Let me begin this article with a disclaimer. Keep in mind as you read this that I am a father of five, the headmaster of a Classical Christian school, and a former pastor who gave oversight to the children, youth and family ministries of the church. What I am about to say is not an attempt to critique or argue against schools, either public or private, or organized ministries of the church such as Sunday school and youth ministry (The lack of critique here does not reflect a lack of concern in some of these areas.) What I do hope to accomplish is to raise our awareness as parents to the hidden dangers even these good things can hold in our own lives as Christians
One of the statements I have made in the past when talking with young couples regarding children is that God in His wise providence sanctifies us in different ways. To some He gives children as a means of sanctifying them through the raising up of those children. To others He withholds children as a means of sanctifying them through the waiting, trusting, and learning of contentment. But either way, the goal is the same, our being built up in the faith to maturity.
One of the benefits of living together as a family (and as a church) is that sinners spending time with other sinners has a way of peeling back the layers of the heart and exposing some very real sin issues that would otherwise remain hidden or ignorable. In other words, my sin most often rears its ugly head in the presence of other people. Why? Because other people’s idols tend to get in the way of my idols. It becomes a “Battle of the Idols”. Wouldn’t that make a great Reality Show?
The revealing of subtle, comfortable sin is a good gift from God to us. Otherwise, we would continue in our sin rather than confront and confess it. And sin does not like to share its space in our hearts with friends like joy, assurance, peace, love, patience, kindness, self-control…you get the picture. So what does all this have to do with the classroom?
Here is the problem for us as parents. Classrooms are artificial environments. They cannot imitate real life. This has some real implications for our children that I won’t go into today. But it also has some serious implications for us as parents as well. When our children are in school or in Sunday school, they are NOT with us. Someone else is teaching them. I have no problem with that concept in general. The problem arises when we start becoming more like our child’s manager, getting them to the right place at the right time, and less like our child’s primary teacher and mentor desiring to be with them as much as possible. It is much easier to send them to school than spend a few hours with them at the supermarket. Don’t believe me? How relaxing was your last family vacation?
It is one thing to teach a child a lesson on humility, honor, or patience in the classroom. It is quite another thing to teach that same lesson in the line at Wal-Mart, at the dinner table, or in the pew. Those lessons do not come in a vacuum. They come as a result of sin in our children. We teach patience because our children are exhibiting selfishness or discontentment. We teach honor because our children are not loving others more than they love themselves.
And as we parents are forced to confront sin in our children, a funny thing happens. We find our own hearts exposed. We see how our child’s impatience has caused us to grow impatient. We mumble under our breath (or maybe even a bit louder) about how tired we are of hearing all this grumbling and complaining from our children. Can’t they just be content and thankful!!!? Are we angry at our child’s sinful heart and confront it with grace and truth? Or are we angry that we have to take some of our precious time to confront our child’s sin because it has become too much to ignore? One is about getting to the gospel; the other is about getting back to the game.
Again, let me say that this exposing of our own sin is a good thing! It is much better than the alternative. Sin is a sly devil. He is really good at disguising himself as an angel of light. Our hearts are really good at buying into the disguise. Here is one remedy: Spend the day with your child or your teenager. Let their sins and failures become teachable moments where the gospel can shine with transforming power into their hearts. As you teach in the classroom of life, you will find yourself more often becoming the student of our Master Teacher. Now, go get your family and go to class!