BABY ON BOARD
Written by Doug Ponder on May 7, 2016
The World Doesn’t Revolve Around You[r Children]
“The world doesn’t revolve around you.” “You’re not the center of the universe.”
I was reminded of those truths quite often when I was growing up, and probably every instance was deserved. Like the rest of mankind, I was born naturally self-centered. Thanks to sin, from our as a baby we are accustomed to thinking and behaving as if we are the most important person on the planet.
But we’re not, and most adults figure this out sooner or later.
Unfortunately, something sad often happens when adults who know they aren’t the center of the universe start having children. Suddenly, even when mom and dad didn’t intend for it to happen, their world starts to revolve around their children.
But God tells us that life isn’t meant to revolve around our children, because they are not the center of the universe. They are not to be the center of our universe either. Heck, they’re not really the center of their universe (though the little ones don’t realize this yet).
Many well-meaning families get this terribly wrong, and the consequences are much more dire than you might think.
What Life Revolves Around
Everything revolves around something. The moon revolves around the Earth. The Earth revolves around the Sun. The Sun revolves around the barycenter of the Milky Way galaxy. And the Milky Way, along with the other 54 galaxies in its group, revolves around a gravitational anomaly called The Great Attractor.
In similar way, when it comes to your life it’s not a question of whether you will have a center; it’s only a question of which center you will have: Will it be Jesus, the one and only center who can sustain the weight of life and keep our loves rightly ordered? Or will it be something else?
For many moms and dads, it’s easy for our children to become what our lives revolve around. We know they are not the center of the universe, but that’s how we often treat them. We structure our lives around them. We let our child set the schedule, and we fit in other things around them. Here’s an example of what this could look like, adapted from the wonderful little book, Gospel Centered Family: Becoming the Parents God Wants You to Be.
When the Child Becomes the Center
“Hey, Mary! I haven’t seen you in ages. How have you been?”
“I’m pretty good, I guess. Life is busy with the baby and all.”
“Same here. My kids tire me out! I’m glad I ran into you, though. The church is doing a big service project at the park this weekend. Will you guys be there?”
“Uh, maybe. What we will be doing again?”
“We’ll be cleaning up the park, picking up trash, pulling weeds, and hanging out with folks from the neighborhood. The whole church is gonna be there!”
“When is it?”
“Saturday morning from 9 until noonish.”
“Oh, I can’t make it then. That’s when I take my little one to Story Hour at the library. We never miss a week!”
“Maybe you could bring your little one with you to the service project instead? Just this once. I mean, there will be games for kids, and besides, lots of families with young children will be there too.”
“Ah, well, Story Hour is kinda ‘our thing.’ And you know, family time is very important. Family first and all that.”
“But the service project is family time, right? I mean, you’d be there with your family and…”
“Maybe next time.”
Baby on Board
The irony is that putting your child first is not what’s actually best for them. Jesus comes first! He is the center of life, whether your child realizes this yet or not. Jesus sets the agenda. He structures our lives. Everything else, kids included, fall into place when they are oriented around him. To do anything other than this is to treat our children like something they are not. And if we do this, we set them (and ourselves) up for considerable frustration, fatigue, and heartache.
I remember talking with one of the pastors in our church about adjusting to life with their fourth child. Like two of their other three kids, Number Four was a terrible sleeper. He woke up every night, a couple of times a night, until he was close to two years old.
I asked him how this affected things like their involvement with the community group, or having friends and neighbors over into their home, etc. His response has stuck with me for years. He said, “We’re moving forward. The kid needs to get on board.”
He said this as a matter of fact, with the same tone of voice that we talk about the weather. As a father of two young kids, I don’t for a second think it was easy for this man and his wife. But he was committed to leading his family to honor Christ. So it wasn’t a question of “if” his family will continue to gather with the church, serve other people, have folks into their home, etc. It was only a question of figuring out how to keep his family on mission.
I think this is a glorious example for everyone (1 Pet. 5:3), especially our children. I want my kids to grow up seeing mom and dad actively worship with God’s people every Sunday. I want my children to see my wife and I serve others in the name of Jesus and opening our home to the community group every week. I want them to see us sharing the gospel with our neighbors, and sacrificing our time and money for things of eternal significance. I want them to join in all of this as they grow older. Above all, I want my children to know that they are not the center of my universe—Jesus is!—and we are all better for that.
Doug Ponder is one of the founding pastors of Remnant Church in Richmond, VA, where he serves in many of the church’s teaching ministries. He has contributed to several published works and is a regular contributor to RE|SOURCE. His interests include the intersection of theology, ethics, and the Christian life. Follow him on Twitter @dougponder.