Your Children Are Here for Your Sanctification Not the Other Way Around

Keith KettenringChristian Living, The Uncommon Journey

Rhonda and I got married in 1977 in Portsmouth, VA. I was just entering seminary so we weren’t too concerned about having children. In 1983, we accepted our first full-time pastoral position in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Enough cold nights and long winters might help us get our first little bundle of joy. But Rhonda’s battle with endometriosis kept conception at bay.

So, we had a late start to the the whole procreation thing. I told people that I kissed my wife good-night every night but nothing happened. Huh? Anyway, we were married 9 years before our “gift from God,” Nathanael, made his appearance. After almost 10 years without children, we had to make some major adjustments. Yet, we loved it. His blond hair and blue eyes (and latent musical talent) qualified him to be a member of the Beach Boys. So, when he was 18 months, we moved to Southern California.

Maybe it was the warmer weather or the new digs, but a year later our beautiful daughter Jenna blessed our family. She was a cute little spit fire ready to tackle whatever was in front of her (still true).

Our family was complete but we were far from finished.

I had the mistaken idea that one of the primary reasons Rhonda and I had children was to make good little Christians of them.

But, in reality, they were here to help us become Christians. 

Misplaced Expectations

Do you have children? Were they raised in your “Christian” home? You probably attended church together, made sure they went to Sunday School and AWANA then got involved in the youth ministry. You prayed before meals and perhaps had “family devotions.” Did you homeschool, public school, or Christian school? You probably prayed for them every day.

You may have read Dobson, Campbell, “Growing Kids God’s Way,” or other books by parenting “experts” and thought you knew what you were doing. Your children did not dance, listen to rock music, watch crap on TV, or go to R-rated movies. Good job!

How did all that work out for you…and them?

How they turned out isn’t the point of this post. How they have challenged you to be like Jesus – actually be Christian – is my point. Your children have been, and are even now, teaching you your shortcomings and your need to become like Jesus. You may have thought you were here for their spiritual good. Nope! They’re actually here for your spiritual good.

No child turns out like you expect or imagine. They challenge your preconceptions, your presumptions, and your expectations.  And, that’s all good for you. They challenge you to love in ways you didn’t think possible. They teach you patience, kindness, and how to speak the truth in love.

If you’ve missed their lessons and are pretty much the same person you were when they were born then something is wrong with you. You’re blind to your own faults. Your children are not, however.  They see you for what you really are…like it or not. Their evaluation of you may be more accurate than your understanding of your own self.

If you believe you are here to make your children walk the straight and narrow, be morally upstanding, and be all you want them to be, you’ve got much to learn (from them!).

Your role as a parent has probably been reduced to loving, supporting, praying, listening, and modeling. Real simple, right? Hardly! The simple things are the hardest.

If your children are not what you want them to be and they know your disappointment, then maybe you are not the person they need you to be. They are not the problem. You are.


Helps to Enhance Your Relationship

  1. Become more like Christ every day. Learn to love – sacrifice, give, empty yourself like Jesus did. He gave Himself for people who rejected him. He loved those who resisted Him. He showed mercy to those who did not deserve it. He humbled Himself for the sake of others. Get closer to Jesus and let Him rub off on you.

  2. Pray for your children without expectations and without trying to control outcomes.

  3. Ask for your children’s forgiveness. In humility, recall mishandled instances, bring them up with your children, and ask them to forgive you.

  4. Be attentive to your children. They are God’s messengers to help you know yourself and become more like Jesus.

If you have children, learning how to parent never ends. Because, learning how to be like Jesus never ends. The two go hand in hand. Your children are here to help you become more like Jesus. Love them for it.