Have you got it all planned out?
JK Rowling had her seven Harry Potter books plotted out, one for each year Harry spends at Hogwarts school, before the first one was published. She had a very precise plan for her fictional ‘son’. What about you? Do you have your child’s future all plotted out? Maybe not on paper; that would be strange! But perhaps you do have a precise idea of how their life will roll on? What is your ten year plan is for your child? Or even your twenty year plan?
This may seem ridiculous – Of course you don’t have a plan! And yet, even if you’ve never thought about it, you are working to a plan for your child’s life every single day. You can see the plan by the priorities you have. By the decisions you make. By the events that make it into your diary. By the money you spend. By what you fight for, by what you determine must happen and by what causes you to worry.
By the age of about eight years old, I think your child knows what your ten year plan is for them. Even if you have never told them. How can they know? Because they see how you plan their schedule each week. They know what matters to you by what you make happen in their lives; school work, sport, tidiness, music practice or Bible time. They know what you want them to be good at. They know what you want them to prioritise. They notice what takes the priority over church. They know what you think is worth spending money on. Perhaps they have even noticed from your reactions what sort of car they should drive, what sort of home they should live in and what sort of person they should have as a friend.
When Paul wrote his letters to Timothy, at the start of each he calls Timothy his ‘true son’ and his ‘dear son’. Throughout his letters we hear his priorities, his commands, his wisdom, but we also hear a little more. Paul has spent so much time with Timothy that he can point to the priorities and decisions that Timothy has seen lived out in his life. Paul is very aware that life speaks of his priorities and his character.
10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.(2 Timothy 3:10-15)
Paul expects Timothy, his true son, to follow a similar pattern of life to Paul himself: one that will inevitably involve persecution and suffering. Wow. He is sure that he will do this firstly (v14) because of those he has learned it from and secondly (v15) because from his earliest years he has lived by the Bible, trusting in Jesus Christ for his salvation. As parents, we are those who will be teaching our children their convictions, not just with our words but with our ways of life. We are those who will show them faith and who will model what it looks like to live by the Bible.
We have many good hopes for our children that are born out of love for them – often we may want better for them than we experienced ourselves. We want their happiness. We want their safety. We want to protect them from being hurt or upset. Of course we do, but so few of these hopes are within our power to make happen. How comforting to know that our heavenly Father has every moment of his children’s lives in his hands (Psalm 139:16) and has what is best for them in mind (Romans 8:28) every step of the way.
We cannot write the ten year plan for our children. We cannot sketch out the book of their lives as J K Rowling did for Harry Potter. We can live our lives in front of our children making godly decisions, turning to Christ in difficulties and praying for the Spirit to make our characters more and more like our Saviour’s. We can also be deliberate in our priorities, in our passions and even in the sources of our joy. Our prayer must be that their testimony will be even more magical than Harry Potter’s.