Guest post by Kevin Swanson
Have you ever had the sinking feeling that something precious to you is slipping away? It’s the feeling you get when your wedding ring slips off at the beach, and you watch in horror as a retracting current pulls it back into the surf, lost forever. There have been moments in my life where I sensed that I was losing the heart of one of my children. Times like these call for action framed in wisdom. Here are a few thoughts that I have found helpful to capturing or re-capturing the hearts of our children.
1. Start early. There is a critical timeframe where we must grapple for the hearts of our children. Generally this is between the ages of eight and fourteen years of age.
2. Re-assess priorities. The modern age presents to us painful choices between such values as relationships and materials, between complexity and simplicity. There is some intuitive truth in that 20th century adage, “When you’re lying on your death bed, chances are you will not be wishing you had spent more time at the office.” May God help us to turn our hearts toward home.
3. Integrate. There are ways to integrate our children back into our lives. Even if it is as simple as driving together to the grocery store, attending meetings together, cleaning the house, or fixing the car. It only requires the desire, the will, and a little creativity to re-integrate our children. It may be harder for fathers. But many a son has been saved a world of heart ache and rebellion by a father who did everything he could to fit his son into his life.
4. Pave the roads. Work to establish meaningful conversation with your child. Communicate with him on the things that matter most. Speak to his heart from your heart about your faith and what the Lord has been teaching you from His Word. Establish a regular time in the Word together.
5. Re-pave the Roads. You may need to re-pave the roads of communication. One of the most powerful ways to do this is by simple, heart-felt confession. If you are convicted that you have not been doing something correctly, be honest and open in laying that before your children. Ask for their forgiveness.
6. Pray and Trust in God’s Grace. We are always challenged as parents. We are humbled. For even on our best days, we come up short. My two year old offers me her little drawing of scribbles. “Wook, Daddy, wook!” she says. My reaction is not to throw it back at her in a rage, “What is this? Just a bunch of scribbles on a piece of paper? Take it away.” No. I take her up in my arms and say, “Thank you sweetheart! You drew this for me?” I post it over my desk. She gave me a little piece of her heart. She wanted to please me with the drawing, and she is pleased when she sees that I am pleased. Similarly, when we parents, as the adopted children of our heavenly Father, present our hearts to the Lord in prayer and in humble obedience to his Word, he accepts us. When we present our parenting work to God as scribbles on a piece of paper, we must believe that He will accept it and that His grace will cover us. We must believe that when God posts our grubby, blotchy artwork, He really can turn it into something great. It is only then that we realize what we really mean when we cry out to our children, “My son, give me your heart!”