By James Wilkins
I always thought that if I could just focus on those first 18 years, then I could release my children like the arrows of Psalm 127, and watch from the sidelines as they sailed on to hit their target and become the woman and man that God desires them to be.
Twenty-five years later, I realize that parenting is not merely what you do. It’s who you are.
I am my children's father, and I always will be! And that is God's plan. I am still actively fathering and Margaret is still actively mothering, even as this is written.
That is how it is and how it forever will be, and oh, how I love it!
We start off with the goal of mistake-free parenting. We measure our success as parents by how few mistakes we make because we somehow think that mistake-free parenting results in mistake-free children. Needless to say, that equation is not reality!
Despite our mistakes, if we commit ourselves to serve the Lord and to parenting over the long haul, we can indeed become the perfect parent for our children. Parenting is a lifetime calling. The rich man lifted up his eyes and cried these words: Father Abraham. The word that characterizes us beginning in this life and on through eternity is parenting!
The title Mother or Father or Mom or Dad, and then grandMa or grandDad, and even great grandMother or great grandFather all reiterate the truth of this lifelong role. Therefore, just as with our roles as husband and wife, we have an entire lifetime in which to parent, and with all of our shortcomings and failures, we still have the opportunity to get better at it. I said all that to say this:
Parenting is the most honorable and important and eternal calling of all. Any influence I may have on the next generations to come will be by way of parenting.
The New Testament begins with a genealogy, and in this lineage the word begat is repeated again and again, because our greatest influence from one generation to the next is by way of parenting!
In Deuteronomy 4:9 it says: “Only take heed to thyself, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life; but teach them to thy sons, and thy sons’ sons.”
In other words, even God’s plan for Himself to be known from one generation to the next involves parenting. We see this again in Deuteronomy 6:7: “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”
Every time God desires to do something in the earth, to save and deliver His people, He goes in search of a parent. When God wants to raise up a people to call His own, He finds Abraham and Sarah. When He decides to start all over again, He finds Noah and his family. When He desires to execute the plan of salvation, He finds Joseph and Mary. God is counting on every parent to impact the next generation via their children.
Being a great parent is not about making the fewest mistakes. Rather, it’s about faithfulness.
One of the things I realized is that parenting is even more work as your children get older, because it is more and more difficult to remain involved in their lives.
It takes work to remain involved in your child's life as they get older.
When kids get older, their lives become more secretive. They have their friends, their phone, their car, their job, their teachers and their confidants, and Mom and Dad can easily become nothing more than a spectator watching from the sidelines.
But just faithfulness to God is the greatest asset to parenting. Whether your children are Christians or not, they still need godly parents there, being an example of how to live life.
In 1995, God broke through my life and my preconceived ideas and taught me that my greatest calling is husband and father. I used to think that pastoring or ministry within the church was the primary calling, and so I was living my life in a way that reflected that. My wife and my children knew that the Church always came first, and I was proud of that.
If I had stayed on that course, I would not have what I have today.
Thank God, He broke through and I changed from being Pastor Dad to being Dad. My family became my priority!
Church was still a major part of our lives, but family became the priority. I changed my schedule and began to give myself over to just enjoying my family while at home.
I began to study and prepare sermons when my family was asleep, late at night or during the early morning hours.
Our weekends were times when we did everything as a family.
I volunteered and coached my kids’ football, basketball, baseball and softball teams. I went to their games and other various events. I visited them at school and our home became a place where their friends came and enjoyed themselves.
We began to go places as a family. Oftentimes we found ourselves with limited resources, but we still sacrificed to take vacations and holidays. Some of our greatest memories as a family came during those times.
I thank God that He broke through my life, because my family is today influenced by that decision I made many years ago to make family a priority.
I believe that because of that, a foundation has been laid and an example set that will shape my children's family and my children's children's families.
You are not perfect and you have done things you wish you had not, but lift up your eyes and realize that your commitment right now to parenting can compensate for and may even negate the failings of the past.
If your teenagers are growing distant, fight to stay involved in their lives! Fathers, take your daughter on dates. Take your sons with you, when you can.
Give your children the thing they need most: your time.
As they get older, they still require your time. But, oh, how things change. Margaret and Clarisse can spend hours window shopping or getting a manicure and pedicure and grabbing a bite to eat. They enjoy each other's company.
I have always said there is no greater joy than a round of golf with your son – just spending time together.
How wonderful it is to be a parent! I will forever have a place reserved in my child’s life that no one else has claim to.
Thank God for pastors, professors, coaches, and others – but there is only one father and one mother, and our influence is weighty.
So don't waste time comparing yourself to another parent. Just know this: that is the child God gave you and you are best parent for your child. This is a lifelong calling.
Let us get better and better and realize what a wonderful privilege God has afforded us to be called Mom or Dad!
In I Timothy 3, when the Bible speaks of the qualities needed to pastor, the focus is directed to a man's marriage and family.
The family is the prerequisite for ministry, in that capacity. Thus all that I desire to do for God flows out of my home.
This eternally propels the home to a place of preeminence!
We covet the title of Pastor. But there is another title that far exceeds that of Pastor – it is Parent.
It is by far the best and most honorable title given; better than Pastor, Teacher, Evangelist, Prophet, or any other. Father or Mother exceeds them all.