As a parent, I generally try to make my kids lives as comfortable as possible – I make their meals and tailor the menu to what is healthy but what is also their favourites. I wash their clothes and when I buy new ones they are in the styles and colours they prefer. I help with their homework, I listen to their dreary re-telling of what happened in their online games and YouTube favourites. When they are going to stretch themselves into new areas, I ease the way to make it safe. For example, when they started getting the bus to school, I made sure the times and numbers of the busses were written down and that for the first couple of weeks, I went to the bus stop with them and met them on the way back until they were comfortable with the new process.
I know of course that, as Christians, we are in the world, but not of the world. And I can work that concept through for myself – but as I was in Hebrews recently, it rather pulled me up short when I thought about it in relation to parenting my kids.
I was working through Hebrews with The Good Book Company’s Hebrews for You by Michael J. Kruger.
“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:27-28)
Here, Kruger focused on “eagerly waiting for him”. He made the illustration about his kids waiting him for him at the airport, knowing his plane has landed and waiting for him to come out. This is not idle waiting-room-waiting. That is jumping up and down with excitement waiting. Then he says “what would it look like to eagerly wait for the return of Jesus? First, we need to make sure we don’t grow too comfortable in this world. The more we make this place our home, the less we will long for our heavenly home.”
That’s when it hit me how comfortable I am making my kids lives – not their physical lives (although I do), but their spiritual lives. I am doing my best with devotions and prayers and Bible reading and all that, but am I gently leading them to understand that the world is not our home? Am I instilling in them the instinct towards heaven? That is more than knowing the stories about the rich young ruler, the prodigal son and earthly barn builders, but am I helping them to frame their growth and experience through the lens of their citizenship in heaven. Am I, in fact, teaching them to be too comfortable in this world?
At the same time, a video appeared in my memories on Facebook, which I had forgotten was quite so good:
This brought home to me again the need to help my kids understand the fact that we can be safe and comfortable, and that we can do, and have, nice things but to balance this with a spiritual restlessness because while we live here, it is not our home.
Where I have landed then, is not about trying to make their comfort uncomfortable. It is not about introducing severity to produce discomfort, or taking things away or treating them differently. It is about helping them to feel a sense of restlessness. I am aiming to help them yearn, but yearn spiritually for our true home.
Yearning of course can be a tricky thing, because as humans prone to sin, we can tip the goodness of healthy yearning into the mire of sin. We need to yearn for the right things – and as a parent, that is something I can absolutely help with and pray for.
So I showed my kids the Francis Chan video and it gave us a frame of reference to talk about a comparison between this world and the next. So now, as we do our devotions and Bible reading, we can talk about which bit of the rope it refers to.
In addition, we can start talking about eternity in the same way we talk about upcoming events and holidays – what we are looking forward to about it, building a sense of anticipation and excitement. Eagerness doesn’t really happen on its own. It needs to be generated, fostered and guided by us as parents. We help to build a sense of eager waiting so that while we live in this world safely, and physically as comfortably as is necessary and appropriate (ie not in excess!), we have our mental bags packed and looking forward to eternity in heaven with our Lord and savior.