I’m a sports guy. I played sports growing up. I wasn’t great, but I enjoyed it. Even today, there’s not much better to me than sitting on my couch on a Saturday afternoon watching college football. Or the World Series. Or the NBA finals. I’ll even settle for the World Cup.
But my kids? At this point, that doesn’t seem to be their “thing.” They’re more artistic than I am, more creative than I am, and even before their teenage years, are possibly more well read than I am. For them, spending three hours sitting on the couch watching grown men throw or hit or dribble something simply is not that interesting. They want to read, or to build, or to camp, or to whatever.
Those are all worthwhile pursuits. Not only that, but as parents, one of our roles is to help our children find their “thing.” The “thing” in question could be anything: baseball, dance, painting, playing the piano, academics – you name it. It’s that thing that your child is gifted at, enjoys, and takes pleasure in.
Here’s the thing, though – I think we naturally want our kids to have our “thing.” That’s the easy, comfortable way. I know a lot about baseball, and so it’s not a difficult thing for me to show my kids how to field a ground ball, catch a pop fly, or correct their batting stance. It’s a lot more difficult to be the one dad in the group of dads who has to read the instructions on the tent before he tries to set it up, and then to ask for help from other dads because it’s getting dark outside. I want my thing to be their thing for the same reason I want everyone to have my general interests and opinions – because deep in my heart, I’m convinced that I’m right.
Problem is, my kids are created in the image of God. Not the image of me. Oh sure, they might have my genes, but God has individually and purposefully shaped them to be just as He desires them to be. My job, as their father, is to further that shaping for the sake of the kingdom of God, not to relive my own childhood through them.
One of the ways we do that as parents is to make their “thing” your “thing.” That means, for me, I need to know who the characters are in The Mysterious Benedict Society. It means I need to care about the intricate stories surrounding the carefully built Lego village. It means I need to intentionally invest and learn about their interests.
For us, as parents, this is one more area in which we have the opportunity to embrace the sanctifying work of Jesus in our lives as we think of others as better than ourselves.
The fact that their “thing” is not your “thing” is not only evidence of your children’s individuality; it’s also evidence of God’s commitment to our sanctification as parents. Our children, like our marriages, are one of the primary means by which God convicts us of our sin and brings us into maturity. One reason our children are given to us, then, is for our own discipleship.
So today, moms and dads, take up the challenge of dying to self. Put away your selfish ambition and vain conceit. Do it for the sake of your children, but do it also for the sake of your own souls.