Too many kids are left to wonder whether their parents would still love them if _____________ would happen. That blank could be filled in with many, many things. If they don’t achieve a certain level of academic, financial, or personal success. If they have sex, get pregnant, or fall in love with someone “outside the box” — whatever that means to you. If they don’t choose the same college, own their own home, live in the same area.
The list could go on and on, but the basic gist is this: If they don’t measure up to their parents’ expectations, they’re just not sure of their worth, and the results can be devastating. Unlike the typical parent’s love, God’s love for His children is a “Never Stopping, Never Giving up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.”
Love Doesn’t (Necessarily) Mean Approval
Sadly, many kids — church kids, even — are confused about God’s love. They may be directly told that God loves them and will love them even when they sin, but the way we sometimes teach Bible “stories” can communicate otherwise. Of course, God’s grace does not mean that He approves of our sin: quite the opposite, in fact. But it doesn’t stop Him from loving us, relentlessly pursuing us.
As parents, our love should model Christ’s love for us. It shouldn’t even hint at the idea of being earned — or able to be un-earned. Approval is one thing, but love? Love is a gift we give our kids with no strings attached. It’s unable to be earned, unable to be revoked.
Love Doesn’t Always Push and Critique
We all want our kids to achieve their full potential. As a boy growing up on this earth, Jesus matured mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially (Luke 2:52). As parents, it’s part of our responsibility to nurture and encourage our children to grow. We don’t want them to be lazy or less than God has equipped them to be. However, what starts as equipping and encouraging can easily cross over into pushing too hard.
In one of his points describing ways parents can “provoke children to wrath,” Pastor John MacArthur shares a devastating story about a promising young woman who feigned a mental breakdown and ended up committing suicide, because she knew she could never measure up to her parents’ expectations.
Love Doesn’t Assume Anything
I’ve heard these words too often at a graveside: “I think he knew I loved him.” Never assume! As parents, we need to communicate our love directly and regularly, overtly and subtly, verbally and physically. We simply can’t afford to assume that, because we take care of our kids and provide for their well-being, they will know we love them.
Just because we buy them gifts or tell them we love them, we can’t assume they’re getting the message. We need to use every avenue, every method, every opportunity to make sure they know. Otherwise, they’ll hear our critical comments and wonder. They’ll feel our nudging and believe what isn’t true.