Looking for Perfect Godly Parents
by Pastor Skip Heitzig
The family is the basic core unit of any society. History has proven that as the family goes, so goes the society. And today, there are powerful cultural forces working against our families. These same forces fight against the very biblical model of a family.
Answer: What Is Family?
For some time, your family has been under attack. Social Scientist James Wilson said, “We are witnessing a profound worldwide long-term change in the family that’s likely to continue for a long time.” He said, “The scale of marital breakdown in the West since the 1960s has no historical precedent.” Do you understand what that means? He “can’t find any other period of time in history that parallels the kind of time we’re seeing in the West in terms of the marriage and family breakdown. None.”
See if you agree with this statement: ‘When I was a kid, everybody knew the definition of a family’. We did, right? It was a husband and a wife with or without children. Today, it’s not so easy to identify the family. Politicians can’t even agree on the definition of a family. In fact, they’re so skittish about giving a definition that they want to include everyone - which is impossible.
Over 50 years ago, a sociologist and historian named Karl Zimmerman concluded that the decline of civilizations and the breakdown of families paralleled one another. And he stated, “Marriage loses it sacredness, it’s frequently broken by divorce, the traditional meaning of the marriage ceremony is lost, feminine movements abound, there’s an increased disrespect for parents and authority in general, there’s a growing desire for an acceptance of adultery, there’s an increase in and spread of sexual perversions and sex-related crimes, and a refusal of people with traditional marriages to accept family responsibilities.” If this almost prophetic quotation from 1947 isn’t a wake-up call for us today, then I don’t know what would be. Our families are in crisis.
Honey on the Lips
News flash- there’s no such thing as perfect parents! But you can be a good parent. And if you want to be a good parent, you cannot be passive, aloof, unengaged, or uninvolved.
What does it mean to “train up a child”? (Proverbs 22:6). Certainly, it isn’t about being passive. It isn’t simply tossing out a few words of advice every couple months. In this sense, “training” involves active, daily engagement and encouragement. The Hebrew word for “train,” hanoch, means “to put something into somebody’s mouth” or “to affect their taste.”
An Arabic word closely associated with hanoch describes a process in which adults place a drop of date honey on their little finger- and then place it across the lips of a newborn. The honey stimulates the sucking reflex necessary for breastfeeding. When Solomon used the phrase “train up a child,” he actually meant to stimulate that child’s hunger and thirst for godliness and godly behavior.
Do you play with your child? Do you pray with your child? Are you actively involved in stimulating their desire to be godly? If your little girl says, “I want to be just like Mommy when I grow up,” is that a good thing? If so, then you are “training” up your child “in the way he should go.” And this is the wise thing to do- this is our responsibility as Christian parents.
To Build a Boy
I believe there are two principal reasons for the dysfunction and breakdown in the family. First, there is proximity without intimacy.Meaning? There is physical closeness but emotional detachment.
Back in the 1800s, there was a notably busy politician named Charles Francis Adams who kept a journal. One day his journal entry said: “Went fishing with my son today. A day wasted.” Adams’ son also kept journal and on this same day he wrote: “Went fishing with my dad today. The most wonderful day of my life.” A great example of proximity without intimacy. Even though the father and son were in the same boat, they weren’t on the same page. And it’s much easier to build a boy than to repair a man.
Gallup polled a thousand teenagers and learned during the 24-hour period test period, 42% of them had not received words of praise. Half of them had not received a hug or a kiss and 44% never heard the words, “I love you.” Our families need to be buttressed, built up, and fortified in that love.
While proximity without intimacy was the first cause of a family dysfunction, there is another factor.
His Great Mercy
The family also had dissension without resolution. An example of this truth is found in an unresolved, long-time rift between David and his son, Absalom. Absalom killed his brother, set a field ablaze, and started a coup (2 Samuel 13-15). All of this just to get his father’s attention!
Well, what eventually happened? Historically, we know Absalom was successful in his subversion and managed to split the nation. In fact, Absalom inaugurated himself as the king and rallied a large group of people against David (2 Samuel 15-18). He managed to kick King David out of Jerusalem - his father had to flee like a refugee. All of it amounted to a colossal family feud!
