He's Got the Whole World in His Hands—Including Your Kids

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Parents are responsible to provide and care for their children. We are the primary disciplers of our kids. But parents are most fundamentally stewards. Though we’re called to faithfulness with our kids, they ultimately belong to a promise-keeping God who is more faithful than we are.

As Psalm 127 says, our children are a heritage from the Lord, an unmerited reward from him. The older our kids get, the more it becomes clear we can’t control their destiny. It doesn’t rest in our decisions or in theirs’. Our children’s future, their health, their skill, their will and desires for life, who they will choose as a spouse, and even how long they will live—all this belongs to God.

The enemy of stewardship is entitlement mixed with sentimentalism. An entitled dad with a sentimental vision thinks, This kid is mine. He’s going to be just like me. He’s going to be into the music I like. He’s going to love Alabama football just like I do. But when Dad’s expectations aren’t met and his kids don’t turn out the way he hoped, he’s angry, and he doesn’t know how to engage his child.

Likewise, the entitled mom thinks, I deserve better than this. Don’t you know how I suffered to bring you into the world. When her teenager rebels, she can turn bitter and feel lost with God.

Scary Stewardship Vision

A stewardship vision of parenting—one that says my kids belong to God—is scary, since God doesn’t always meet our expectations. He doesn’t see as we see, nor should he. His vision for our lives is better. Embracing this truth is ultimately freeing, and it will lead us to gratitude.

James K. A. Smith wrote the following in a letter to young parents in his church:

You’re going to think it’s incredible when Liam smiles, or says “Mama,” or rolls over on his tummy, but let me tell you: that won’t even compare to the afternoon when, in what feels like an out-of-body experience, you realize you’re having a conversation with this man—you might be sitting on the front porch talking about Mumford & Sons or Andy Warhol or World War II artillery, and for a moment you can hardly believe that the little bundle you brought home from the hospital has grown into this beautiful, mystifying, wonderful young man. And you realize that, in your son, God has given you one of your best friends in the whole world, and you try to suppress your smile while thinking to yourself, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

A covenantal way of thinking frees us from the pressure to get everything right with our parenting. In a fallen world, some kids will be sick, and some will fall away from the faith. We can never accomplish all our good goals for their health, education, manners, and athletics. Even the kind of future relationship Smith describes isn’t guaranteed. But a stewardship vision frees us to be thankful and enjoy God’s good gifts when they do come, because our kids (and all good things they bring into our lives) are undeserved gifts. As Paul says, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7).

Three Confessions

In the Baptist tradition, the practice of child dedication in corporate worship can help us to stop and begin to cultivate an attitude of grateful stewardship. It’s a way of publicly celebrating the good gift of children before our people. It’s a way of publicly practicing gratitude for our kids rather than complaining about them. It’s also a public confession that any good we receive at our children’s hands comes from the God who gave them to us.

Here are three confessions that can be made in a child dedication service.

First, God wants our kids, and ultimately their hearts and lives, to belong to him. So we confess together, “God, all we have—even our children—belongs to you. Everything we have is yours.”

Second, we don’t just dedicate our children; we dedicate ourselves. So we confess and affirm our God-given responsibility as parents.

Third, we ask for help in the form of a commitment from our local church, the believing community. So we ask them to confess, “We’re standing with you. We’re partnering with you as you raise your children in the faith.”

May the Lord inspire and encourage you as you consider planning a child dedication service for your church community.

This article was adapted from Before the Lord, Before the Church: ‘How-To’ Plan a Child Dedication, an eBook published by Sojourn Network. The notes in the book unpack each of these three confessions with more detail. It first appeared at The Gospel Coalition.

Two trips to the grocery store: parenting by grace in a performance world

Imagine heading over to your local grocery store. You pick up milk, bread, and eggs. You’ve got your kids in tow so you’re relieved when they don’t make too much of a scene. You head to the checkout counter. The cashier rings up your items and tells you your total. After you swipe your card and sign, she thanks you for shopping and hands you your receipt. As you walk out toward the parking lot, you look it over. That seems like a pretty normal trip to the grocer.

In the Bible, there are two basic kinds of relationship—contract relationships and covenant relationships.

In the Bible, there are two basic kinds of relationship—contract relationships and covenant relationships. A for-profit business—like a grocery store or coffee shop—typifies the contract relationship. A barista at your local coffee place provides you with an Americano and you leave a few dollars in return. In a contract negotiation, an arrival at a mutually satisfactory agreement is important. Like buying a car, it’s important to settle on a price before you take it off the lot.

Contracts have obligations and conditions that require performance. The terms must be fulfilled. If I go into business with you and I break one of the terms of our contract, our business relationship is over. And even when all of the terms are kept, some contracts—like the fading ink on a receipt—only last for a specified period of time. Because the parties in a contract are consumers, I may choose to break my contract on purpose if it no longer benefits me. Tim Keller describes it this way: "In a consumer relationship (a thing-oriented relationship), it could be said that the individual’s needs are more important than the relationship." If the grocery store down the street offers better quality produce or double coupons, I may walk away.

Now imagine a different trip to the store. This time, everyone there greets you by name, and when you head to the checkout, the manager begins to recount the history of your relationship with the store: “Donna first visited this location in 2005. She picked up puréed squash, peas, and bananas for her six-month old. We remember it like yesterday.” At this point, you’re thinking, “I know that they keep my purchase history with that Bonus Card, but this is pretty creepy.” Suddenly you see the manager is no longer reminiscing. He has his right hand raised, and he’s swearing an oath. We solemnly swear to provide you with non-GMO snack food choices and the most delectable selection of meats… Today’s shopping trip is our gift to you. We’re family. Take whatever you like.”

Covenant relationships arise out of a personal history and a desire for deeper intimacy.

Covenant relationships arise out of a personal history and the desire for a deeper intimacy. In a covenant, negotiation has no place. The stronger party, that is, the party who is greater in grace, makes a proposal and gives his friendship and help as a gift. Covenant relationships aren’t even maintained by performance. If I break promises that I’ve made to my wife—like failing to love and cherish her well when she is sick—that doesn’t mean that our marriage is over. Our relationship is maintained by loyalty and unconditional love.

Sociologists tell us the marketplace has become so dominant in our society that the consumer model increasingly characterizes most relationships. It’s easy to slip into this mindset with our kids. We parent with hearts set on “getting a return on our investment.” When our kids are cute and we’re posting fun stories and pictures of family night on Instagram, we feel good. But, when the kids are screaming and pitching a fit on aisle 7, we may feel like cutting our losses.

Kids are not commodities. Children are gifts.

In those moments, we must remember that kids aren’t commodities. Children are gifts (Ps. 127:3). They are not the products of our success. They weren’t given to us for our pleasure and benefit. Our responsibility is to press in daily with unconditional covenant loyalty and love. We can do this, because we have a heavenly Father who loves us, his children, in the same way. He keeps covenant with us even when we close our ears to his instruction and pitch fits about what he allows into our lives. He loved us even when we were sinners with sacrificial, covenant love (Rom. 5:8).

One of the ways we've encouraged a covenant mentality in parenting at the church I've served is through our child dedication process. Check out the e-book, Before the Lord, Before the Church: 'How-to' Plan a Child Dedication Serviceto learn more about how we maximize child dedication to training our moms and dads in covenant parenting. 

This post originally appeared at kidzmatter.com