One advantage of allowing your children to do their own thinking is they may come back and give you good ideas when they are adults and you find yourself in need of their wisdom.
When my kids started asking me those ultimate questions about life and love and God and churches, I would always say, “What do you think? You know, at some point you will need to make up your mind about things like that.”
I remember telling them one time, “If you are expecting me to give you a little book telling you how to live your life, you just ran out of luck. No one can do that for you. It’s your life and you are going to have to live it using your brain and your own values.”
One night when I was visiting my son in Dallas we sat up until 3:00 in the morning and he said, “The best thing you ever did for me was to urge me think for myself. I don’t think any of us can live our lives successfully by trying to adopt someone else’s ready-made philosophy.”
The verse in the Bible that says, “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” is true but my interpretation is to train the child to use his/her own minds and values. No one is smart enough to give a child all the answers. All of us are seeking answers to all the questions of life from birth until death. It’s not something we learn all at one whack and just skip merrily along the rest of the way.
For one thing, answers that suffice at one point in life may not be enough to face other challenges on down the road. A truth that helps you to get a snake out of your pathway may not be a truth that will move a bear.
In a 2005 email I placed in my personal journal, my son gave me several valuable insights about the pain and disappointment I was going through over a friend. My friend had a traumatic childhood and became addictive. I saw too much good in him to not keep on trying to help him get his feet on solid ground and live a quality life.
My son wrote, “There is nothing you can do about his past to heal any of his wrongs. What’s happening right now is all that really matters.” Until we learn time and space travel we cannot return to yesterday and give someone great, loving parents. But we always have right now. And that’s what we always need to concentrate on.
He wrote, “Every day we wake up with the chance to be a better person. His best chance at doing that is to have at least one person who loves him.”
Then he wrote, “Moving ourselves to love without judgment and without thought of compensatory love is one of the cornerstones of becoming a spiritual, whole person.”
In other words, often we bestow love on others not for their sake but for our own. As Jesus said, if we love someone just because they love us we have merely made a trade. It is beautifully selfish to love someone simply because we know we need to learn how to love those who can be unlovable. It is one of the finer forms of selfishness. It’s part of learning to become a better person.
He closed his little epistle of insights for his old Dad with these words: “One of the things you have taught me is that we can find things to love about people who have lived flawed lives. You have always found the good in people.”
I learned this lesson from Jesus himself. I can find no record of Him ever telling anyone, “I find you unworthy of my love.”
That’s why we sing, “What a Friend we have in Jesus.”
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