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How to Provide Intentional Space for Your Kids to Repent

How to Provide Intentional Space for Your Kids to Repent

Our kids, espe­cial­ly as they move into pre-ado­les­cence and the teenage years, are going to sin. (sur­prise!) They’re going to stum­ble into sin, they’re going to eager­ly walk into sin and they’re going to be intro­duced to and taught about sin by their peers. As par­ents, we des­per­ate­ly want to pro­tect them from the­se things, and our wis­dom and dis­cre­tion can min­i­mize the dam­age pop­u­lar cul­ture caus­es. But we can’t stop our kids from sin­ning.

In respon­se to sin, one of the most essen­tial rhythms of the Chris­tian life is repen­tance (I John 4:9, Acts 17:30, II Cor 9:7–11) — the pub­lic con­fes­sion of sin and the turn­ing away from sin. As par­ents, we have the unique oppor­tu­ni­ty to be teach­ing our kids how to reg­u­lar­ly repent, and then be pro­vid­ing them the space to do so. But the pace of life is busy — fran­tic even! — and this can mean we miss oppor­tu­ni­ties to teach and allow our kids to repent.

Do you provide inten­tion­al, soft open­ings for your kids to share things they might oth­er­wise not?

The ques­tion to wrestle with is this: as our kid’s make mis­takes or strug­gle — do they know what to do with that sin? Do they have space to talk about it, share and repent?

Your first respon­se might be, “Of course! My kids know they can always talk to my about any­thing!” And that’s won­der­ful! But even if they know they can talk about any­thing with you, do they have the time to? The space to?

In oth­er words, do your kids have the emo­tion­al open­ings in a reg­u­lar week or day to share real­ly dif­fi­cult, some­times embar­rass­ing ques­tions or con­cerns? Do they have actu­al time in the week to ease into a dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tion? Do you provide inten­tion­al, soft open­ings for your kids to share things they might oth­er­wise not?

As I’ve thought about my weeks and my fam­i­ly, my answer has been, unfor­tu­nate­ly, “no.” I’ve become con­vinced that if my kids were wrest­ing with a secret sin or with a mis­take they know they made, they might not have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to time to con­fess or repent from that sin. How about you?

In respon­se, we need inten­tion­al ques­tions to ask our kids in order to give them that space to repent. And we need inten­tion­al times to ask those ques­tions.

Here are some ideas:

Questions to Ask Your Kids

  • Is there any­thing that hap­pened over the past few weeks that you regret?
  • If you could change one things about the past mon­th, what would it be?
  • Do you have any friends who are strug­gling with some sort of sin? Do you see that reg­u­lar­ly? How do you think they end­ed up there — strug­gling like that?
  • What makes you most dis­ap­point­ed?
  • Hey, is there any­thing about your day that you real­ly want to change?
  • How do you think bad habits form?
  • Are you ever afraid that not telling me some­thing might be wrong?
  • Did you see any­thing this past week that you think might be wrong? Why do you think that?
  • Is there any­thing you want to talk about?

And please, please, don’t miss this essen­tial ques­tion — a great lead in, soft­en­er and oppor­tu­ni­ty, no mat­ter the answer:

  • How can I pray for you?

Times Of Intentionality

Bed Time: The temp­ta­tion before bed is to run through the process as quick­ly as pos­si­ble and tuck them in and run away. After all, bed time is what stands between us and free­dom! But pause, at least every so often. Bed­time is a unique time, with low­er inhi­bi­tions, that can lead to inten­tion­al con­ver­sa­tions and shar­ing.

Car Time: Turn off the radio. You’ve got 10 min­utes (or more) of ded­i­cat­ed con­ver­sa­tion time. Kids might be dis­mis­sive — and you might be a lit­tle dis­tract­ed try­ing to keep the car on the road — but this is pre­cious time.

When Con­front­ed With Sin: Did you just need to fast-for­ward through a sex scene in a movie, or dri­ve past a car with a bumper stick­er that clear­ly said some­thing you *real­ly wish your kid didn’t see but you know they did?* Don’t avoid the moment — lean in to it! Use it as a con­ver­sa­tion starter. Use it as a spring board. “Have you ever strug­gled with that?” “Do you hear those words oth­er times?”

