By Scott Keith –
Last night I was lunting with my good friend Joshua and we were discussing my blog from last week. He is not a parent yet, though he is very much looking forward to starting a family soon. He asked me my opinion concerning why modern parents are so insistent on doing things for their children, even for their grown children. As I pondered my answer to his question, he concluded that he thought that maybe it is because modern parents are so fixated on their children being great. To which he added, “I want my children to be great too, but…”
Before he could finish his ill-fated sentence, I broke in and said I think the push for constant success under any circumstance is precisely the problem. I added, that I have always wanted my children to be free, and if they achieve some measure of success, and I think that they will, I hope they achieve from a point of freedom not by means of the compulsion to be great. I also added that I think we have gone from striving to be the land of the free and the home of the brave to the land of the safe and the home of the always successful.
Freedom promotes risk which makes it very scary. Once set free, children will do what they will do. Freedom produces no guarantee; it only makes promises. Freedom promises that it has more power to motivate than does compulsion. The antithesis is an approach to parenting that focuses only on safety and success. But, the success produced is often false because it is a success won without risk. Safety never makes promises and always guarantees. It can make guarantees because it never allows for people to be free.
Ideally, parenting is at its core driven by love. This is why we fear our children’s failure and attempt to keep them safe and make them successful. But all love involves the possibility of rejection; this is what makes love risky business. Risk is not coercive and neither is love. Safety is coercive, it forces our actions into little boxes that can be controlled. If risk is coerced, it is no longer risk, it is conscripted service. If love is coerced, it ceases to be love and becomes merely a set of programmed responses.
So where am I going with this? Honestly, I don’t always know. In my muddled mind I see connections here––which I’m sure are very imperfect and tenuous connections––between this and an approach to life lived that is of the law or one that is of the gospel. (I know, this is perhaps a stretch, but I’m just trying to figure some of this crap out as I go.)
I have argued on this site that the law always accuses. I still think this is true. But, I will concede that in more ancillary ways, the law attempts to restrain, protect, mold, and even guide. But the law, because we are sinners, expects failure and thus moves in to attempt to accomplish what it is impotent to do; save. On the other hand, the gospel sets free and expects that its promises will be fulfilled. That is, that sinners will be saved and set free. The gospel also makes good on another one of its promises, it sets the sinner free to produce goodness in return.
I think this is the thrust of Ephesians 2:8-10. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Once freed, that freedom leads to a path where the footsteps God has laid out for the saved sinner are revealed.
The land of the free and the home of the brave is the land where sinners live a life wherein they are at the same time saved and sinner. They struggle, they fail, and by the grace of God they occasionally succeed to walk in the path that He has laid out for them. They are brave because God has produced in them a salvation that is so thorough that they know nothing can pluck them out of his hand. “Nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39) They are safe only in Him, but He risked their loss by setting them free, all the time knowing His grace is sufficient to carry them. Their success is not forced, because if and when they are successful, it is a success that He won for them and granted them in their freedom on account of Christ. And He asks them in their freedom to be brave and to persevere as wanders on the way until He comes to bring them home. Better yet, He forgives them when they corrupt their own freedom, flee to the law, and attempt to keep themselves safe and make themselves successful.
When and if we raise our kids to be free and brave in Him, we set them free to walk in the path that He has prepared, rather than trying to design the path or construct the path for them. Freedom promises much, including forgiveness for when that freedom is abused or neglected. Safety guarantees only what it can never accomplish, a life free from pain and fraught with constant success. Our life in this world is lived as freed saint sinners until He returns to bring us to the land where true freedom reigns on account of Christ.