Entrusting Our Children to God

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Who Am I?  Part 23

In the last article about our family and my life journey, we had all moved together in January, 2006 to live and assist with the ministry of Bible translation in a country in East Africa.  But very quickly, we all saw that it was not going to be the nice fit for our family that we had hoped for.  At least we would not be able to recapture the wonderful family times that we had experienced together while living in a remote village of Papua New Guinea.

Within a few weeks, our older son felt strongly that he would do better if he were to return to Canada and finish his last grade of High School there.  Meanwhile, I was loving the new country I was in, and learning the language and being fascinated by the different culture there as opposed to what I had seen and experienced in Papua New Guinea.

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So I tried to hold the family together and convince my son to stay.  I felt like David did in the Bible when he wrote words like these below:

8 O taste and see that the LORD is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
9 O fear the LORD, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him there is no want.
10 The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;
But they who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing.
11 Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

(Psalm 34:8-11)

The problem was that I was equating keeping the family together with God’s blessings on the family.  It took a few months, and many discussions in the family, for me to get to the point where I could see that the lack of social peers, the importance of my son’s schooling, and the pull on him of his Canadian culture meant being in Canada would be better for him.  I had to let go and entrust him into God’s care.

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In August of 2006 then, our first son flew by himself from East Africa and went back to Canada.  (God did provide a contact of a really neat Christian family who lived not very far from Heathrow airport who took care of Eric on his halfway layover in London.)  That left Jill and I with our younger boy, Glen.  Being only 21 months younger than Eric, and having traveled and lived all over the world with his brother at his side, imagine the impact of losing his best friend, his brother.

It wasn’t long before he too was asking us, even telling us, that he needed to return to Canada as well.  Now you think I might have learned something from having worked through the very same issues with Eric that I would have been more sensitive to Glen’s needs at that time in his life.  But no, I have to admit now that I came down rather hard on Glen, and even got overly spiritual with him and suggested that he was rebelling against his own father.

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I think I may have even thought of the passage below, and I figured that if my son would just admit his rebellious attitude toward me, then I could be just as forgiving as the Father above is to his wayward children:

8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness.
9 He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His loving-kindness toward those who fear Him.
12 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13 Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.

(Psalm 103:8 – 13)

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Well, I can tell you now how awful I feel about how hard I was on my own son.  I knew that it was my responsibility to raise my children to love the Lord and obey Him, and to respect and honor his parents.  I mean, that is what the Bible says, right?  But what I had forgotten was that along with this, there is a strong admonition for fathers not to be so over-bearing that the opposite effect than you want will result.

Read the two verses below:

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

(Ephesians 6:1 & 4)

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Thankfully, I finally got it.  And I had to ask forgiveness from my son.  And I actually flew with him from East Africa to Canada to bring him back and set him up to live with some very good friends of ours in Calgary.  He was 16 at the time.  I went back to Africa and Jill and I finished out our assignment there and then we too came back to Canada three months later.

We were able to join the family back together at that point.  We bought a nice condo and set up our home and our family once again.  At that time, Eric was going to a Bible college (and got his 1-yr certificate) and Glen was just finishing High School.  We treasured the few more months that we had together as a foursome.  This was to change soon, as the next year Eric got married.  And then we were a fivesome.

Children are a blessing.  But we need to remember that they are on loan to us from God.  We are to raise them the best we can, encouraging them to have faith in God, but still allowing them to have their own personal space and freedom in life.  We found that when we entrusted them to God, He turned around and gave them back to us.  And my response is, “Thank you God!”

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“I’m A Father!”

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Who Am I?  Part 12

For five months now, I have been posting articles every second Saturday that talk about the milestones or major events in my life that have shaped and defined who I am.  Things were not looking very good for me where we left off in the last article.  (Click here.)  I was deathly ill, lying on a mattress in the back of our station wagon, while Jill was over six months pregnant and pulling a U-Haul behind our wagon through some horrible “white out” storms across Canada as we headed to Alberta.

As mentioned in another article (1987 – A Pivotal Year), we had just recently lost a pregnancy that was very devastating to us.  Now we were very concerned about my health, as well as this next pregnancy.  In 1987, I know I was not emotionally or mentally ready for a child, but in ’89, even as I was lying there so sick, one of my prayers was to let us have this child.

I prayed, “Lord, let us have a safe delivery, a healthy child, and let me be a father.”  I knew I would be ready this time.  As I now reflect back on that time when I would become a parent, a passage of Scripture comes to my mind.  Psalm 127 tells us a lot about children, parenting, home life, and putting our trust in the Lord.  It’s not long, so I encourage you to pick up your Bible and read it.

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So there we were, driving across Canada, ready and hoping that this time we would be able to start a family.  We were wanting to “build a house” as Solomon wrote in this Psalm.  (Most scholars would lean toward the idea that the Hebrew word here is referring to a family in verse one, and not just a building.)  We definitely had not done well in Toronto, but I figured that things would be different as we headed toward my home town.

We did manage to make it to Calgary, despite our car deciding to quit in upper Ontario leaving us stranded at a lonely gas station stop.  And the RCMP closed the highways due to zero visibility on the highways.  Thankfully the gas station had a mechanic there who fixed the problem in our engine, plus replaced the timing belt which was almost worn out.

I kind of felt like a failure when we arrived back at my folks house.  They graciously let us stay in the basement and did not charge us anything to live there while I recovered and Jill prepared to have our baby.  I felt like I had really let my wife down, I had disappointed my parents, and I was unable to contribute anything.  I didn’t realize at that time how wrong I was.

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In Psalm 127, Solomon tells us that if the Lord is not the foundation and the protector of the house/city (which are both figurative ways to talk about the family) then all that we do can be considered “in vain”.  I still get caught up today in the trap thinking that “it is up to me to provide/save/help the family.”  The truth is that only when we are putting our trust in Him for anything and everything, that we can really be strong and able to withstand the crashing waves of life that pound at us.

But I didn’t get that at this time in my life.  The day for Jill to deliver had almost arrived.  Thankfully (or should I say by God’s grace), I had recovered from my three-month illness that had left me bed-ridden so that I was able to be there for the birth of my first son.  WOW!  What a day that was.  I was allowed to be there for the delivery (pretty awesome moment), and afterwards, I would go around with my chest puffed out and say, “I have a son!”

And then I again felt like it was up to me to provide for our family.  I put myself in charge and tried everything I could do to find employment.  I even stooped so low as to go around door-to-door to sell these huge one-volume dictionaries.  I lost a lot of sleep, and time with my family, while I tried to “make it” on my own.  Only when I had exhausted my resources and turned to rely on God did He let me get back into active church ministry as a youth pastor.  I also made a commitment to help more at home and to help raise our son Eric.

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And I think that is when I started to realize what a blessing it was to be a father and a husband.  I did the work that God gave me to do, but I did not let the job control my life.  I wanted to be home with Jill and my son Eric, to share meals together and build our family.  There were a few people at the church that thought I should be “in the office” more than I was, or work “like a man” and put in 60 hour work weeks, and then do volunteer ministry on top.

But in those early months of Eric’s life, and then a couple of years later when Glen was born, when life could get real busy, and the demands of ministry could start to control me instead of the other way around, there will always be one memory that reminds me that I did make some good choices.  After a work day, when I would walk into the house, and Jill would say, “It’s Daddy!”, first one son, and then two sons would come crawling or bounding into my arms, and I knew where my treasure truly lay.