Parents: Stop Posting About Alcohol on Facebook

Parents: Stop Posting About Alcohol on Facebook

It’s become cliché — Par­ent 1 shares a pic­ture or sta­tus about a strug­gle or crazy moment or insane kid sit­u­a­tion, and Par­ent 2 chimes in with “Get out the wine!” “Can’t wait for the kids to go to sleep — a bot­tle of red is wait­ing!” 10476496_10153839415764993_5632342585470158718_n“Tonight isn’t a wine night — it’s a whole bot­tle night!” Every­one laughs, shrugs, thinks, “Yup, me too!” and goes on with their night.

Par­ents, I would like to respect­ful­ly sub­mit that we need to stop casu­al­ly post­ing about alco­hol on Face­book (and social media in gen­er­al). Full dis­clo­sure: I’m an avid Face­book user and cer­tain­ly not a tee­to­taler. I have noth­ing again­st the appro­pri­ate and wise con­sump­tion of alco­hol, and I think Face­book can be a bless­ing and even a min­istry tool when used well. But the two shouldn’t mix.

Let me share three rea­sons:

You don’t know the story of every one of your Facebook friends.

I wrote a post in April explain­ing why we need to be extra-care­ful post­ing on Face­book: it’s not just our imme­di­ate friends or those who will com­ment who can see what we write; often, it’s a wide group of friends and past friends and acquain­tances and occa­sion­al­ly even the pub­lic. In that group of peo­ple is a broad his­to­ry of alco­hol use, abuse and pain. Very pos­si­bly, some­one read­ing a casu­al and jok­ing post about wine has strug­gled with alco­hol depen­dance, or suf­fered the ter­ri­ble effects of a par­ent wrestling with alco­holism. In your Face­book friend list might be a teen who’s wrestling with neg­a­tive peer-pres­sure. A mom who’s been sober since find­ing out she was preg­nant, but who had one of her rough­est days, or a grand­par­ent who lost a child to alco­hol abuse.

I wouldn’t sug­gest that other’s actions or deci­sions should be blamed or jus­ti­fied by casu­al and jok­ing posts on Face­book, but if you know there’s even a chance a Face­book post could hurt some­one, don’t you think it might be best to hold off?

Your kids will get Facebook.

Dad, mom: Face­book is here to stay, and your kids are get­ting old­er every day. There is com­ing a moment when each of your kids will sign up for Face­book, and there is also com­ing a day when they will scroll through your News Feed. Your dar­ling daugh­ter or strong son will most like­ly be in Jr. High, acne rid­den and wrecked by social pres­sure and neg­a­tive self-image when they do, and they’ll be think­ing, “Oh, my good­ness, what did dad post about me on Face­book?”

Do you want the answer to that ques­tion to be any­thing relat­ed to alco­hol?

In every way, each of us wants to raise our chil­dren with a healthy under­stand­ing of alco­hol and a healthy self-image. I don’t think it’s a reach to say that occa­sion­al, even jok­ing posts about alco­hol — espe­cial­ly in rela­tion to our kids — can under­mine both of those goals.

There are nor­mal, reg­u­lar par­ent­ing con­ver­sa­tions you have with close friends that you would nev­er want record­ed and read back to your kids, because those con­ver­sa­tions are raw and con­tex­tu­al­ized and some­times with­out nuance. But in post­ing them on Face­book, you’re doing just that — prepar­ing your kids to be con­fused and ques­tion both you and them­selves lat­er.

Demonstrate your dependence on Christ, not on substance.

soothethesoulFinal­ly, we should do every­thing we can to embrace and demon­strate of our depen­dance on Christ, rather than any oth­er sub­stance. Post­ing in the way we often do about alco­hol can poten­tial­ly reveal a strug­gle in our hearts with Christ-cen­tered depen­dance.

When you’re over­whelmed — be it with par­ent­ing or friend­ships or work or life in gen­er­al — where do you turn? What do you look towards for peace and com­fort and relief? God has blessed us with so many recre­ations in this life: the gym, friends, sports, Net­flix, snacks, Face­book. Few, if any of our recre­ations are inher­ent­ly bad. But there are none that should take the place of God as a sus­tain­er and restor­er and heal­er and com­forter.

