how I’m learning to stop punishing my kids for living in an evil world

I’m the mom who sees the evil in everything. Seriously, I have a problem.

It started when I began truly searching the Scriptures. In contrast with what I hear God calling His people to, everything this world offers just seems so…unholy. And I so desperately want to raise kids who aren’t nestling themselves into the wrong things that I’ve managed to train myself to see wrong everywhere I look.

But you know what that does? It creates kids who feel hopeless, confused, and conflicted. And it ends up making them feel as though there is nothing they can do that isn’t tinged with bad anyway, so why bother trying. Oooohhhh, the devil is so good at what he does, isn’t he?

My kids are all homeschooled but my oldest three boys play sports with a Christian school fairly local to us. They play baseball and soccer but the older two have a passion for basketball. They work at it year round, devoting hours a week to improving their mechanics and performance. And, of course, I get nervous that their priorities are skewed. I start worrying that sports are taking a place in their lives that should be left wide open for God.

Christian Parenting
Micah, my oldest, going up for a shot.

Am I wrong in wanting to lead my kids to Christ? Absolutely, without a doubt, no. But my propensity for seeing things in black and white, and painting my children in the stain of sin just by living in this world, is definitely wrong.

This is a hard, hard world for youth to be growing up in. Just in the last decade things have changed so dramatically that it’s been hard to keep ahead of the onslaught. These times are ruled by the intricate weaving of the web of technology. And its a rule that takes people captive and makes slaves of them without them even knowing. It sets up idols of people, sports and money that few escape bowing down to.

Our children are the innocent victims of this media-empowered government, caught in the crossfire without so much as a shield. They need us to deal with them in love and understanding, not condemning them for everything they do.

<Note to self: re-read previous paragraph until it sinks in.>

But I saw how God is using the passion my boys’ have for basketball, just the other night. It was unexpected and the lesson didn’t hit me right away. I’m slow and stubborn and filled with pride…I had to get out of my own way first.

It was the opening game of the season and the opponent was a tough one. It remained a 2 or 3 point game throughout most of the 4 quarters and my boys were both on the court. I watched them battle for supremacy, not only for victory on the scoreboard, but over their own attitudes. The heat of the moment swings wide the door for the body to be ruled by emotion, and I saw the struggle of my 17 year old.

Christian Sports
Nikolas (number 21) learning life lessons on the court

It was written on his face and etched into his presence on the court. I cringed a little but tried to brush it off. Until, that is, it came to a head.

He was called for a violation and his frustration won out. With a quick swat of his hand, he sent the ball toward the stands. I heard the gasps and felt heat travel the length of my body. (I may be making it sound slightly more dramatic than what it was, but anyway…) Because every parent experiences the meltdown of a wayward child at some point, but it’s easier to take when it isn’t put on display for an auditorium of onlookers. And 17 seems a mite old to still be working on flagrant displays of misplaced temper.

But there I was, the horrified mother of a mostly-grown child, proving he didn’t have the mastery over his inner man.

As I shrunk a little beside my husband, and the friends who had joined us for the game, I saw a referee who didn’t miss the lesson to be had in the situation. And instead of meeting temper with temper, he came alongside to issue the lesson. He paused the game for the benefit of effect.

Imagine a gym, drawn to silence by a ref calling your child to repentance and to make the situation right. And imagine your fright that your child may not respond well to all the attention being on his misstep. That was the gym that night…and that was me.

“Son, come over here and get that ball.” He said it calmly, but with a firmness of purpose.

And in that moment, and the next, I saw how God loved my child too much to let him be ruled by self. I saw that He was in the gym that night, not huddled outside in horror that my boys were so worldly. He was in the midst of those kids, calling to their hearts even in the heat of “battle”. And I saw that my son was tender to the call. Because rather than tensing up and responding in deepened frustration at being called out so publicly (which if you’d seen him grow up, you’d understand the possibility) he ran over, humbled, to retrieve the ball.

“Yes, sir,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

That was it. No earth shattering plea for forgiveness ensued and the ref choose a simple ‘good job’ as the icing of encouragement rather than launching into a lecture. I felt myself breathe again as I watched my subdued 17 year retake the court.

He went on to make what would have been the game-winning shot with about 10 seconds to go if the other team hadn’t answered with what turned out to be a buzzer-beating shot to take the victory. But when he came up to me in the gym later that evening, the first thing he said wasn’t “can you believe we lost that way?!!” or even “did you see that shot I made?”. What he said was this…

“I’m sorry for what I did. I was wrong and I’m working on making sure it doesn’t happen again.”

That, my friends, is Jesus, showing up in a sweaty gym to help coaches and refs and exhausted, weary parents shepherd his tender sheep even in the midst of a defiling world.

Because He isn’t mad at our youth for living in the world they were born into. And He isn’t asking us to be, either. I’m slowly learning that it is far more spiritually productive to help them grasp the lessons before them, than to try to choke them off for fear the lessons they might learn aren’t in the plan.

I truly believe we are instead called to keep Christ before them, even while remembering the path He takes them down may not always look exactly as we expect.

Sometimes a 52-51 defeat is more victory than we could ever even hope for.

Walking Redeemed





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