IT’S AP-PARENT SERMON SERIES
ARE YOU KIDDING – CONSIDERING PARENTHOOD
AUGUST 14, 1994
Well it happened about four Saturdays ago. I decided to take my two year old son, EJ, swimming. I take EJ to the pool and as we get to the pool, I try to be the ultimate Dad because packed in his diaper bag was the juice cup, an ample supply of diapers, Wet Ones, his Barney drinking cup and little crackers with peanut butter. And everything is fine. We swim around for about an hour and we had a wonderful time, a father and son thing. After about an hour I look at my watch and I go, “EJ, it is time to go and eat. We have to go home now.” “No, Daddy.” He began to cry. “EJ, we are going home now.” “No, I want to swim.” “Now.” “No.” “Now. EJ. Now.” So I take him and I walk him up the steps of the pool, I take him beside our little lounge chair, he is standing there. I say, “EJ, you dry off and Daddy is going to get dressed.” So as I am turning to put my hat on and find my shirt, I see out of the corner of my eye, EJ like an all-star second baseman scoop up my keys and throw them into the jacuzzi. And the jacuzzi is about 100 degrees, all the suds, I can’t see the keys. So I jump back in the pool, search around frantically with my feet, I find the keys and I said “EJ, stand right there, don’t move.” And as I retrieve the keys, I look, and he has picked my favorite running shoes up now and thrown them in the jacuzzi and they are sinking. I was angry, I was upset, I was mad, but a church member was watching this (much laughter) and you will never guess what this wise middle aged man told me. He looked at me, he said, “Ed, I tell you what, you sure have your hands full, don’t you?” I said, “Yes, I do.” And that is a correct statement, isn’t it, because if we are parents, if we have children, we indeed have our hands full.
And over the next eight weeks we are going to talk about this fascinating subject called parenthood. Parenthood. Just the mention of the name for some of you brings to mind positive memories and great feelings and wonderful thoughts. But to others of you, it brings a whoosh of negative emotions, difficult times, horrible recollections. I know during this series that we will be wading through some stingray infested shallows. And now and then we will disturb a couple of stingrays and they might sting you and sting me and we will feel the pain of something we need to deal with concerning parenthood. But I am going to promise you something, I am going to do everything in my power and with God’s help to make this series constructive and not destructive for you.
Today’s topic is a hot one. Considering parenthood. Considering parenthood. I believe that would-be parents ought to take some serious, serious time and they ought to do a boatload of praying before they even think about bringing children into the world. And maybe, just maybe, God might not want you to have children. And some of you are thinking in your brains now, “Ed, how could you say a thing like that? Be fruitful and multiply. Children are a blessing from God.” That is right. I have to say Amen to that. But for some of you, I am even talking about Christian couples, it might not be God’s will for you to bring a son or a daughter into this world. And here is why I say that. I say that because our culture is radically different than it was two or three decades ago. This place is going nuts. Just think about it briefly. Think about radio and television and the content today as compared to twenty-five years ago. Twenty-five years ago we sang the Beatles hit, I Want To Hold Your Hand. And today fifth graders by means of MTV watch Stone Temple Pilots sing a sex type thing which celebrates rape. Thirty years ago the rowdiest kids on television, Beaver Cleaver and Dennis the Menace disobeyed their parents now and then. Today the rowdiest kids on television, Beavis and Butthead, talk about the joys of lesbian sex, they get thrills out of watching people defecate on one another and playing with fire. At our fingertips. If you have cable you have over fifty channels to choose from, you can watch soft pornography on HBO, Showtime, Cinemax or you might want to check out one of the network movies that celebrates sadistic, ritualistic, Satanic murder. Or you can watch a talk-show host tell you how normal it is to be a homosexual, how that is an everyday occurrence and we had better accept it as a lifestyle that is an option.
Look at the arts. I majored in the fine arts for awhile. I enjoyed and really appreciated the works of Picasso, Renoir, Monet. But from there we moved to the modern art zone. And modern art is kind of a weird type situation because you could never really study it or understand it or get a grasp on it. Wild splashes of color and weird sculpture. I like what one guy said about modern art. He defined modern art as a conspiracy between the wealthy and the artist to make the rest of us look foolish. There is a lot of truth in that, isn’t there. And from there we move into the post-modern art era. I am talking about some real twisted stuff. And our government pays for some of this. For example, our government funds a picture of Jesus Christ on the cross submerged in a bottle of urine. Or maybe the genitals of a six year old girl. And they are calling this art? You have got to think about, would-be parents, think about, would-be parents, think about, would-be parents this culture, the cultural climate.
