I have received many gifts in my life. Some were precisely what I had hoped for, while others were a disappointment. Some of them required assembly, a good deal more work than I would have liked. Some of the gifts were worth the trouble; some were not.
There is one gift, however, a gift from God, that is always worth it. “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him,” we’re told in Psalm 127:3. As parents or even grandparents, how do we respond to the gifts from God that are our children?
Some parents are overjoyed, eager to learn as much as possible about what is required to be an effective parent. Even though children don’t come with an instruction manual, some parents read as much as they can or seek the advice of other parents they respect.
Some of us, on the other hand, assume we know all that is necessary to be a good parent. The result is that we find ourselves in constant reaction mode as our “gift” grows and behaves in whatever manner it feels like, because we don’t know what we’re doing.
Perhaps we are simply too busy to focus on “the gift.” We have our careers to pursue, bills to pay, meetings to attend to, maybe even ministry to participate in. “The gift” gets short shrift, with minimal attention or time from us.
Maybe we just delegate to others the responsibility of tending to “the gift.” Perhaps we can offload the responsibility for nurturing, teaching and cherishing the gift to someone else. Maybe someone else can play, teach and spend time with “the gift.” Or maybe, in the worst scenario of all, “the gift” is simply not wanted and is discarded. Thrown away.
If we truly thought of our children as gifts directly from God, perhaps it would change our perspective about them. Perhaps the priority we would make in terms of investing our time and energy with our children would grow appreciably. Perhaps we would not be so short with our little children when they are seeking our attention at the end of a long day.
If we believed that our children were God’s personal gifts to us, we might have a greater sense of personal commitment about how we treat the gift. We might strive to learn as much as possible about how to work with our children, to help them to grow into an enduring relationship with us and ultimately with Jesus. The amount of time that we spend with “the gift” would reflect the priority that the gift would have in our lives. We would take ownership of the values that our children learn and not leave it to others or the media.
Some writers have expressed a need to spend “quality time” with our children. This can be described as time when our children receive our undivided attention, and we would be apt to describe it as quality time if our children are learning from us the values that we want them to learn. But quality time doesn’t just “happen.” Quality time is a function of the quantity of time spent. Quality time is not predictable. It doesn’t come when we, as parents, want it to. Rather, it comes when our child accepts it.
Perhaps most importantly, if we believe that our children are a gift to us directly and personally from God, we would cherish that gift. We would frequently thank God for such a wonderful gift, and we would love “the gift” unconditionally, just as God loves us unconditionally.
Our children…what a remarkable gift from God.