The Big Decision
May 21, 2000
It’s one of the most critical calls in life. Some make the choice without so much as a thought. Others mull over it and debate it for years. Some have made the call, yet strangely, nothing has happened. Hundreds of couples right now who are hearing my voice are even thinking about it. Since I’m taking my fashion cues from Regis Philbin today, and since the flavor of this message will be along the lines of his hit show, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” I want to stop and ask you this question: do you want to be a parent? Or, as Regis says, [Regis impersonation] “Do you want to be a parent?” Before you give your final answer, listen to the following information.
If you haven’t discovered it already, I’m in a series called the Parent Map. Record numbers of people are checking this map out. They are wondering whether or not they should take this journey that leads to this ultimate destination of parenting children, of being a mother or a father. If you’re called to do it, there’s nothing like it. But I want to say this: before you get into the baby business, make sure you take care of your business.
Speaking of considering parenthood, people these days are talking a lot about the environment, aren’t they? Environmental issues are huge—holes in the ozone layer, pesticides on produce, the cleanliness of our drinking water. People love to talk about the environment. This sign right here pretty much says it all: Hazardous Waste. Hey, pre-parents, those of you who are married, who are considering doing the mommy or daddy deal, you must think about hazardous waste. You must consider the environmental issues.
This was hammered home to me this past August. My youngest brother and I were wading in one of the most remote and beautiful bays in the world, Asunción Bay in southern Mexico. While we were walking through this bathtub-like water, enjoying the scenery of God’s beautiful creation—the wildlife, the mangrove trees, the different flowers— something caught my eye. Something stood out: a large piece of trash. I said to myself, “Is this something? Here I am in the middle of nowhere, hundreds of miles from any real civilization, and here is a piece of pollution.” Pollution has permeated our planet, physically and with child-rearing challenges as well. Smart pre-parents consider the hazardous waste quotient. They consider how much pollution their children will have to deal with on this planet that’s packed full of violence, rebellion, chicanery, and debauchery.
Just four decades ago, you could pray in classrooms, and rebellious kids got in trouble for chewing Bazooka Joe bubble gum. Today, they’re handing out condoms in classrooms, and rebellious kids are firing off real bazookas. When I was young, a popular song on the radio was by Three Dog Night, called “Old-Fashioned Love Song.” When you’re going home from church a little bit later, turn on the radio. You’ll probably hear the hit song by Sisqo called “Thong Song.” How times have changed. This isn’t the Brady Bunch or the Jetsons anymore. We’re talking about South Park.
We’re talking about situations like the one some friends shared with me last week. I know a husband and wife team who are in the hair care industry, and they said that a client of theirs—a single forty-something-year-old woman—had installed cameras at strategic points in her house and, via the Internet, people could go online and pay a fee to watch her shower, undress, and perform other unmentionable acts. This lady was bragging about the fact that she was raking in tens of thousands of dollars per month.
Pre-parents, this is not the same environment, this is not the same hazardous waste that you dealt with or that I processed when I was growing up. It’s a different world. Children, your children and mine, will cut their teeth on this toxic tract of land known as Earth. I don’t tell you this to scare you; I don’t tell you this to discourage you. I tell you this so you can do a reality check. Jesus made this bold statement in Matthew 10:16: “Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
“Snake! Snake! Snake!” my children said. I ran out to the front of our house and looked around, and on the second step leading up to our front door was a copperhead. I got down and said, “Kids, get back! Get back! [Australian accent] Oh, isn’t he a beautiful boy; what a snake!” No, I didn’t do that. I tried to take care of the snake. Right when I made the move to take the snake out, this crafty creature slithered into a crack. He’s nowhere to be found. The snake is now living underneath the steps of our front door. Snakes are shrewd; they’re crafty.
Pre-parents must be shrewd and crafty. We need to think about the culture in which we find ourselves. We need to think about the challenges. We need to pray like we’ve never prayed before. We need to be intentional, and really process all of this environmental stuff so that we can be the best parents possible. But we must do the work before we decide to become parents, as opposed to afterwards.
I have a good friend who has a company that cleans up hazardous waste from tracts of land. The other day he was explaining to me all the processes and procedures his leadership team goes through before they clean up hazardous waste. What a word to you, those of you who are thinking about parenthood, whether it’s a biological child or you’re thinking about adoption.
Several nights ago, I found myself doing something that I didn’t really like to do. I found myself wading through tall weeds around our neighborhood and nailing up a sign on a telephone pole. Here’s the sort of sign that I was nailing to the telephone pole: Garage Sale. I hate garage sales. I despise them. My wife loves garages sales. I want to bring to you, on this stage, some of the junk we did not sell. We made a whopping forty dollars; it was a windfall, man. We had so much extra junk that we packed it in our garage, and I can’t even pull my truck in. A garage sale….
I just don’t like people looking at my junk, and I’m sentimental. Look at this little cart here that our kids used to use. Yeah, our giant bullmastiffs have torn it up, you can see that. But I kind of like having it around. People donated stuff, like this very fashionable jacket. What a statement!
