keller says the human heart is an idol-producing factory. This is a grave danger for today’s well-intentioned parents. We get off-center, becoming distracted by the allure of the world to want more for our children. Combined with the dysfunction of our flesh, we end up in a ditch looking up at an idol we have fashioned; the idol of our children. Idolatry is taking a good thing and making it the ultimate thing.
Author Anna Harris helps sniff out idolatry by identifying these factors:
- You have sacrificed your identity – as ancient Israel had a desire to be like the surrounding nations, does your child’s life greatly impact your own? Does your son’s broken romance cause you to cry yourself to sleep? Do you go to great lengths to hide your daughter’s encounter with the police, even from your closest friends?
- Your loves are disordered – after a mental assessment of where you’re spending your money, energy, affection, and time, are your child’s activities pulling your family away from people or pushing them towards people? If we’re so busy with our own activities (baseball, piano, ballet, family vacations, or even church) to the point that we have little time for others, there is a problem.
- You have an unhealthy desire for control – over-parenting is a sign of idolatry. Idolatry is self-seeking. If my child’s life is perfect…if he or she is never hurt, angry, disappointed, or sad, never underachieves, loses, or (God forbid) FAILS, then my child will be good and happy. Right? And I will be a great parent. Right? Over-the-top parental control actually weakens a young person. If I don’t trust Jesus with my child, I can’t expect my child to trust Jesus when the decision is up to him or her.
With the threat of making idols out of our children, here’s how we can avoid the ditch:
- Repent of areas where idolatry has crept in.
- Elevate Jesus – “Jesus must become more beautiful to your imagination, more attractive to your heart, than your idol. That is what will replace your counterfeit gods. If you uproot the idol and fail to “plant” the love of Christ in its place, the idol will grow back.” – Timothy Keller
- Love your children extravagantly, and hold them loosely. They are not yours, and yet you’ve been given the task to raise them well.