A twenty one year-old American student has just gained a restraining order against her parents. They must remain at least 500 feet from their only child or risk arrest, and must make no attempt to contact her until after September 23 next year. A judge ruled in court that the student must be allowed to live as she chooses, and the order was imposed after attempts to reach a settlement failed. For the student it was the last resort to get free from her massively over-controlling parents.
You don’t have to be an extremely sharp observer to notice that our congregation here is mostly comprised of rather well-matured people; young families with kids are a welcome rarity. I know that many of you ask yourselves what you’ve done wrong that your adult children have stopped going to church, or go just occasionally; or why they live their lives in a way that is hardly acceptable from your moral point of view. Some of you might have tried to counsel them, but admittedly your nagging has failed, and perhaps it’s even chilled your relationships. Effectively, some of you have just given up, keeping them in your prayers and hoping that maybe one day they will change.
Parents have a natural inclination to blame themselves for their adult children’s choices, perceived as failures in raising them. That’s a very noble but – in most cases – completely wrong judgement. It would be true if kids were programmable like computers, or trainable like animals in a circus. But, thank God, they are not. Children are human beings with their unique sets of emotions, perceptions, moods, expectations, and so on. By raising and educating kids we equip them with everything they will need in their own lives: the ability to make up their minds, the ability to make reasonable and right decisions, the ability to follow a right set of values. The parents’ role in that process is impossible to overrate. But their influence – however hugely important – is just one of many other elements. At one point children turn into teenagers, questioning everything that they have learned and been told. In the end young adults might discover and adopt all the values, or some of them, as their own. They might reject them completely too. That’s what we call freedom. Even God himself does not cross this line.
There is no point of wondering what you have or haven’t done to your children. You can’t change that. So stop thinking about the past; look to the future of your children. You’ve got so much to offer them: your love, your support, your prayer. Let your offspring live their lives; let them make their own mistakes, let them take responsibility for themselves. Be to them as God is to us: respecting their freedom, waiting with open arms any time they want to come.