We all have junk in our lives: generational junk. I have junk that was given to me by my flawed parents; so do you. Pre-parents must do a garage sale. Pre-parents must step up, nail this sign to their lives, and say, “You know what? We are going to deal with the junk. The junk stops here.”
For example, let’s say you were given the generational junk of anger. Let’s say you wear this anger and you rage on your children because you were just given this anger and that’s you. You don’t want to take it off. You give it to your kids; they grow up and give it to their kids. Who is going to break the cycle of sin? Who is going to do the garage sale?
Abraham, a patriarch of the faith, had some generational junk. He tried to pass his wife off as his sister to save his rear. Isaac, his son, did the same thing. Jacob, in the Hebrew, means “supplanter” or “con artist.” Jacob’s sons? They were horrible. You’re talking about dealing with generational junk? Someone, though, broke the cycle. Someone, though, had a garage sale. Joseph. Joseph stood up, and Joseph said, “It stops here. No more of this stuff.”
Maybe you’ve been given anger; that’s your junk. Maybe you’ve been given materialism. Maybe you’ve been given a wounded self-esteem. I don’t know what you’ve been given, but don’t play with the junk! Don’t get sentimental—I’ve got to ride this thing [gets on the dog-eaten toy cart]—sentimental, whoa, with the junk. Don’t do that. Don’t say, “No, I’m not going to do a garage sale. I’m just going to keep this stuff.” Get rid of it. Once you get rid of it, you’re talking about freedom, joy, and peace that surpass all understanding.
Years ago I met with a man who did a garage sale. This man was the father of several children, and his life was spinning out of control because of the junk. It was so garaged in his life, it was so intricate and piled on top of itself that his life was messed up. But with tears streaming down his face, he came clean and he did the garage sale deal. He looked at and labeled everything in his life. Everything that was given to him he dealt with, and now this person is walking in joy, in freedom.
Hebrews 12:1, “Let us throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Locate it and label it. Maybe you’re a person who is marrying a single parent, and the single parent has two or three children. Do a garage sale. Or maybe you’re saying, “Well, Ed, you don’t get it. I’ve got junk, it’s garaged, I’m wearing it, I’m riding it, I’m messing around with it, I’m sentimental. What do I do?” Allow our Heavenly parent, the perfect parent, God, to parent you. Talk about your garage sale stuff with a trusted friend or a Christian counselor. Hey, you get help on your golf game. You talk to accountants about financial challenges. You go to the doctor when you’re sick. Why not a Christian counselor?
I also—I’ll say it one more time—I also beg you to hook up with a Home Team. Our small group ministries, we call them Home Teams, are the most important little enclaves in Fellowship Church. It’s great to come to corporate worship—we’re commanded to do so in Hebrews 10:25—but also, we’re commanded to get together in groups of community. They’re little healing huddles. They’re little areas where we can process our stuff, discuss the Bible, pray for each other, get to know one another, and have a garage sale. Pre-parents, think about the environment in which you’re living. Think about your junk.
How many of you have built a house recently in the Dallas/Fort Worth area? If you’ve built a house recently, would you lift your hand? Don’t be shy. That’s all, about five people? Okay. People are afraid: “He might call me up! I’m not raising my hand!” The most important part of a house is the foundation. A builder friend told me Thursday morning at 7am at Starbucks, “Ed, the deal is the foundation. Your house is as good as your foundation, and the soils here are terrible for the most part. They shake and bake and rock and roll. You’ve got to get serious about, and pour a lot of money into, your foundation.
This winter we’re going to break ground on a children’s and adult training facility right where I’m pointing: right out there, north. It’ll be about 90,000 square feet. Then we’re doing another structure: we’re going to quadruple the size of our atrium, and make a food-court type situation where we can meet and greet and eat and hang out before and after services. It’ll be wonderful because we don’t have a family room. We’re a church family without a family room. That’ll be it. But I’m going to tell you something: just the foundational work is so intricate and so expensive. Before you consider parenthood, check the foundation of your marriage. Is your marriage strong enough, is it stable enough, to have children?
Now and then I’ll hear this: pre-parents will say, “You know, Ed, we want to have children because it will bring us closer together.” On that one I don’t hold back. I say, “Excuse me? Children complicate, they don’t simplify.” When Lisa and I were childless, we thought we were really busy. Now we look back and go, “What were we thinking?” How solid is the foundation of your marriage? Is it solid enough to withstand the movement of the soils that childhood brings? Is it solid, I mean rock-solid enough to withstand the strain and the pressure of what we’re talking about, of what you’re signing up for?
In the opening installment, I talked about the spouse-centric home. If you missed that, please pick up the tape. The most important part of a family is the marriage. Everything rises and falls on the marital foundation. If you have a strong marriage, children benefit. That’s where children learn about love, that’s where they learn about processing anger, that’s where they learn about conflict resolution, that’s where they learn about Christianity and how it’s lived inside and outside the walls of the church, that’s where they learn about handling money. If you are giving your children a solid marital foundation, I’m talking about a rock-solid, pier-and-beam foundation, they will be launched with great trajectory. They’ll have a healthy self-esteem; they’ll have confidence; they’ll have an aim that the world cannot offer. Conversely, if you have a poor marital foundation, you’re going to have some trouble. A poor marital foundation, I’m talking about a foundation that’s cracked, can really be treacherous.
