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Minor Prophets in My Home: How Children Reveal Our Idols

By Darren Carlson

There are five minor prophets living in my home, all under the age of thirteen. They preach at me continually with their actions and words, exposing my heart for what it is at levels previously unknown. They are my children. When I became a parent, I thought I was ready to address the heart and motive behind their behavior, but I never realized how quickly they would address mine.

When They Fail in Ways We Succeeded

My friend was an amazing athlete and played sports in high school and college. His son can’t catch a ball. It’s hard for my friend. Why?

Parents often act as though our role is to shape our children into an idealized version of our younger selves. Were you good at sports? Your kids should be as well. Could you play the piano? Your children’s progress will be measured based on where you were at their age. Was school easy for you? It should be for your children. Love a certain hobby? They should too!

And if they fall short, we often drive them forward even harder toward our idealized version of ourselves. They must be better than me at the things I was best at. If we have the money, we pay tutors and camps and personal trainers to make it happen (which are not wrong in and of themselves). This is how we turn children into trophies. If they don’t measure up or surpass us, we may subtly begin to hide them and make excuses to others for their shortcomings.

But what does Scripture say of your children (and of God)?

You formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:13–14)

Are our children wonderfully made to be exactly like us? God has uniquely created his image-bearers and gifted them according to his plan, for the sake of his glory, not ours. We are to develop, encourage, and use these gifts with humility (Romans 12:6–8). The apostle Paul might say, we should not force our kids to be a foot, when they are a hand (1 Corinthians 12:12). Perhaps we need to lay down the love for ourselves that eventually judges our children based on what we are good at and love.

When They Copy Our Sins

I used to cheat and steal. When I was a new teacher of high school students, I caught a student cheating in my class. I lost it. I tend to judge others harshest for the sins I have been enslaved by most. When my children try to cheat and take something that does not belong to them, that anger emerges.

As they have grown older, they have begun to mimic the faults of my wife and me. They are often the idiosyncrasies and sins that drive us the most crazy. And what is our response? Anger and frustration. We ask ourselves, What is wrong with them?

More like, what is wrong with me? Jesus’s words haunt us: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1–2). We may mock the postmodern world for quoting this as a form of protectionism from any kind of criticism, but Jesus clearly warns us about being harsh toward others without taking a long, hard look at ourselves (Matthew 7:5).

When we respond this way to our children’s sins, especially to sins they may have learned from us, we have taken the place of God, believing their sin is primarily against us, instead of him. We forget our own sinful nature and treat them in a way we would never wish to be treated when we are caught in sin and in need of help.

Paul writes, “If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). We’re often quick to heavy discipline, and slow to gentle restoration. Why? Because we loathe our own faults and don’t want others to imitate them. Sometimes we punish our children harshly simply because they struggle with what we hate most about ourselves — instead of disciplining them like God disciplines us, in and through the gospel.

When They Restrict Our Freedom

We just want an hour of quiet, but the children want to talk. We want to talk on the phone with a friend, but by some magnetic force, the kids are drawn into the room. We need to prepare for dinner, but they want to wrestle on the floor below the oven. Kids get in the way. We laugh at situations like this, but they are a small glimpse of a bigger trend and problem.

Even having kids is delayed altogether today for personal and professional fulfillment. Once the kids have arrived, you mourn the vacations you can no longer take. There are things you want (or covet) to buy, but now can’t. There are ministries you want to join, but diapers and talking and training your kids leaves so little time. So, you cry out to God, wanting to do something “more significant” than discipling your kids.

We live in a society that is growing in its animosity toward children, primarily because we view them as a limitation, a shift that has sadly infected the church. The abortion industry, which Christians tend to attack the most, is one (glaring) piece of evidence for a much larger cultural idol: limitless freedom. Kids hinder us from doing (or being) what we might do (or be) if they weren’t around to limit our options. We view them as weights around our ankles. It is the idol of self — of determining our schedule and deciding our priorities based on what we want.

Candace Cameron Bure’s Dreamy Family Vacation in Italy: ‘Take Me Back’

Candace Cameron Bure, loved for her roles on "Full House" and "Fuller House," recently took to Instagram to reminisce about her family's dream summer vacation in Italy.

Chip and Joanna Gaines: 11 Godly Secrets to an Epic Marriage and Family

Chip and Joanna Gaines are teaching us important lessons about marriage and family as they walk away from their HGTV show for the sake of their family.

‘My abuser is here today’: Miss Kansas Uses Interview Portion of Pageant to Call Out Abuser Before Being Crowned

Miss Kansas 2024, Alexis Smith, has captured national attention not just for her beauty and charisma, but for her bravery in addressing a deeply personal and harrowing issue: domestic abuse.