This is not an accu­sa­tion. We can look for­ward to and enjoy wine or Net­flix or any­thing with­out being depen­dent on it. But this is a cau­tion: every time the thought flick­ers through you mind, “I need _____,” pause and take a spir­i­tu­al inven­to­ry. Is ____ becom­ing an idol? Is your heart tend­ing towards emo­tion­al depen­dance on any­thing oth­er than Christ? Be wary of this!

Let me be clear: I don’t scoff at any of my friends who post on social media about alco­hol — I get it! But my biggest con­cern is that we often post on Face­book with­out think­ing. We’re com­fort­able, we’re casu­al, and we’re look­ing to be fun­ny. It’s easy to for­get the long-term ram­i­fi­ca­tions and unseen con­se­quences of a mis­in­ter­pret­ed or mis­un­der­stood com­ment. There are plen­ty of argu­ments that can be made for post­ing about alco­hol, I’m sure, but the biggest ques­tion to wrestle with is sim­ple: “Is the risk worth it?”

In the end, par­ents, I think it’s wis­est if we say, “I won’t risk my friends, my kids and my wit­ness for a snarky post about wine.”

God Answers, “Help!” by Saying, “Listen.”

God Answers, “Help!” by Saying, “Listen.”

It’s been said that the most basic Chris­tian prayer is sim­ply, “Help!” It’s a prayer of sur­ren­der, des­per­a­tion and acknowl­edg­ment. It’s a hum­ble, sim­ple, hon­est cry. And it’s one that Christ-fol­low­ers have been mak­ing for thou­sands upon thou­sands of years.

Think back to the time of the Judges. You’re prob­a­bly famil­iar with the cycle: God’s peo­ple, the Israelites, would grow com­pla­cent in their wealth and pros­per­i­ty. In their com­pla­cen­cy, they would turn away from God. In respon­se, He with­drew His bless­ing, bring­ing about oppres­sion and war. As the hard­ships chipped away at the Israelites hard­ened hearts, they would final­ly cry out for help, at which point God would call a man or a wom­an as a “judge,” or sav­ior for the nation. The threat would be over­thrown, peace restored, and the com­mu­ni­ty once again brought into right rela­tion­ship with God as they fol­lowed the judge’s lead­er­ship. But they would lat­er fall away again, and begin the cycle anew.

How often do you feel like you’re at the low-point of the judge’s cycle — oppressed and backed into a cor­ner, cry­ing out, “Help!” to God? What kind of help are you expect­ing?

The absolute­ly fas­ci­nat­ing point is that when the Israelites cried out to God, His res­cue was found in estab­lish­ing author­i­ty fig­ures in the Israelites’ lives — the judges. That is to say, God nev­er res­cued the Israelites from oppres­sion by mere­ly remov­ing the offend­ing author­i­ty — He always replaced it with His own. God grants us free­dom by point­ing us to true author­i­ty — His author­i­ty.

This should make us pause and ask, “When I’m feel­ing oppressed or bur­dened, what author­i­ty has God placed in my life that I’m not lis­ten­ing to?” It also chal­lenges us to remem­ber that when we’re cry­ing, ‘Help!’, God will often be respond­ing with, ‘Lis­ten.’

But what a beau­ti­ful truth, ‘Lis­ten’ is! Lis­ten says — “I’ve already given you the answer!” Lis­ten says, “I know your pain, your con­fu­sion and your hurt. I’ve antic­i­pat­ed it, seen it, and pro­vid­ed for it.” Lis­ten says, “You are free to fol­low Me — and in doing so, you can hope.”

We are free in Christ — freed by Christ — not to live our lives as we choose, but to freely sub­mit to God’s good author­i­ty. In God’s author­i­ty is peace, full joy and true con­tent­ment. Don’t flee it, and don’t avoid those God places in your life to be author­i­ty fig­ures.

What You Post of Facebook Does Matter… More Than You Think

What You Post of Facebook Does Matter… More Than You Think

Face­book and oth­er social media is as com­mon­place and reg­u­lar as eat­ing. Well, may­be even more than eat­ing. After all, you don’t keep a Big Mac on your night­stand… but your wake-up rou­tine prob­a­bly involves your phone and your news­feed.