How about our school systems? About thirty years ago you could pray in the school halls and kids got into trouble if they chewed Bazooka Joe bubble gum. Today they are giving out condoms in school halls, and kids are carrying around real live Bazookas, and they are killing one another with them. In the United States of America. This is going on. So think about the culture. Today is a different day than it was even a decade ago. And if you line this stage with the top marriage and family experts, packed them out, and you asked them this question: “Is today’s cultural climate more or less conducive for rearing children than it was a decade ago?” they would all say in unison, “Ed, there is no doubt about it, today is less conducive than ever before.”
I didn’t tell you those things to scare you or to frighten you. Children are a gift from God and I think He leads most Christian couples into this, but I want you to have your feet firmly planted in reality before you jump into the child rearing scene.
Would-be parents you need to take Christ’s advice because Jesus Christ tells us in Matthew 10:16, “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” That is Christ’s command. It is Christ’s command to parents but today it is Christ’s command to would-be parents. Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. How do you do that? How do you do that, would-be parents? You have got to consider the past, you have got to consider the present and you have got to consider the future. Three considerations, the past, the present and the future, and you have got to make these considerations before you get into a situation like our drama portrayed.
First you have got to consider the past. Last summer I went to Central America with four close friends of mine and we had a wonderful time. And one of the guys who went with me, I will not bring his name out, he carried with him over a hundred and fifty pounds of luggage. As we made our way into Belise City and through customs, the customs agent made most of us open our suitcases and he went through the contents of the suitcases. And it wasn’t a fun thing, it took a lot of effort, energy, pain, because to lift these heavy objects onto the table for someone to look through them, it takes a lot of effort. Parents and would-be parents we bring more baggage with us today into the marital equation than ever before. We bring baggage from our families. And all of us have baggage, some of the bags are heavier than others. Maybe you had an abusive home life, maybe a father or mother who had problems with alcohol or drugs, or maybe you had parents who just abused you, who told you were no good, that you were a no-account, that you were ugly, that you would never make it. Bags. I am talking about serious baggage and if you don’t deal with baggage first, would-be parents, if you don’t open this baggage and look through the contents and reveal the contents to each other, to our Lord, to a trusted friend, or maybe a Christian counselor here is what will happen. You will pass those bags of brokenness to your children and then they will pass the bags of brokenness to their children and it goes on and on and on. Who is going to break the cycle, who is going to open the bags and say, “I am going to deal with it because, Ed, I want to give my children bags of blessedness and not bags of brokenness. I have got to deal with my baggage.” You see it there on the outline? I have got to deal with my baggage. That is why Hebrews 12:1 says, “Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders us, (and that is the baggage), and the sin that so easily entangles us.”
I was playing in a golf tournament a couple of months ago which is kind of a rarity for me, and I met a gentleman whose father is a world-wide celebrity and if I called this man’s name out you would know it like that – a household name. And this world-wide celebrity has had a problem with drugs, alcohol, immorality. And I wondered, as I met his son, is he different? I wonder if his son has kind of broken the cycle. I wonder what he is like. And after about the ninth, tenth, eleventh hole, as I watched him drink beer after beer after beer, he stopped off at a bar and was doing the shot thing. He was stumbling, taking the Lord’s name in vain every other breath, yelling obscenities at women. I thought, isn’t that tragic? He took those bags of brokenness and he is broken and one day this kid will get married and pass those broken bags to his children.
This is nothing new. Look at the Bible. You’re talking about bags of brokenness. Father Abraham. Abraham lied about his wife and told people his wife was his sister to save his life. His son Isaac did the same thing. And Isaac’s son, Jacob, (the word Jacob in the Hebrew means con artist) did the same thing. Jacob, though, had a son by the name of Joseph. And Joseph received a bag of brokenness, however, he broke the cycle. God removed him from his family, put him in a pit and he rose from the pit to the pinnacle and he became one of the great men of God to ever grace the face of this planet. He broke it. It is my prayer, would-be parents that you deal with this stuff. And that is one of the reasons I would tell you to think, to consider, to pray about bringing children into the world. Go through this process first, think about the past.
