Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2a.
Raising children is like making soup. It takes lots of patience and simmering to get it right. — Anonymous
My long-time pastor Bill Whitwer used to tell me every time I bemoaned a hardship in life that God was providing a wonderful “opportunity” to grow my dependence on Him, my faith in Him, and my love for Him. There were some times when I thought, “Bill, you have no clue.” I was kind of exhausted over all the “opportunities” I was getting to grow my faith. I would have been perfectly fine with an email from heaven that gave me a few bullet points. I knew scripture covered everything, but the “Cliffs Notes” would have been nice.
The memory makes me smile today as I look back on all those years of struggle as a parent because I see how right Bill was—and that even when I did not see it in the moment, God was hearing every prayer and He was working out His purposes in His time and in His way. I am the poster child for Isaiah 55:8 that. “His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways.” No kidding.
I look at this verse in Hebrews 12 and I have several thoughts, along with a disclaimer since I never attended seminary. But when I think of a cloud of witnesses, I think beyond the heroes of the Old Testament. I think of faithful generations of our own families who came before us who loved God and who prayed fervently for their children, setting the example for the generation that came behind, who set an example for the next, and the next generation.
Those prayers are ever so much more effective than a government program and will be till the end of time. But I don’t intend to get all political here. That is just an observation.
I love to read The Wall Street Journal on Saturdays because that is really the only day I have time to linger over numerous cups of coffee and conversation at the breakfast table. This, too, is kind of déjà vu in that reading the newspapers and talking over breakfast was something I observed my parents do all my years under their roof. I think most of us become our parents at some point whether we intend to or not. It is so obvious that we are shaped by the example we see during our formative years.
That would explain a lot of the good and the bad that we see in our culture today. The family was indeed God’s original plan and the influence—even in its distorted image—is just a fact. We imitate what we see. Imagine what “transforming America” might look like if we went back to following the gospel.
This month’s cover story on Dr. Tom McCraney is close to my heart. The McCraney’s fourth child and my firstborn were in the same class—kindergarten through grade 12 and even through four years of college. I have seen up close and personal Tom’s “fathering” efforts and, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. He did it according to the example his father passed on to him and likely, his grandfather had passed on to his own dad, and the community is better for it since all of his children have become “givers” in their families, and in their professions, and in their communities.
You can call this the “Dad” issue. One size does not fit all. Families are unique, and I think, that too, is a God thing. What encouraged me most as we put this together is the real meaning of the ever politically correct word “diversity.” We found diversity—fathers who work in different professions and who face totally different challenges on every front. What is not diverse is that they are all wise enough to know where the real courage, strength, and help are found.
I hope you are as encouraged as I was as I met them!
Happy Father’s Day!