I felt joy rising in my heart. The acceptable earmarks of what I always wanted for my son exceeding my expectations. Top of his class. Outrunning 42 kids in a race against time. Impossibly blue eyes and wavy blonde hair. The praise of his Sunday School teachers, gushing about his heartfelt prayers. It seems we are on the path to all that would make a father proud and a mother glad.
As far as I could see, those years of prayers and training are paying off.
At age 6.
And though those qualities are wonderful and by all intents and purposes, things to rejoice over, those are not the earmarks of what God desires. And ultimately, they are not the measurements by which I want to find my deepest joy for my son.
When I consider culture, the report card of success looks a lot like achievement, possessions, power, and position.
If our children perform, push to the top, cooperate with others, and exude talent, then we feel that as parents we have served them well. And we not only love them but we also get to like them…for being so likeable.
But then there’s the child who prefers recess to reciting poems. Who can’t swing a bat to save his life. There’s the child who exudes passion but expresses it at all the wrong moments. The little girl who can never seem to color between the lines or spends hours doodling when she should be finishing math homework. The daughter who avoids youth group.
And our hearts drop in disappointment. We mentally fill out a report card with our own names at the top and write ourselves off as failures and our children as less than.
But what if our parental progress report looked more like Philippians 2:3-11?
Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had,
who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature.
He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death —even death on a cross! As a result God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow —in heaven and on earth and under the earth— and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
The eternal measuring stick is one that tracks the growth of character.
As someone who blossoms under the canopy of affirmative words, I tend to be effusive in my praise towards my sons. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But heaven forbid the day that their outward achievements begin to be the earmarks of excellence and the badges on my own mantle for motherhood.
When am I successful as a mother? I’m successful when I can be thankful for their cultural strides but passionate about their spiritual upbringing.
I’m successful when I stop expecting them to be Spiritual giants who make every right move when they are young in both physicality and faith.
I’m successful when I lead them gently to Jesus and let the Holy Spirit take the time to cultivate inner strength as they grow in Godliness.
I’m successful when I understand that my role is to model what I say and raise them in the way they should go but release their individual walks with God to the One Who cares for them more than I do.
I’m successful when I serve them and though they treat me like a servant, I respond with love and grace.
Success as a parent is not about who my kids become. It’s not about the school they go to or the sports they master. It’s not even about having “good” kids who outwardly display all the right behavior.
Success is cultivating within me a servant’s heart and realizing that the dreaded cross of Jesus’ day was defeat redefined. I become a “successful parent” when my passion for holiness in my own life trumps other people’s opinions. And I become successful as a parent when I have been faithful to parent with love and grace and I can stop rewarding or punishing myself for the choices of my child who is old enough to choose their own path whether future pastor or prodigal.
It’s God who gets the glory. It’s we who get the parental privilege.
I’ll never stop cheering my sons towards excellence in all things and affirming them for their strides. But I’ll know I’m truly successful when accolades don’t change the way we live our lives and temporal rewards dictate our worth. I’ll know I’m successful when I have trained them in truth and then let them run their own race. And all of us will have reached the top when we are laid low in this life and we can still feel like winners. We lose our life to gain it. We think nothing of ourselves, looking beyond the banners of earthly victories into the glorious glow of a Father well pleased.
YOUR TURN! In what ways do you see the measurements of success in our culture today? How do they differ from God’s standard?
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