And then you have got also to consider the present. Considering the present. We have a lot of builders, I am talking about home builders, in our church. And if you talk to these home builders very much, they always will stress to you the importance of a solid, firm foundation. That is Building 101. And they feel confident, even in Las Colinas, if they build on a solid foundation. And they can build beautiful homes on structures like this. But, if the foundation is weak, if the foundation is cheap, it will mess the structure up. It will look terrible over time. The second thing we have to do is, we have to assess the strength of our marriages, would-be parents. Is our spiritual foundation, is our marriage strong enough to really take the added weight of children? And conditional wisdom says this, it says well, you are having a little bit of marriage problems, have a baby, that will bring you closer together. I am here to tell you that is a lie. That’s not true. Another little person, another little self-centered sinner, complicates the equation, it adds more pressure, more responsibility. So would-be parents, is your marriage strong enough? That’s why the Bible says in Ephesians 5:33, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself. And the wife must respect her husband.” The way God designed it, parents, would-be parents, the husband’s and wife’s relationship is the foundation for the family. It really is, and too many parents, let me say a word to parents, too many parents spend so much time, energy and effort with their children that they oftentimes neglect their relationship. You have got to deepen your marriage while you are rearing children. And would-be parents, you have got to think about just the cost of bringing children into the world. You have got to think about your lives and your marriage as a model. Because children watch you and they absorb everything from you. They take their cues on love, their cues on conflict resolution, they take their cues on values, on how Christianity is lived outside of the church walls from Moms and Dads and they end up, your children, parenting and loving their spouse the way you love your spouse and the way you parented them. Because that is the only model they have. What a responsibility. What a heavy load. Don’t consider parenthood until you know your foundation, spiritually and relationally and emotionally, is strong enough.
And that brings us to the future. You have got to consider the future. The Bible tells us, in Proverbs 20:7, “The righteous man leads a blameless life. Blessed are his children after him.” Would-be parents, you have got to realize the responsibility of parenthood. Realizing the responsibility of parenthood. I am talking about full involvement of Moms and Dads in the parental process. You cannot push a button and microwave your children into maturity, you have got to put in large chunks of time, money, energy and effort. It’s a responsibility. It takes work, it is not easy. And when people say, oh, you are so lucky because you have an excellent marriage and a great family, you are just so blessed, you are so lucky. I want to die laughing. When I hear someone say that to another family or regarding a marriage that is really happening I know it ain’t luck. It ain’t just, “Well God blessed me”. It takes work, it takes blood, sweat, tears. It takes endurance, it takes vision, it takes stability to do this. It doesn’t just happen.
I read, this past week, an interesting survey. Two eastern colleges were used and four hundred students were asked the following question. They were asked, what type of mother do you respect more than any other mother? Listen to the results. The most admired mother was the one who stayed home with her children, the homemaker. The second most admired mother was the mom who stayed home even though it would have been much better economically for her to go to work. The least admired mothers in the survey were those who had a choice, they could stay home with their children or work and they decided to work even though economically they didn’t have to. You see, you have got to think about these things before you have children. And I believe the great heros in our world today are single parents. They have to bust it in the marketplace and bust it with their children. And they are the ones, in my opinion, who should get discounts on meals, insurance, bus fares, whatever.
Another researcher, Rick Weise, writes “Couples with children frequently experience higher levels of frustration and lower levels of happiness. Married mothers tend to be more depressed than their husbands and more depressed than women who have no children. But after their children are grown and gone, older parents report higher measures of happiness, satisfaction, self-esteem, purpose, and fulfillment in life than do adults who remain childless.” So it shows you the cost, the responsibility, the pressure of being a parent. But I want to tell you something. It is worth it. It is worth it. I cannot think of a greater investment than to be a parent. And God has been very direct in leading Lisa and I to have children. That is evident because we have four. And I sometimes remove myself from our family. I am in our den, and I look at Lisa fixing another fabulous meal, I watch LeeBeth doing another art project, I watch EJ watching Aladdin for the twenty-seventh time in two days, I see Laurie and Landra, hopefully asleep in the swings, and I say to myself, God, I thank you so much for the fulfillment of family. You cannot put a price tag on this stuff, folks. I don’t know where I would be without my family, they bring so much joy, so much purpose and meaning into my life because God has been very direct in His leading.
How about you would-be parents? What is God saying to you? Is God saying, wait a minute, slow down, do the past, present and future check first? Or is He saying, it is time, it is time? Some of you who are parents, you have teenagers or maybe college age kids and you are saying, “Ed, I didn’t go through this check before I brought children into the world. I didn’t know anything about this and here I have given my child a broken bag and now I see I want to give them instead the blessedness, is it too late for me?” No, it is not too late. Because we serve the perfect heavenly parent and He can re-parent us. And He wants us to deal with these contents and He wants to change your parenting philosophy from one that deals with dishonor to honor, from brokenness to blessedness, if though, you tell the truth about your condition.
So I have got to say to you, are you kidding? Are you kidding? Are you considering parenthood? There is not a higher calling. But before you take advantage of it you had better stop and ask yourself questions regarding the past, the present and the future.