Your job as a parent is a calling from God. It is more important than your vocation, bank account, education or even your own happiness. Besides your relationship with God Himself, your relationship with your children is primary; your influence and impact on them will, no doubt, be your greatest legacy.
Throughout the Bible, family and children are top priorities. Jesus’ disagreement with His disciples, recorded in Mark 10:13-16, shows us the heart of God when it comes to children:
People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.
On another occasion, Jesus was discussing the priority of children with His disciples, but the disciples kept interrupting Him and wanted to talk about “more important” issues. However, Jesus gently kept bringing them back to lessons on children. Look at Mark 9:36-37:
He [Jesus] took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them [the disciples], “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
When you welcome a child, you welcome Jesus. How’s that for priority?
The first time I spoke to people in Guatemala, I met one of the most radiant women I will ever meet. Halfway through the first general session, she appeared in the back of the hall. She wore a colorful Indian skirt, hand-embroidered blouse, beads and a brilliant smile. She was probably about 4 feet 11 inches by 4 feet 11 inches!
I asked my interpreter, “Who is the incredible woman who came in halfway through the first presentation?” I had noticed that he had nodded to her.
He answered, “Oh, she is a saint. She lives in a mountainous section of our country and may be the only person in her area within hundreds of miles who works with children and youth. She probably rode on a bus at least 12 hours—all night—to get here. She is an exceptional woman.”
“I want to meet her,” I replied. He then told me that her 12-year-old son had died about three months earlier. I asked him, “How does she do it? How does she still manage to work with kids? I think I would be curled up in the fetal position if something like that ever happened to me.” He encouraged me to go ask her.
I walked up to her, and we connected even though we didn’t know each other’s language very well. I said, “Lo siento” (I’m sorry). She nodded as if she understood. I then asked in the most broken Spanish known to humankind, “How do you manage to still work with kids when your own son died just three months ago?” She smiled, although there was grief in her eyes, and said, “Porque los niños están más cerca al corazón de Dios” (Because children are closer to the heart of God).
She was right. When Jesus said, “When you welcome a child, you welcome Me,” He was clearly communicating that your role as a parent is a most important calling. We can see how close children are to the heart of God when we see Jesus get angry. One of the few times in the Bible we see Jesus’ anger is in His response to the wrongful treatment of children. Look at these strong words of Jesus: “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck” (Mark 9:42).
We have a friend, Peggy, who chose to be a stay-at-home mom. She is lovely and brilliant, and she sacrificed a great deal of money by choosing to stay at home. Her husband was a professor at a prestigious university on the East Coast. Recently, she told my wife, Cathy, and me that she was always intimidated by faculty social gatherings. People would turn to her and ask, “And what is it that you do, my dear?” At first she would sheepishly say something like, “Oh, I’m just a mom.” The response was usually, “Oh, that’s nice.” That is, until our friend Peggy came up with a new line: “I am socializing two Homo sapiens into the dominant values of the Judeo-Christian tradition in order that they might be the instruments for the transformation of the social order into the kind of eschatological utopia that God willed from the beginning of creation!” Peggy’s description of parenting reminds us that whether we choose to stay at home with our children or work outside the home, our true vocation is to develop a happy, healthy family; whatever else we do is secondary.