Tuesday, March 06, 2007

To Be or Not To Be

Think of the most common question your children are asked about their future, especially as they enter the mid-teen years and later: “What are you going to BE?” Think of the answers that are usually given: doctor, engineer, nurse, musician, etc.

Note the link our culture places between what you do and who you are.

But how true is it? I contend that for the Christian, it is a dangerous falsehood. It doesn’t take much thought to realize that there shouldn’t be a connection between the two. Unfortunately we tend to equate the two, to our detriment.

I have a friend who is an airline pilot. He suffered a medical condition in midlife that caused him to lose his medical qualification to fly, forcing him to medically retire in his early forties. He tells of wandering aimlessly through life, unsure of who he was. This is because he had completely equated what he did (airline pilot) with who he was (airline pilot). When the one was taken from him, who he was ended up taken as well. (The good news is that his medical was restored many years later and he returned to flying status…but this time he understands that flying is only what he does.)

Consider how many people go through midlife crises. (Yes, I’m playing psychologist here.) Could it be that they, too, have attached who they are to what they do? At midlife, you start to discover that your career progression is probably not going like you planned in your younger years. The end of your career appears on the horizon. What you do has turned out to be somewhat mediocre and will soon end. Therefore, who you are is also mediocre and will soon end, leaving you aimlessly wandering through later life (or trying to hit a little white ball into several holes each day).

It only takes a moment of introspection to realize how much we as Christian parents have bought into that very same lie and how we communicate it to our children. What is the primary focus of our child-raising? I heard of a Barna poll of Christian parents that showed a horrifyingly large number of them considered their first parenting objective to be to raise a child who was “successful” (meaning economic and worldly success). Even worse was the number who listed raising their child to know Christ as the third or fourth most important objective…or didn’t list knowing Christ at all!!! This shows one of two things: either how parents use the moniker “Christian” when they aren’t really a Christian, or how deeply they are submersed in the American culture of “success.” We raise our children with a primary focus on career…what they will do…and communicate both our success or our failure as parents as well as the child’s success or failure as a young adult with how they do regarding what they will do/be. Knowing God and having a lively, intimate relationship with Him is considered something that just “happens” as long as we get them to attend church and youth group. Could this improper focus on what a child will do instead of who a child is be why 75-88% of young adults walk away from the faith of their parents?

I see two applications here:

One…for us as adults. We need to take a good look at ourselves and have an honest evaluation of whether we consider who we are as what we do. I know that is especially a factor in many men’s lives, but probably also in many women’s as well. So in truth, who are we? If you have repented of your sin, placed full trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you are a Christian…a blood-bought, heaven-bound adopted child of God, with all the attendant responsibilities and privileges. You are not what you do. That could go away tomorrow and it would not change you at your core. This is a freedom those who put so much weight on what they do cannot ever comprehend. You are free in Christ to live a life of Christian love and service, to the glory of God. You are free of the tyranny of the career; you are free of being defined in terms of economic output. In reality, as a Christian, you will make the best employee your employer could ever ask for…but you do it because you are free NOT to do it should God call elsewhere.

Two…for your children. Are they Christians? Have you led them to the Lord? Are they showing fruits of the Spirit? If not, then this discussion as far as they are concerned is moot. All of your efforts need to be geared toward entreating God to bring them into the Kingdom. If you are reasonably confident they are saved, do you disciple them? Do you communicate their worth as who they are in Christ? Or do you communicate their worth as their grades, their standardized test scores, their success in sports, and their career direction? Do they know in the deepest recesses of their hearts that they are loved and cherished by their Creator and that HE alone reserves the right to define who they are and that they are His children? Only then will they be protected from the mental anguish of being defined by the world based on their economic productivity. Only then will they be protected from the feelings of loss that accompany an unstable career. Only then will they have self-esteem that arises from the correct source.

Imagine a family where each member knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he or she is a child of the King. Each of them will be growing in Christlikeness. Each of them will be embracing their roles as defined by their Creator. Each of them will be growing in love for one another and for the lost of the world. Each of them will be growing in maturity and wisdom because they know the fear of God, which is where one finds true maturity and wisdom. Each of them will have an accurate self-worth based on truth instead of on worldly definitions. As a family, they will be grounded; they will be a rock. And they will be a witness of the glory of God to the lost and dying in this world.

So…to be or not to be…will you be a child of God, or will you be a doctor, a lawyer, a mechanic, or a ditch-digger? Will your children be children of God, or will they also hang their worth on being a nurse, an engineer, a plumber, or a pilot?

1 comment:

Darya said...

Excellent post Charley. Thanks as always.