Sometimes it would be nice to know the future. Some of the characters in the BIble were given a glimpse of it. In Genesis 15, God promises Abram a son. When none was forthcoming with his wife Sarai, he had a son with his servant Hagar. This wasn’t the one God had been talking about; nonetheless, he told Abram that his name would be Ishmael; he described Ishmael’s personality and his place in history.
Later on in Genesis 25, Isaac, the son who had been promised, and his wife Rebekah were expecting twins. Again, even before their birth, God described their strengths, foreshadowed Esau’s selling of his birthright to Jacob, and foretold that they would father two separate nations.
In the first chapter of Luke, God tells Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth will give birth to someone named John, and that John will be the one to prepare people for the coming of Jesus. This news stunned Zechariah, but God had known this all along. In Isaiah 40, hundreds of years earlier, he had described John’s voice, crying in the wilderness.
God already knew these, as yet unborn, people. They already had personalities and they had a place in his world. God says to Jeremiah in Chapter 1 verse 5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”
Most of us don’t get those peeks into the future. When our children are born, we meet them for the first time. We discover who they are as we try to equip them for their lives. We love them and teach them. We try to discern and help them to develop their gifts.
When we become parents, it’s easy to allow lives to be absorbed by our children. Our interests, our activities are displaced by the immediacy of their needs. We want them to be exposed to every opportunity, every discipline that might enhance their lives.
But just as we meet our children for the first time at their birth, they are meeting us. As they grow through infancy into childhood and adolescence, we become the standard for them, the tangible, visible example of how to live. They see who we are as people and how we are living the lives God gave to us.
A lifetime ago, our parents were most likely thinking of us, wondering what we would be like and how we would turn out and what they could do to give us our best lives. Our best life may include having children, but having children doesn’t limit or define. Our life doesn’t stop in the delivery room. As long as we are still breathing, we can be certain that God still has a purpose for us.
It is so easy to let parenthood become all-consuming. It doesn’t seem like much of a sacrifice to forego our own interests when we have these beloved children. But God has given us gifts and relationships and influence beyond our children. His plans for us generally extend beyond changing diapers. We are accountable to God for our whole life. Child rearing is a huge responsibility, one to be taken very seriously. But what better role model can we give our kids than to live our entire life for God — before kids, during their formative years, and in the empty nest?
We rear children to prepare them for their adult relationship with and accountability to God. As we grow through the lives that God has planned for us, let’s let the whole of our lives, and not just our parenting, inspire them to be the people that God knows them to be.