This is a little bit of a long post, but all of my efforts to split it into two posts fell flat. It just felt like I was leaving you hanging! So get yourself a cup of coffee to enjoy while you read some encouragement from Steve today.
We’re all familiar with the term “trophy wife.” This usually describes the rich, worldly man who chooses not to marry for love, but rather to marry for a suitable “trophy” to show off among his friends and business partners; a beautiful woman, beautifully dressed, perfectly coiffed manicured and lavishly bejeweled. Love never enters into this arrangement- it’s purely about image. Did you know we can also have “trophy children?”
When we raise “trophy children” it’s always about image – how we’re perceived by others. It’s about having the brightest, most talented, best behaved children among our peers. Love may not even enter into the equation. It’s about showing off what we have that they may not have. We may even think, “Your children are disrespectful, lazy, underachievers. But look at MY children! See how perfect they are? See how great I am? See how perfectly we raise our children? Don’t you wish you were like me?” Now that’s the cold, ugly side of it, of course. Few of us are that cold-blooded. But where does “wanting the best for our children” end and where does “look at my children – they’re perfect” begin? Sometimes the line is narrow.
We all know about “T-ball dads” or “cheerleader moms” who live vicariously through their children, insisting that their children be the best player on the team, or the best cheerleader on the field. Their children become an extension of their own ego and it’s less about who their children were created to be and more about how they want the world to see them as parents.
For some of us the temptation to raise “trophy children” is about academics. We want them to read before they’re three, speak French before they’re five, have the winning science experiment and make it to state finals in spelling bees. But for others it’s about raising spiritual “trophy children.” We want children who are active evangelists at seven, little Bible scholars at eight, number one in Sunday School attendance every year and we saddle them with expectations that none of us could possibly live up to.
How many among us can say we never fell victim to sexual sin or lust? How many of us can say we spent our youth praying and meditating on how to bring purity to Hollywood, holiness to Washington and revival to Europe? How many of us can say we only listened to Christian music in our youth? Yet these are the expectations we have for our children.
Don’t misunderstand. I am not saying that any of those things are bad. I am not saying we shouldn’t encourage our children toward righteousness and away from sin. Of course we should.
We should also recognize that our children are no different than we are, and that they need a Savior too.
They WILL fail. They WILL make poor choices.
And God still wants to meet them right where they are; just the way He met us in our sin.
My encouragement to you today is this; help your children achieve academic success and spiritual growth. Help them become the man or woman God created them to be. But never confuse YOUR desire to “look good” with your job as a parent in helping direct your children. The moment our child’s achievements and behavior become all about us “looking good” we have lost the battle – and we MAY lose our children. They have an innate sense about these things and know when they’re being used as pawns in an ego game.
Wives aren’t trophies. Neither are children. Both are to be loved and honored, cherished and nurtured. Both are to be served by us, rather than becoming servants for us. They do not exist to make us look better or feel better about ourselves. Rather they exist as a place for us to embrace self-sacrifice as we lay our lives down for someone else because of love. It never hurts to check our heart- to check our motives. Ask the Lord from time to time, “is this about them- or is this becoming about me?”
He will answer. He is faithful.
Homeschooling is a world where we often feel everyone is watching us; friends, family, neighbors and even the government. We want to succeed. We want to see our choice validated and to prove that our sacrifices have been rewarded. We want to present bright, well-educated, cheerful children with a deep sense of purpose and spiritual maturity beyond their years. But they’re still just children; just like we were.
The answer isn’t to simply let children wander aimlessly without academic goals or spiritual objectives. Rather it’s to check our hearts and test our motives. It’s easy to slip over the line and begin raising trophy children without even knowing it. Think about this. We want our children to be the best behaved among all their friends. Perhaps we want our children to be the best groomed or the best at serving others. Maybe we want them to be the best at Scripture memorization.
But there can only be one “BEST!”
Everyone else is “less than best.” Odds are that your child won’t be the best at geography, the best at history, the best at scripture memorization, the best at math, the best at soccer or the best at caring for those who are younger or weaker. Only one child can be “best” at any of those areas. But your child can be GOOD at some of those things. He may even be pretty good at most of those things! And that’s good enough.
God encourages us to grow, but he always loves us right where we are. We can do no less when it comes to our children.