"A CHILD LEFT TO HIMSELF..." by John W. Moore
Nearly forty-five years later, it is as vivid as it was the day it happened. The aroma of bacon cooking over an open fire; the sounds of water cascading over the rocks of the Colorado River; the fishing poles leaning carefully against the old shady oak tree; the feel of the cool morning breeze wafting its way through our tent; my wonderful ol’ Dad sipping on his disgusting ol’ syrup-thick-brewed-river-coffee; and my sweet, dear mother traversing through our campsite keeping everything organized. I was having the time of my life in the great outdoors getting to do what I absolutely loved to do: exploring, fishing, adventure around every corner, surviving in the wilderness, and living off the land (and of course on lots of snacks brought from home) was to me a little like going back in time and pretending I was a Native American, or on an expedition with Lewis and Clarke. I loved the outdoors and Mom and Dad knew it too. They were the first to introduce me to its numerous wonders, and encouraged my appreciation of it by allowing me to join the Boy Scouts, buying me camping gear, and taking me and my brother and sister fishing, camping, and hunting as often as they could. It was the laughter and fun we had along the way that made it all so meaningful. It was the working together to get things done and the common experiences that helped bind us together as a family. It was also on those trips that we talked and shared our innermost thoughts and concerns. As we gazed into the star-filled sky, we reflected on the creative power of the Majesty on high and reminded one another that God was, and is, truly powerful.
Their interest in me and the things I enjoyed doing didn’t end with the outdoors. When it came to sports, one or both of them were always (and I do mean always) at every game. Starting with my older brother who played several sports, my sister who marched in the band, and then my own years of little league sports, basketball, and football, there is absolutely no telling how many games and practices my parents attended. Like my wife, Carla, has done for several years for our boys, my mother often cooked for the team, and became a second mom to many of the boys.
All of their interest in my activities, however, wasn’t simply an attempt to make me happy. Rather, it was about building and maintaining a relationship with me. Time and attention are essential ingredients in developing and nurturing any relationship, and with children you only have a small window of opportunity to seize the day. Well known author Josh McDowell once said, “rules without relationship equals rebellion.” Relationship building requires time. Being a parent involves so much more than just issuing dictums about right and wrong, or giving orders to ‘clean up your room” or ‘take out the trash.’ In fact, those who limit their parenting to verbal instruction will likely never be successful in rearing a child who will want to serve the Lord. Children need lots of attention. They need hugs and words of encouragement. They need to know that they are important and loved. Everyone has the need to be appreciated and valued, and their self will only be nurtured when parents give attention to their children’s interest and talents.
Showing an interest in your children and in the things they enjoy is absolutely essential for the building of relationships. When my wife and I first got married she knew very little about football and didn’t really care too much for it either, but when our boys began hitting the grid iron she became an avid fan. Not once did she leave with them the impression that she wasn’t interested in them or what was important to them. Over the years she learned more and more about a sport she never played, asking them informed questions like “what’s the difference between man and zone coverage.” She also made pizza rolls for the team, purchased their favorite Gatorade, and spent lots of time looking for that all important PowerBar. Our boys have not doubted for a minute whether or not their mom was interested in them. As a result she and they have found it is easier to communicate and when it came time to having those “right from wrong talks”, they were a whole lot more willing to listen and more receptive to her advice.
Of course, relationship building involves much more than just being at all your children’s activities. Spending time with them should mean more than just sitting next to them watching television or proudly clapping for them from the bleachers. Planning outings, involving them in sports, taking them to guitar lessons are all really a means to an end. With each activity you are creating memories and sharing common experiences that will serve to bind you together as parent and child. You are also giving them an opportunity to develop character and an appreciation for the values of life.
The values we often want our children to acquire can so often be developed and nurtured in their interest and activities. An outdoor camping outing can teach the needed skill of organization, planning, resourcefulness, and educate them to the design of God’s marvelous creation. Music lessons, playing in a band, or sports can help teach self-discipline, hard work, and the importance of working on a team. Children need to be kept busy doing things or else they will resort to the virtual worlds of pseudo fantasy presented on the television or on the internet. If that gets taken away, they will find someone or something to fill the void.
Relationship building and the acquiring of life skills and values are all a part of parenting in the biblical way. We must always remember the ever-practical advice of the proverb writer, “a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Pro. 29:15). This means we must be involved in their lives and mold them into productive Christians by spending time to plan and promote meaningful activities for their spiritual well being and social development. Parents have an awesome responsibility and an incredible blessing to “train up a child” (Pro. 22:6). They have been given the daunting task of guiding the home and bringing up their children (1 Tim. 5:14; Eph. 6:4). They are truly a blessing from the Lord (Ps. 127:3) and we must therefore be a good steward of that which he has entrusted to our care. “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man, so are children of the youth” (Ps. 127:4). Let each parent then become a mighty parent warrior that will take the necessary time to make sure that our children are headed for the target of Christian virtues and a heavenly home.