For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. . . . All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13,16)
Judy and I are frequently asked, “How many children do you have?” The answer is four — Beth, Mary, Rob, and Josh. All are now adults and God has blessed us to this point with six grandchildren.
Let’s try another question: “What’s the most important truth that parents need to know about their children?” Judy and I believe it is this: Children belong to God. He is their Creator. He has entrusted them into our care for a season. That season might be 60 years, 60 days, or 60 hours. God is in charge.
Children belong to God. He is their Creator.
In having children, parents have great privilege and great responsibility. Whether your children are natural or adopted, it doesn’t matter. Two parents or one, these truths still apply. Children belong to God first. Sound simple so far? We agree, but it’s not easy. Perhaps it begins with the confession that as parents we tend to think we always know what is best for our children. We forget that God is Creator of every child and that He has a unique plan for every son and daughter. We should turn to the Lord for guidance in rearing our kids. His Word contains much that can help.
So how do parents do this? How do we cooperate with God in rearing our children? We believe it starts with us as parents in having our own personal relationship with God. As we place our faith in Jesus Christ, we start the process of learning to trust God. We trust Him for our eternal salvation, but we also begin to trust Him to help us in this life. An integral part of maturing in our faith is growing in our trust of God to help us rear our children in the way He intends. This happens when we turn to God’s Word as the preeminent source for guidance about how to lead and teach our kids. Continuing in the ‘how to’ of obeying and cooperating with God to raise children, we’ve found prayer is huge.
Prayer can do anything God can do. As we seek our Heavenly Father, He answers our prayers and provides what we need to support our children. Through prayer, the Lord supplies us with the love, courage, hope, strength, and perseverance we need to be godly parents. And did we mention patience? God will give us that, too! Certainly, there is other help as well. Seeking counsel from godly people has helped us enormously. And then there is experience, a great teacher if we learn and apply the right lessons. As perhaps you can identify, we’ve learned from things we’ve done well, but probably more from our many mistakes. Fortunately, kids tend to be both forgiving and resilient.
We love our children, but not nearly as much as God does. Judy and I can remember praying for each of them well before they were born — before we knew the sex of each child, the giftings and abilities, and the personalities of each of these little people. But consider this. God’s love for each of our children and yours goes back a lot further. Psalm 139:13 tells us that the Lord knit each of us together in our mother’s womb. The last part of verse 16 also says that God ordained all of the days of their lives (and ours) before any of them ever happened.
Bottom line: God has a plan for each of us. He has a plan for every child. His plans for our children are perfect, but they don’t usually sync with the plans that we as parents have for our children. It’s critical to remember this, especially during tough times. The Lord has certainly provided our family with opportunities to learn to trust Him more.
In February of 2008 our son, Rob, returned from military duty in Afghanistan to his home station in Vicenza, Italy, on R & R (rest and recreation). He was serving with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. He and his wife, Jen, had a son named RJ, but prayed that Jen would become pregnant with their second child. God answered their prayers, and in just a few weeks Jen was able to break the great news to Rob who was back in Afghanistan.
But as Jen got further along in her pregnancy, problems arose. Doctors in Vicenza sent her to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for a series of tests. When the results came back, a German doctor and an American doctor sat down with her and shared some disturbing news. The little girl in Jen’s womb had hydrocephalus, the medical term for water on the brain. Additionally, doctors believed the baby had suffered a stroke in the womb.
Given the medical data available, the doctors painted a dismal picture. They counseled her to terminate the pregnancy. In their estimation, the baby might not even live long enough to be born. Even if she went full term, this little girl was destined to have huge problems and would likely not be anywhere close to normal. In such a case, Rob and Jen’s world would be completely altered in trying to take care of this needy child.
Whose report do you believe at a time like this? The doctors gave the best medical advice they had. But Jen couldn’t follow it. She had seen a picture of this little life in her womb. The baby was a girl. Jen and Rob had already given her a name — Jillian. Courageously, the parents made the decision to keep Jillian and trust God for the outcome.
As the months rolled on, the medical evidence only got worse. Doctors could tell by the scans that Jillian’s head was abnormally large and very misshapen. In July 2008 when Rob finished his 15-month tour in Afghanistan, doctors recommended to the command that Rob and Jen be sent back to the United States immediately and stationed near a facility that could handle childbirth with multiple complications. The Army sent Rob to Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California, less than one hundred miles from a San Francisco hospital staffed with one of nation’s leading pediatric neurosurgeons.
Once back in the States, Rob and Jen made regular trips to see the neurosurgeon who would manage Jillian’s situation. As the months rolled on toward Jillian’s due date in mid-November, the negative news continued to come. Doctors continued to lay out a series of pessimistic scenarios. The possibility that Jillian could be born and live a normal life was not one of the choices.
Still, Rob and Jen trusted God with Jillian’s life. In early October the pediatric neurosurgeon made the decision that Jillian could not go full term. Her head was so enlarged at that point that taking Jillian through Caesarean section seemed to be the best choice to optimize her chance for survival. They made the decision to bring Jillian into the world on October 27. On the eve of the surgery the doctors gathered with Rob and Jen to help them prepare for whatever might happen the next day. They didn’t want to create false hope.
God’s plans for our children are perfect, but they don’t usually sync with the plans that we as parents have for our children.
Fast-forwarding 2 years, Jillian is a healthy 2-year old with boundless energy, a strong will, and a smile that can melt any heart. She has experienced some medical problems, some of them a bit scary. In addition to three surgeries, she has had five seizures. But despite this, she seems to be experiencing normal growth in every respect. During a recent check-up, the doctor told Jen that there was no need to bring Jillian back for anything but routine visits.
At this point, Rob, Jen, RJ, and Jillian are all doing well. The last 2 1/2 years have been quite a ride. Rob and Jen are most thankful to the Lord for His mercy and grace evidenced through Jillian’s life. No one takes little Jillian for granted. And certainly not the grandparents. Jillian’s parents and grandparents are thankful to have this little bundle of joy in our family. But we know one thing for sure: she belongs to God first. As much as Rob and Jen love Jillian and RJ, we know God’s love is ever greater.
The same holds true for your kids. You love them, but your love is no match for the Lord’s and knowing this truth will be crucial when your children experience tough times. It’s not a matter of ‘if’, but when. At these times, remember that your children are on loan to you, but they belong to God.