Friday, May 05, 2006

Another paradox

Some folks at the office have (very) young children, and I've remarked that raising those kids is one of the most important enterprises we can be involved in.

I really believe that.

But we're not in control, except for a very brief time near the beginning, when they're dependent on us for everything. Even then, though, we can't control when they sleep or when they smile. We can't control their values.

I was reading about Manoah (Judges 13) the other day and I was impressed by the guy. You don't remember who Manoah was? Samson's father.

You probably remember that Samson's character left something to be desired. He was violent and impulsive. God's laws didn't seem to mean much to him. So where did his parents go wrong?

I haven't been able to figure it out. The guy seemed to be the opposite of his father. The text doesn't tell us about any massive parenting failures; rather, we learn
  1. When the angel meets his mother, she believes him (13.6)
  2. Manoah believes his wife, and he prays for instructions so they can be equipped for their mission (13.8)
  3. The text doesn't give us any hint that they failed to follow the angel's instructions
So whereas Manoah respects his wife (if I have this right, the testimony of a woman wasn't admissible in a court in those days), Samson seems to treat women as objects (14.2, 16.1). In many ways, Samson is a study in unfulfilled potential.

So what happened? I sure don't know.

I was telling someone about our children. I am really very proud of them, and I wish I could take more credit for how they're turning out. But I can't take much! Yeah, we did some things right. We pray for them. We love them and do our best to raise them well. But other people do some things right, pray for their children, love them and do their best to raise them well too -- but some of them get drastically different results.

As our friend Pete says, we cannot raise Christian children; we can only be Christian parents.

Some years ago, I discovered something very important: the things in life that matter most to us are not within our control. The corollary is that the things we can control aren't the things that really matter.

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