You Should and Our Children
Yes, we are told in general terms to raise our children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4, KJV). Sampson’s parents, however, were given very specific guidance for “the boy’s rule of life and his work.” It’s also important to note in Manoah’s case that he was given this guidance because he asked for it. As a dad, I did my best to seek God on how to steer each of my five children based on revelation from God as to what their talents and abilities were and how to maximize them. I didn’t rely solely on what I could see by my natural observations but also on what I believe I had heard from the Lord about who they were.
The “man” or angel who spoke to Manoah is a “type” of God or more specifically the Holy Ghost. The angel coming to Sampson’s parents in the Old Testament/Covenant is but a shadow of what we can have as parents under the New Covenant. As partakers of the New Covenant, we have the covenant blessing of communion with the Holy Spirit, “the Helper,” the one “who guides us into all truth” (John 14:16, 26, John 16:13, NIV). The Holy Spirit can share God’s divine plan with us. He reveals pieces of God’s divine blueprint for our children’s lives. As parents, we can be “legit” godly voices for our kids if we seek God’s “rule for their life and work” and let him “teach us what we shall do” as we raise them.
My pastor Sean Moore shared something interesting about finding our “you should” and it's connection to finding the “you should” of our children. He said in effect, finding my lane, my “you should” “makes it easier for my kids to find theirs; they're not always the same, but they're often connected.” (Moore S. , 2017).
I found this fascinating because in my life I have found it to be true. First and foremost, I have tried to model that the best way to find your destiny is to seek God. I have also been a model for my kids of seeking a non-traditional career path. I don’t think it’s an accident that I started pursuing a career in entertainment and my older three kids all have careers in entertainment. My oldest daughter once referred to me as “Joe Jackson,” referring to how Michael Jackson’s father forced Michael and his brothers into entertainment. I used to make my kids do shows to entertain “the old folks.” But once I saw the movie about how Joe Jackson forced Michael, I stopped forcing my children to entertain.
I can honestly say that as the kids got older, I just tried to help launch them into areas where they were talented or that I saw that they had a particular interest. It is important to note that in my case, my “you should” was connected to the “you shoulds” of my oldest three kids. I was able to lead the way by being the first one through the door and then later to provide financial help as they got started in their careers.
Now as I am writing my fourth book I think my youngest two daughters will be writers. I have seen their tremendous talent in writing poetry and short stories. One of them is majoring in English in college and is also getting pulled by others (not me, smile) into drama because she is a natural at acting. I mentioned this notion of being a writer to my youngest daughter recently, and she is still in denial! (smile) But it illustrates my approach; I see a talent or a gift, I pray about it and then if I sense Holy Spirit’s agreement I try to guide them toward it. They, as in the case of my youngest daughter and being a writer, may not agree at the time, but only time will tell as to whether I was off-base as to what I was sensing.
It won’t always be the case, however, that our lane is the same lane as our kids or that they are connected at all. We have all seen movies and heard stories of parents trying to force their kids to go into the “family business” or to follow a career path that they followed. Some of that is just insecurity. We think that somehow our kids are looking down on our career choice instead of realizing that they are different. Some of it is pride. We think somehow, maybe without verbalizing it, that we are more talented, sharper, better than our kids, so why shouldn’t they follow in our footsteps, otherwise they would have no chance of success. Some of it is just laziness. As parents, we’re too lazy to put in the time to investigate our children’s talents and abilities. We’re too lazy to seek God’s face, as to what direction to launch them in. Finally, as parents, we don’t put enough love into action to invest the necessary resources in discovering and developing our kid's talents.
Yes, it costs money to find out that they really can’t play an instrument or that they don’t enjoy ballet. Sometimes as parents instead of relishing the discovery of all the things that our kids are not because it’s expensive, we say “you started it, you need to finish it,” “stick it out to the end,” “don’t be a quitter.” While there is some value in this approach, often the truth is just that we are cheap and lazy. The truth is that we don’t put a high enough value on the discovery of what our child’s lane is, so we take the easy way out and force them to continue doing something that they are not good at, don’t have any desire for, etc.
I remember watching my son play T-ball. He had no interest in it whatsoever. I distinctly remember him walking to first base. The ladies in front of me said: “He’ll never die of a heart attack.” I wasn’t amused but instead of yelling at him and saying “you should” run, “you should try harder,” or “you should do what the other boys are doing,” I just chalked it off as “not it.” Later, unfortunately, I had gotten to the point where I had wrongly concluded my son didn’t like athletics.
Then one day I looked out the back window and my son was doing front and back flips on a neighbor’s trampoline. It scared me pretty bad. All I could think of was neck injuries and broken bones. I would never have tried it and probably wouldn’t have let him try it if he had asked. Later I saw him teach himself to do flips off the diving board. Again, something I would NEVER try. In high school, he created a dance/step team and was an amazing dancer! So, he was interested in athletics; just not the athletics that I was interested in. He was a very good athlete, and I could have easily harmed that with a badly placed “you should.” We have so much influence in our lives, whether we realize it or not, so we have to be careful of how we use it.
I have to share a humorous story from one of my new friends. He shared how he was an exceptional football player in high school and had gotten scholarship offers from Syracuse and the US Air Force Academy. He told me that he wanted to play at Syracuse, alongside Donovan McNabb, who later went on to a great career as the quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. His father wanted him to stay close to home in Texas. So, his father said, “how are you going to get around in Syracuse? If you stay here, I will buy you a car.” My friend took the bait and accepted a scholarship at a small school near home in Texas. Two years later he had a car but was miserable in Texas and left the scholarship and enlisted in the Air Force. He is currently enjoying a successful career in the Air Force as an Air Force officer. He could have been an officer a little bit faster and perhaps a little bit farther down the road if his dad had used the great influence that he had a little more constructively.
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