As Face­book has become a sta­ple of our social inter­ac­tions, our fil­ters for what we post and when we post have dwin­dled. But as a Christ fol­low­er, I think we need to be extreme­ly judi­cious in the words, phras­es and images that we use on social media. Here are three rea­sons I think this is so impor­tant:

Context Matters

One of the biggest mis­takes I see peo­ple make on Face­book is sim­ply dis­miss­ing the con­text of pub­lic Face­book posts. For instance, let’s say you’re com­ment­ing on a close friend’s pic­ture of her new baby, and just last week you were laugh­ing­ly jok­ing about anoth­er pic­ture that had made the baby look like Gol­lum. All in good fun, and you both were total­ly on the same page.

But your Face­book com­ment on your friend’s pic­ture: “Haha, not so Gol­lum-y here — she’s actu­al­ly cute!” is going to be read by dozens — if not hun­dreds — of oth­ers. And they’re going to inter­pret that com­ment through their con­text — and with none of the back­sto­ry you and your friend share. The­se are prob­a­bly both close friend and dis­tant friends… and may­be even a few peo­ple who don’t know you at all.

And per­haps they’ll start to think, “Gosh, she’s kin­da judgy about how baby’s look — what does she think about my baby?” Or, worse, “Wow, he’s kin­da a real jerk.”

Every time we post pub­licly on Face­book, we’re invit­ing peo­ple with no sim­i­lar con­text to read and make snap judge­ments about our con­tex­tu­al­ized com­ments.

We’re Influencers

Oh, but who cares?’ you think. ‘I’m going to do me, and if peo­ple want to make snap judge­ments about who I am, that’s their prob­lem, not mine!’

That’s a nice posi­tion to take, but as a Christ-fol­low­er (and as a reg­u­lar per­son, too), it’s sim­ple not real­is­tic.

The truth is that we want to be influ­encers — and we want to be influ­encers for Christ. That’s why you’ve shared arti­cles about God­ly par­ent­ing or about Chris­tian tol­er­ance or about true love. Ulti­mate­ly, you want to influ­ence peo­ple toward the gospel.

But we can’t pick and choose when we’re going to influ­ence oth­ers, and our arti­cles about god­li­ness and truth are going to be seen through the lens of our oth­er posts. More pre­cise­ly, and here’s the scary part, our posts are going to be seen through the lens of other’s per­cep­tions of our posts.

If we post some­thing that can be mis­con­tex­tu­al­ized or mis­in­ter­pret­ed, we need to acknowl­edge that those posts are going to neg­a­tive­ly affect our abil­i­ty to influ­ence, lead and direct other’s toward Christ.

How We’re Perceived Affects How Our Message is Perceived

And that leads direct­ly into the third truth, which is sim­ply that how we’re viewed or per­ceived is going to direct­ly affect how our mes­sage is inter­pret­ed, viewed or per­ceived. And if our mes­sage is the gospel, we should do every­thing we can to make sure it’s seen in the best light pos­si­ble.

And that means being as wise as pos­si­ble about every­thing we post on Face­book.

You can say, “But that’s not fair! Someone’s snap judge­ment of me based off a jok­ing post to a friend shouldn’t affect their abil­i­ty to hear the gospel or make good judge­ments about oth­er things!”

And no, it isn’t fair. But that doesn’t change any­thing. And it cer­tain­ly doesn’t change the fact that those judge­ments are being made all the time, and rarely will peo­ple ask you if they’ve made the right judge­ment.

I think a nat­u­ral respon­se to some of the­se thoughts is along the lines of, “That’s a lit­tle ridicu­lous, and sounds like it would make Face­book a lot less fun.” And I prob­a­bly agree. To be hon­est, I’m rel­a­tive­ly scared to post on Face­book! I have friends who sim­ply don’t post — because they’ve decid­ed that post­ing can be more dan­ger­ous or dam­ag­ing than ben­e­fi­cial.

That doesn’t have to be the case, and I don’t think that Face­book nec­es­sar­i­ly needs to be less fun, but I do think we need a good dose of wis­dom spat­tered into our posts.

We need to pause, and assess every­thing we make pub­lic, ask­ing, “Can this be mis­char­ac­ter­ized and used to dis­miss my mes­sage?” Yes, it’s an extra step. Yes, it might pre­vent some posts that friends would gen­uine­ly enjoy. But it might also help to pre­serve our gospel mes­sage, and there’s no val­ue that can be placed on that.