We parents tend to go to one extreme or the other when it comes to loving our children.
On the one hand some center their lives around their kids: their safety equipment, their activities, their happiness. These are the parents who look worn out and maybe a little resentful as kids dominate their family with never-ending needs.
On the other hand are parents who devalue children and see them as little more than a nuisance. In these homes we find children who are crumbling on the inside as they wonder if they are wanted or loved by anyone. Neither option is healthy and neither option is God’s design.
As a father of three, I often find myself caught between these extremes. I want my children to grow up knowing that they are each hand-crafted by God and loved unconditionally, but I also know that every healthy person realizes that the world does not revolve around them. How do we find the right balance? Jesus gives us a simple but profound lesson in Mark 10:13-16.
The culture of Jesus’ day tended more toward the devaluing of children. Until a boy or girl grew old enough and strong enough to work, they were considered of limited use. To a large degree a person’s value was determined by their income-earning potential.
In the midst of this culture we find Jesus modeling a different kind of love for children. One day, Mark tells us, “people were bringing their little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.” Jesus’ followers apparently felt that He didn’t have time to waste with children – He was much too busy with important things like teaching and healing and telling people about God. But Jesus surprises everyone by doing three simple things – things that we parents would do well to make a priority each day with our own kids.
[Jesus] took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them. – Mark 10:16
“He took the children in His arms…” There’s medical evidence that hugs lower our blood pressure. There’s a variety of hugs you can use: bear hugs, cuddling on the couch with a book, a quick side hug before running out the door – all of these communicate that we love being close to our children.
Again, science tells us that humans need the touch of others to live, especially during the formative years. A slight squeeze on the arm, a kiss on the forehead, even wrestling on the floor are ways to communicate love to your child.
Think back to the most positive words from your childhood – the words of blessing. As a parent, you have incredible potential to build up your child with your words. Wouldn’t it be great if you spoke words that your child holds on to through the storms of his or her life?
It doesn’t have to take long
When I read this scene of Jesus with the children, I realize how often I brush by my children on the way to accomplish some important thing on my to-do list. Jesus – who had more important things on His agenda than I ever will – found a few moments to pour love and affirmation into these children.
What an opportunity we have as parents – an opportunity with numbered days. I heard of a pastor who gave parents jars of beads, one bead for each weekend they have left with their kids. Every Monday we can take one out because the end of our time together is that much closer.
So how do we avoid giving our children too much or too little attention? Do what Jesus did. He does not push children aside but neither does He dote. A hug, a touch, a word of blessing – the simple will of God that we parents can practice every day.
Question: what simple act can you do to show love to your child today?