Copyright © 1988 by Tim Arensmeier
March 5, 1988 (Original date of letter)
Mr & Mrs Fred Kellogg (Names changed to protect integrity...)
123 First Street
Dear Fred & Sally,
After your phone call the other day, the Lord reminded me of the reality of how the church has let us parents down. Too often we're told, allowed to believe and carry the heavy of: if you walk with God, your kids will. Or, stated another way, if your kids don't walk with God, then it's a reflection of some sin in your lives, or at least an inconsistency in your walk with the Lord. For your sake, I want to disenchant you of that fallacy and encourage you to pass along any thoughts you deem worthwhile to other parents whom you know who have kids who have "gone over the hill."
Several years ago, while our children were all very young, I rethought a lot of that business of "if you . . . your kids . . ." The argument breaks down at the "first cause" level. For instance: if it is true that kids will in fact walk with Jesus, if their parents are consistent and faithful to the Lord (good examples), - what, pray tell, was the reason that Adam and Eve didn't obey their Father? In what area was He inconsistent, or unfaithful, or in what way was He not an adequate example to His children?!
See the point? Certainly, none of us claim to be perfect parents. None of us are! That being said, God the Father was in fact, the Perfect Parent. And He raised some pretty rebellious children . . . all of them . . . us! It's by His grace that any of us repent and believe in Christ and are thereby clothed in His Righteousness.
The point is that the argument fails to find scriptural justification. I Timothy 3 is appealed to as it applies to the children of elders. Now that's interesting. "His children must be under his control with all gravity...", whatever that means. I take it that the elder's children are to be under his loving leadership as the head of the home. That seems pretty consistent. But notice, it says, "his children." I am my father's son. I am not my father's child! At the ripe old age of 61 (with grand children ranging in age from 16 to 2 -- 6 of 'em!), I'm manifestly not a child! Were I to abandon the faith, would that disqualify my father from being an elder? I most certainly was under his loving control while a child in his and my mom's home.
In many homes we've observed, the children have been under the parent's loving leadership while children in the home. I know . . . we still tend to think of them as children, and that's possibly part of the problem. They may act like children, but remember, Mary became the mother of our Savior at around 13 to 15 years of age! She was no "child!"
A further clarification of the point remains: A youngster may well have been the dutiful child, while a child. Somewhere in the early teen years, that child literally turns into an adult; a young one at that, but an adult. At that point, he or she may choose to reject dad and mom, their friends, their faith, their Christ and their church. That hurts! You bet, and we know! Of our four, only one has gone on "French leave" from the Lord, and still that is open for final evaluation. (Effective 2001, she has come full circle, praise God! and is trying to follow Jesus Christ!) She caused much tension after the multiple sexual assault she experienced, three days after turning 15! with the subsequent problems. However, it's now up to her to determine whether or not she'll follow Christ.
Remember, another equally difficult thing: If your child were to be "programmable" so as to walk with God because of your faith, then where would be the "free-will" of that person? God allows each individual to determine their own response to His grace. Your adult child is solely responsible for whether or not they will follow the Savior.
As a balance, it is manifestly true that if there is unconfessed sin in a parent's life; a deliberate unwillingness to place some area under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, that certainly may negatively impact a child's development as they observe our inconsistencies. But, I'm not thinking of that as it applies to you all. Less than perfect, yes - as we all are, but essentially consistent in your parenting and walk with the Lord.
We've learned another thing through observation: you must not allow a wayward adult child to come between the two of you as husband and wife! You must not allow a wayward child to come between you and your devotion to the Savior! And you must not allow a wayward child to destroy the rest of your family. For instance, we've observed how a wayward adult offspring and their behavior can be an embarrassment to other family members, and unsettle them, even when that wayward one is not present! When that person and concerns of their potential self-destruction dominate the conversation of the other family members, the family can be damaged from otherwise healthy communication and relationships.
