The day turned out to be a good day. The Florida Sun came out that morning and the day warmed nicely. Amy was running a
few errands or was at the church building getting ready for some event, I really do not recall why I was home alone with our small son. We were relatively new to parenting, Andrew was a toddler, just a little over a year old – 16 months at the oldest. After lunch, I thought he would enjoy spending time outside in the swing. I pushed him in the swing until he was ready to get out and explore the wonders of nature. We sat down to watch a cricket or maybe a lizard. As we were watching this amazing creature I thought I heard some one come to the house. I poked my head around the house and saw no one. When I turned back to where Andrew was, he was gone!
I had turned my back for a few seconds; thirty at the most. Where could he be? I called out. No answer! I scanned the woods behind us yelling his name. No answer. Panic begins to flood my emotions. “Amy leaves me a one with him for a little while, and I have lost him.” I dart through the back yard looking for him and calling his name. I make the turn around the far side of the house near our neighbor and hear giggling and barking. Andrew was between our neighbor’s outbuilding and his dog fence watching this dog. My tears of panic turn to tears of relief and joy.
That five minutes of searching seemed like an eternity. I began to better understand what the father in Luke 15 felt when his younger son went missing and then when his older son was missing from the party. I began to better understand the Heavenly Father who longs for His children’s salvation.
Recently I read some statistics that indicate that 70-85% of our children will leave Christ between the ages of 17 and 20. The good news is that 66% of them will return to Christ at some point in their lives. The sad news is 34% will remain away from Christ and the Church. What can we do? This is personal because that toddler I lost for a few moments is now 17 and about to graduate high school. He is part of that group that has a frightening church drop-out rate.
Looking through scripture I have some suggestions, advice if you will. These are the things I tried and am trying to do so that he has a firm foundation to help him stay faithful to Christ. We started these things when he was too small to walk.
- Do not let children become too involved with the world. “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
- Go above and beyond good parenting. Do not stop at teaching good morals. Do not stop with classical education. Do more than just go to church. Be involved. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4).
- Discipline your children. To discipline is to train. This includes instruction, setting limits, and enforcement of those limits. “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15). “The rod” includes but is not limited to corporal punishment. Rod can mean standard or rule of discipline. If you do use a physical rod, know the difference between punishment and abuse. Refuse to strike a child when you are angry.
- Set a good example. Do not expect your children to learn not to be like you. On the contrary, expect them to imitate you throughout their life. Paul notes the origin of Timothy’s faith was the example set by his mother and grandmother. “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” (2 Timothy 1:5).
- Teach them the dangers of the world and their enemy the devil. Satan and the world promise great things, but those things disappoint at the least and destroy at their worst. “Be sober- minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8).
- Discuss faith as a family. This can take the form of family devotionals. This can take place at the family diner table. This can take place in the car, on vacation, or any time and place you are together. Use everyday teachable moments to discuss the things of God and to teach about His will. “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).