You see, we oftentimes deal with teenagers and children who are cracked because, simply put, the marriage was not strong enough to support a little one. The good news is that we serve a God of grace and forgiveness. The good news is that God can take the pieces and put them back together and remold your marriage and remake your marriage, but it’s going to take work. Don’t—I beg you—don’t jump into the childrearing thing until you have a solid marital foundation.
Some tightwads are saying, “Well, Ed, we’re not going to have children until we can afford it.” Guess what? You can never afford it. If I would have waited that long, I would still be childless.
This past week, I was having my quiet time. When I say “quiet time” I mean my time when I read the Bible and pray and talk to God. Knowing God is just like a marriage: when you say, “I do,” you don’t realize the full implications of it until after you say “I do.” You grow in that relationship; the same is true with the Lord. You say “I do” to Him, and then you realize the depth and the beauty as you spend time in His word and time in prayer. Check this verse out: Proverbs 24. “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it’s established. Through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”
I never cease to be amazed at how our children mimic Lisa and I. It’s scary sometimes. Just like yesterday afternoon. I’m sorry, yesterday morning. Saturday morning I usually do the same thing. I’m not a morning person, but I get up early. I stagger into the kitchen, grab a cup of coffee, and I walk into our family room. I like to be alone for about thirty minutes and just watch a fishing show. Just thirty minutes alone, sipping coffee, watching a fishing show.
About five minutes into the show, I look over and I see E.J., my eight-year-old, walking in with a cup of “coffee.” Seventy percent of it was sugar and milk. He sat down and said, “Dad, look. I’ve got coffee like you, and we’re watching a fishing show together!” Now, to you, that might not mean that much. But for me, it really spoke to me. If he’s doing the coffee and fishing show deal, just think what else he’s picking up because values are more caught than taught. What a challenge we have. So before you have children, you need to think about the cost. Jesus said, many times, “Count the cost.” The financial sacrifice, the relational sacrifice, the recreational sacrifice, the occupational sacrifice. Pretty important stuff.
Some of you right now are probably really going through a difficult time just hearing words about parenting because you are one out of the three couples who are dealing with infertility. Maybe you’ve been trying and trying to have children, but nothing is happening. Maybe you’re tired of going from doctor to doctor. Maybe you’re tired of intimacy being dictated by a temperature chart. Infertility is a crisis of control. Oftentimes couples who are infertile say, “Is God punishing me? Why can these dope addicts crank out kid after kid after kid, and we’d be great parents, and nothing is happening?”
I want to talk to those of us who have children or those of us who make stupid comments to those of us without children. Don’t ever say these words to a husband or a wife without children. Don’t ever say this: “When y’all havin’ kids?”, or “Oh, you’re infertile? Just relax. Go to Hawaii.” “Hey, infertility? My wife and I never dealt with that; all we had to do was wink at each other and we’d get pregnant.” Stupid comments. Those comments pierce infertile couples’ hearts and souls like knives.
If you are infertile, remember this: a child does not constitute a family. Adam and Eve were a family unit without children. You must set, though, a financial and emotional limit. I don’t know what that is for you; only you and your spouse can make that call. But I do know this: you’ve got to make it. There are some wonderful resources in our bookstore about infertility that you can pick up right after this message. But also, there’s an adoption option out there. There are millions of children that need to be adopted. If adoption is for you, you’ve got to come to the point where you realize that an adopted child is not the consolation prize. You’ve got to come to the point where you and your spouse say, “You know what, it doesn’t matter if our child is a biological one or an adopted one: we’re going to love him or her just the same.” Parenting is not a biological thing, it’s a love thing. If you’re adopted, you’re in good company because Jesus was adopted by his earthly father Joseph. Also, the Bible uses this whole concept of adoption to talk about what occurs when someone becomes a Christ-follower. The moment I receive Christ, I’m adopted into the family of God. God has done the adoptive work. We’re not automatically born children of God. People say, “I’m just a child of God.” No, you aren’t. You’re not a child a God until you have received the adoptive work God did for you through His very own son. Many of you right now are outside the family of God, and today, you can take that step and become adopted.
A couple days ago one of our twins had a friend over. She is six years old and she was recently adopted from Russia. She’s been over here for maybe 24 months. When we were dropping her off at her house—and she has some wonderful Christian parents—Lisa and I looked at each other and we said, “You know, where would this little girl be had these parents not adopted her?” Adoption is great. Don’t throw it out. It’s wonderful.
Hazardous Waste: think about the pollution. The Garage Sale deal: get rid of all your junk, the generational junk. Check out your foundation regularly. I’m going to stand here and do the Regis Philbin thing one more time. Do you want to be a parent? Do you really want to be a parent? Maybe this message, this information, assisted you in making your final answer.