The Blessing - 3

Mark 10:13-16

Two weeks ago we began a short series on parenting, based on the principles in the book The Gift of the Blessing.

And we began by looking at the OT practice of the blessing that a father would bestow on his children, and then considered how important that same kind of blessing is today – not just as a one-time event, but as an on-going, life-long commitment to our children to communicate our love and support for them. And I talked about how important that was to our children’s future, and how when that blessing is withheld, it leads to all kinds of difficulties as an adult.

That blessing, when communicated often and sincerely, frees our children to live lives that aren’t tied to unresolved issues with their childhood, where love was conditional and approval was based on performance. When we give our children the blessing, it frees them to be fully adults and see God’s love in their lives through the lens of grace.

That blessing affirms our children in countless way, but we noticed these four specifically last week: It affirms who you are and whose you are – your identity. It gives meaning and purpose in life. It extends God’s protective arms around you. And it marks those significant milestones in our life.

There are five elements of the blessing: A parent’s blessing begins with meaningful touch. It continues with a spoken message of high value, a message that pictures a special future for the individual being blessed, and one that is based on an active commitment to see the blessing come to pass.

Last week, we looked at the first three of the elements. This morning, we’ll focus on the last two:

The fourth element of the blessing is picturing a special future for your child.

What kind of future do your words picture for your children? When it comes to predictions about their future, children are literalists – particularly when they hear predictions from their parents, the most important people in their lives. If you are always teasing your children about some flaw in their appearance or their personality, they will take it to heart.

If you continually tell them they are fat or lazy or dumb or ugly (even in joking), that will become a defining characteristic in their mind. They will come to accept that, even embrace that in their mind as how they are, because you see them that way. They will subconsciously sabotage themselves to live up (or down) to your expectations for them.

And some of you know what I’m talking about. You heard those words, and though they were painful, you came to believe that’s the way it was. And so, if your mother told you you were dumb, you avoided situations where you might have that confirmed. If your father told you you were lazy and irresponsible, even though you resented it, you adopted that as your way of dealing with responsibilities that did come your way. If a parent told you you were homely or ugly, you became self-conscious and saw yourself as unworthy of other people’s attention or friendship.

If we carelessly use our words, they have the tragic and powerful ability to predict a bleak future for our children that they will end up fulfilling.

Let me go back to that scripture that we looked at last week from Ephesians 4:29, Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

If you are to give the blessing to your children, you need to intentionally and selectively choose your words to build them up according to their needs. And that includes picturing their future as a pathway illuminated with hope and purpose.

In the darkest hour of their history, Jerusalem was surrounded by Nebuchadnezzar’s armies and their future was filled with despair. God, through his prophet Jeremiah reframed their future, telling them that yes, they would be taken into captivity and go into exile in Babylon for seventy years, but “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer 29:10-11)

On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples that before the night was over he would be arrested, tried, crucified and die. They were stunned and in shock, and then Jesus said to them: “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3)

Time and again, God gives us a picture of our special future with him through his eyes.

You’ve watched a caterpillar emerge from its cocoon as a beautiful butterfly. The actual term for the transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly is the Greek word, “metamorphosis.” Paul used this same Greek word in the book of Romans when he writes, Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom 12:2) In his second letter to the Corinthians he writes, And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:17)

Our words really do have that kind of transforming power. Children are filled with the potential to be all God intended them to be. When the Lord entrusts them into our care, he makes us stewards of that potential and their abilities. What we say shapes and develops their thoughts and thinking patterns. Loving words that picture a special future help children grow and develop in a positive way.

Now, don’t misunderstand. When I say picture a special future for your children, I don’t mean that you pick their career and funnel them into that, or that you live vicariously through their accomplishments. Just because you love baseball doesn’t mean your son needs to love baseball. Just because you are a skier doesn’t mean you start grooming your children for the Olympics someday.

You’ve heard the passage from Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Now, that verse has been misused in so many ways, and often read in a way that places incredible guilt on parents whose children did not follow in the way they were taught. But there is another way to translate that verse that makes much more sense: “Train up a child according to his bent.” Find out what they are interested in and help them to follow that. Encourage, inspire and give them the resources to succeed in the path they choose.

Become a student of your child. Get to know him or her and their uniqueness. Stay tuned into their interests and help them to find their best path. In the book The Blessing, John Trent described what that looked like in his mother. He described her bookshelves in her home: there was a section on theology and psychology, and a second was filled with medical journals and books on genetics. The third shelf is lined with past issues of Heavy Equipment Digest and numerous books on operating heavy construction equipment. The reason for her eclectic reading list? Well, her son John is a minister and psychologist, a second son is a medical doctor who specializes in genetic research in the battle against cancer. And the third son is a heavy equipment operator. She takes a deep interest in each of their careers and wants to be able to have informed discussions with them on the things that they are interested and involved in.

Your children need you to observe and listen to what they have an interest in or a passion for. Help bring out the best in their lives. Help them find a positive direction to strive toward and surround them with hope. Encourage them with your words to pursue those things that will help them find their place in God’s world.

Years ago, our son Tim loved music and wanted to find some place in the music world where he could make a living and follow his passion. We had a friend at the time whose brother was a music producer for Sony Records. We called and made an appointment to travel to Nashville to music row, and Chris Waters spent an hour with us giving Tim direction on how to get into the music business.

Tim ended up going to Lipscomb University in Nashville on a cross-country scholarship and majoring in accounting, but at the end of his freshman year, he called me up and said “Dad, my friend and I have come up with a plan to get into the music recording business. We’re going to enroll in Full Sail University in Orlando, FL and major in recording engineering. What do you think?”

What would you say? I said, “I think you ought to go for it.” I knew Tim’s heart wasn’t in accounting, and I didn’t want him waking up one day, 40 years old and sitting in a cubicle wishing he’d pursued his dream. So he went, and though he hasn’t ended up in the music business that path led him to a series of encounters and opportunities that have led him to where he is today, doing something that he loves and excels in.

When we talk about picturing a special future, we must also back that up with an active commitment to that future.

If all your involvement is is words, but you never have the time or take the time to actually do anything with them, those words will be pretty hollow and even counterproductive.

Active commitment comes in the form of devoting our time and energy and resources toward helping our children achieve that future we’ve pictured for them. It involves staying connected and interested in who they are and what they love. Share their interests and be able to talk intelligently about the things that get them excited.

It is hard work, and costly – not necessarily in the monetary sense, but in the energy and effort it takes to stay connected and be involved. It will demand sacrifices from you if you are going to make them a priority in your life.

And along with walking beside them in their journey, we need to model for them the kinds of qualities that will help them be successful in life: Commitment to excellence, discipline, perseverance, faithfulness, forgiveness, compassion, strong relationships and dependence on God.

These are qualities and choices that must be learned. And if they don’t see them modeled in us, they will certainly have the opposite of them modeled by the world.