While on the elliptical machine at the gym this morning I read this sweet feel-good article in a women's magazine about how parents should stay focused on "walking alongside" our children with encouragement and support rather than "walking behind" them, pushing them to do and be more. I thought it was really sweet and helpful to keep in mind. But as I continued my workout, I couldn't stop thinking about how something was missing from that article. It was a good reminder, but only in part.
Because my children need me behind them. Our children need us to challenge and push them when necessary. But even more-so they need us behind them to catch them.
Yesterday Griffin fell down our entire flight of stairs. Do you know why? Because I wasn't behind him. I wasn't there to catch him. He's gotten fairly sturdy on the stairs and I let my guard down. He's only 17 months for goodness sake...why on earth did I let my guard down? It was foolish.
It's the same with our kids. Did you know that the critical-thinking part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, isn't fully developed until the mid-twenties? They need us to catch them when their critical thinking fails. When their hearts break. When friendships fall apart. When grades drop. When life happens and they fall. Their friends will be alongside them. But parents need to be behind them.
But even more than that, my children need me to walk in front of them. God has specifically appointed Paul and I to lead them. To lead them in how to love well. To lead them in wise choices. To lead them in kindness. To lead them in managing money. To lead them in nutrition. To lead them in choosing friends. To lead them in academics. To lead them in fitness. To lead them in pursuing dreams. And ultimately, to lead them to Jesus.
As I was pondering this on the elliptical machine I had one of those moments when God just shows up and tells me something that kind of blows me away. (God likes to speak to me when I'm exercising. You too?)
He told me that the most important way to lead my children is to lead them to follow.
The beauty of following Jesus is probably one of the most misunderstood things in our world today, and our children desperately need parents to model and live out the daily joy of following Christ. Taking him at his Word, reading his Word, letting him set our priorities, trusting his provision, honoring the marriage covenant, taking our needs and our thanks to him in prayer and then actually believing that he is big enough to handle it, submitting to him when we sin, asking for forgiveness, and then walking in the freedom he gives.
These concepts and realities won't come naturally to our children growing up in a secular world. We need to model it. Every day. Lead our children in following. Lead our children in submitting their own desires for God's truth. Lead them to know that we are not our own authority but that we have a King to whom we give honor. Lead them in the joy of knowing Christ.
Because in leading them to follow Christ, we lead them to the life that really is life. We lead them to the Creator who created them in the first place, the one who knows the passions and desires of their hearts even better than they know them, and who knows the plans he has for their lives. We lead them to the one that will always love them even when a parent's love has grown tired and weary. We lead them to the one who can catch them when their human parent has let down her guard. We lead them to the one who has counted the hairs on their heads and calls them by name.
So I'm going to walk alongside my children and encourage them on their journey. And I'm going to walk behind my children to sometimes push them but also to catch them. But mostly, I'm going to walk before my children, leading them to follow.
And I already know that I'm going to fail. Every day. And in those moments I need to model what it means to live in God's grace.
But what peace it is to know that if I'm leading them to follow Jesus, then even when I fail, the One whom they are really following will never fail them.
You hem me in behind and before,