I suppose a legitimate fear which parents of wayward adult children might experience, to quote the old song, is: Will the Circle be Unbroken? Basically, there is a tendency to actually grieve over the assumed or actual loss as we perceive that young one heading in what appears to be a very self-destructive course. It's up to them, with our assistance through our intercession before the throne of grace, to repent and believe.
About the time an adult child turns to the Savior, they will enjoy God's forgiving love, not so much for the sins they've committed against their parents and society, but for their sinful nature as variously demonstrated against God and His Holiness!
I write this to you dear ones hopefully to encourage where the enemy of our souls, the Accuser of the Brethren, has probably done some fairly high level accusing. To have offspring predecease parents is anomalous in our culture. In some places in the Third World, to have 50% of your kids grow to maturity is pretty good. Not so here. It works out that those who have children predecease them divorce about 80% of the time. But believe me, the death of a child who is following Jesus to the best of our knowledge, is easier! It's not unlike divorce, in that divorce keeps on hurting . . . forever. The pain of a wayward child is certainly ongoing, and at times seems that it will be never ending. The loss of a son or daughter to another value structure has often been the basis of a couple breaking up; to say nothing of either individual in the couple breaking down.
We're praying for the two of you that your individual faith will not fail! That you continue making the effort to love the Lord, whether your wayward one does or not, to continue making the effort to love each other, whether she (he) loves you or not.
Remember, our Father in heaven does know loss; He does know the pain of seeing His offspring turn their backs on Him. He does continue to love and provide forgiveness and acceptance if we will merely acknowledge Him and His Lordship.
How do you treat a wayward offspring? We think that you work harder at loving the Lord and each other, while praying for them. We think that you continue to offer acceptance of the person, while you may not necessarily approve of all they do.
The point seems to be to hold our grown offspring "with an open hand." If we try to clutch or grasp at them with full confidence that we in fact do know what is best for them; that their current course of action or lifestyle is going to ruin their lives, we'll squeeze them right through the fingers of our influence over them. We must hold them with an open hand, and trust that God will bring them to a point of repentance before Him and faith in Jesus Christ. If that happens, they will probably return to some relationship of fellowship with us, in Christ. We need to pray that those who are going through such potential discouragement will faithfully follow the Savior themselves while waiting on God for Him to work in the lives of those who are prodigal. It may take years, but we must walk with God during that process, and not allow Satan to get the upper hand over our life of faith.
In closing, let me quote from Jonathan Edwards, that great puritan pastor of early American history. He had a large sign in his study that read:
RESOLVED: THAT ALL MEN EVERYWHERE SHOULD LIVE THEIR LIVES TO THE GLORY OF GOD!
RESOLVED TWO: THAT WHETHER ANYBODY ELSE DOES THIS OR NOT, BY GOD'S GRACE, I WILL!
One more quote from my phavorite filosopher, who drew this observation several years ago after a substantial attack of Satan:
"THAT WHICH IS THE PREOCCUPATION OF OUR MINDS, IS THE OBJECT OF OUR DEVOTION." - Jan Arensmeier
To have a wayward son or daughter may well become that preoccupation of our minds, hence the object of our devotion. We are very capable of hovering over our "kids" with a rescuer's (enablers) attitude, to the potential exclusion of our own walk with the Lord! We've been guilty. We may be guilty again. We'll pray for you and request your prayers for us in this respect. Okay?
I'd best quit, lest this become too heavy. Know that we love you both. We honor your walk with the Lord, and value your friendship. We are in prayer with and for you. Having gone through some similarity of circumstances, we still can't say "we know" what you are going through. However, we can relate that there is victory available as you snuggle up to Jesus Christ, and bask in the wonder of His forgiving love. We are committed to holding you up in prayer while you go through this very trying time.
Yours In Christ,
Tim & Jan Arensmeier
P.S.: If you're interested, our "wayward" one wrote a poem some years ago, which while no longer totally appropriate, was, at the time, very much her experience. Click on Prodigal Daughter.
Web posted: February 23, 1998
Updated: April 18, 2002
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