Finally, David’s army was about to face Absalom in battle. During the briefing before the battle, Scripture says that King David commanded his three generals to: “’Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.’” (2 Samuel 18:5). David was only thinking about his son. Then, during the battle, Absalom is killed and a runner brought the news that David and his army had won the war. The king didn’t care that they had won! He asked: “Is the young man Absalom safe?” (2 Samuel 18:29). He wasn’t focused on the battle or thinking, ‘I hope I get to Jerusalem by the end of the month. I hope I get my throne back.” King David’s mind was focused on his son.
Now, some of you are probably thinking of your own parents and saying, “My dad doesn’t care about me. My mom never even thinks about me.” Believe me, they’re thinking about you right now. And you may argue, “Then why don’t they ever call me?” For three years, Absalom was in Jerusalem yet his father David never went to him. Why didn’t he do it? I don’t know.
But if you’re a mother or father and there is a division in your family, please do whatever it takes to reach out and heal it – to close the rift. Or, if you’ve been hurt by your parents, don’t sit there and say, “Well I’m just going to wait for them to call.” Instead, call them first. And tell them that you love them.
Why? Why should you reach out, even if the separation is no fault of yours? Because of His great mercy. Did you forget? Jesus Christ has forgiven you and God has given you His unconditional love. Don’t you think that people who have received unconditional love should give unconditional love? In fact, the only ones equipped to show unconditional love are those who have received unconditional love. As a Christian, you must mend your relationships.
In 2 Samuel 18:33, we read of King David weeping, “And as he went he said thus: ‘O my son Absalom - my son, my son Absalom - if only I had died in your place!’” Sadly, David’s reaction is too little too late. Two years earlier, his son was in Jerusalem. Now, there is only the death of his son - there isn’t any resolution.
Filtered Through Failure
In emergency rooms and hospitals, I’ve seen so many reruns of the biblical story of David and Absalom played out in families. In fact, I watched it happen in my own family. My father was very aloof and very proud. And my older brother had a longstanding disagreement with him - neither one of them would budge. I even watched them have a fistfight in our own home. And this rift grew and grew- until the night my father called me on the phone. I had never heard such grief in a voice until he said, “Your brother’s been killed in a motorcycle accident.”
Of course, our whole family grieved and was torn apart by my brother’s death. But it absolutely crippled my father. For the rest of his life, my father filtered everything through their failure to reconcile.
That Same Something
But, there are ways to secure your families and your relationships. The first principle is communication. As a family, learn to communicate. The church has many resources to help you do that. Because how you communicate with your children will set the pattern for how they will communicate with their children and grandchildren.
The second principle is to humble yourself. Bring your family together and begin with these sentences: “I’m sorry for…” Don’t use something like “I have a few things I want to point out to you.” Instead begin with “I’m sorry for…” or “Forgive me for….” As you use these words, you’re setting up the ability for your children to use humility in their future.
While there are no perfect parents or perfect families or perfect home, you can have and should have a secure home. I received a note from a little girl who wrote, “My dad says I’m enormously gorgeous.”
“I wonder if I really am. To be enormously gorgeous, Sarah says you need to have beautiful long curly hair like she has. I don’t. To be enormously gorgeous, Samantha says you need to come from a perfect family and I don’t. But every night at bedtime my dad gives me a big hug and says, ‘You are enormously gorgeous and I love you.’ Hmm, my dad must know something my friends don’t.”
I hope that you know that same something that nobody else knows. When your babies wake you up at 1 a.m., then 3 a.m., and again at 5 a.m. – those moments are gifts. They’re all gifts. Your children don’t yet have the equipment to deal with life like you do. We don’t have to be perfect or flawless or never make mistakes. Instead, do your part as their Christian mother or father to communicate with them, humble yourself to them, and help to shape your precious children.
So, play with your child and pray with your child. Stimulate their desire to be godly. And when your little boy says, “I want to be just like Daddy when I grow up,” you can be confident that this is a good thing.
Skip Heitzig is senior pastor at Calvary of Albuquerque. In 1982, Skip began a home Bible study which eventually grew into Calvary of Albuquerque. In 2008 Calvary of Albuquerque was considered the 20th largest church in America according to Outreach magazine. Today, Calvary of Albuquerque ministers to over 13,500 adults and their children every weekend and has spun off over 40 churches internationally. Skip lives in Albuquerque with his wife, Lenya, and their son, Nathan.