The idea was to write about fanatical sports parents. I'm sure it was to put my usual sarcastic/humorous/ tell-it-like-it-is spin on it....but I can't. I'm sure you'll understand why by the end. I'm going to preach instead. (Yeah...what's new?) Besides parents know if they are behaving badly. They're ON NOTICE!! You can tell them I said so.
*Disclaimer: I'm using the example of sports below, but it is just the word I'm using for anything that interferes with the time you would spend at Church and with your Church family or your time with Christ.*
I noticed a trend when I used to teach in Children's ministries at church and it was even more pronounced when I worked in youth. The trend? Sporting events were being held during the times that used to be reserved for families to attend church. Back in my day, Wednesday evenings and Sundays in entirety were off limits. But not anymore. So attendance at church was dependent on sports. I didn't understand because I have different rules here at Casa Lawson. My children played sports for a while, soccer and softball, and Ashley went to Nationals for Tumble & Trampoline but we wouldn't put either a game or a practice in front of church. I just wouldn't budge and it was respected every time and many parents thanked me for having that boundary so they didn't have to worry about making tough decisions.
In my Bible Study classes it was a topic that was often discussed and moms would tell me that the kids wouldn't always get to play sports, but they would always be able to go to Church. God would still be there, right? Besides...little Joey/Judy/ is a natural and wayyy more talented than your average bear and is going to go pro for sure and at the minimum is going to get a fabulous scholarship. Boy am I old fashioned. They felt they had taught their kids to love Jesus and that love wasn't dependent on Church attendance. True. I give them that. I would give them some scripture :"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:25 * Crickets. Nothing! No one got it. So eventually I let it go. I try not to judge and I'm not raising their kids. It's really not my business, I told myself. I regret it. (Side note: Ashley got a fabulous scholarship. Not for her fabulous athletic talent, but for being a ...SCHOLAR. That's right. She did most of her homework. Just saying.)
Now if asked that same question, I would still go back to the Word, but I would also tell this story. This is not one Mom or one child, but I assure you it is a compilation of several conversations I've had with several moms who I believe would share this with you if they could. Like a novelist sometimes does, I'm molding them into one "character" for the sake of anonymity and timeliness. I wouldn't dare tell their private stories, they aren't mine to tell but I will share a bit of what haunts them with you. Let's call her, "Jane."
What is haunting Jane? The loss of a child. By the child's own hand. You understand what I'm saying. The worst thing you can imagine, these moms have walked through and come out on the other side, broken, scarred, wounded, changed and they are ferocious survivors but with a few regrets. Of course Jane is in no way to blame. Jane and Joe loved this child passionately and gave her everything. They gave the child boundaries and rules and chores and gifts and family and everything else a child needs. They took the child to church until sports or some other hobby/passion intervened. Then it always seemed there would be time later. This was not a child lacking for anything. Did people miss some clues? Probably but that isn't relevant to the story. What is relevant is this? Ask yourself: Who are the closest people to you child? Who are the most influential people in your child's life? What is your child learning is the most important thing in life TO YOU? If your child is struggling, who will he/she go to? Will they give godly advice or the advice of the world? Will they call you or decide to follow a child's wishes? Do they love your child like Jesus? Does your child have Christian friends? Be honest...are they really Christians or just say they are?
Almost without exception, Jane's kiddo was surrounded with people with the same interests into the same stuff, but not Christian friends. They were very serious about getting recruited and getting scholarships and going faster and pushing harder and being the best until the child cracked under whatever pressures children crack under breaking wide open the hearts of those who love them. I'm sure there were many other pressures and the sport or hobby in and of itself isn't to blame at all. The above questions though shine a light.
Could the child talk to a Christian Mom or friend, how about a Pastor or Youth Minister? Was there a previous relationship that would make the child feel safe and welcome to have such a conversation? Would they have understood what was going on? During my tenure working with youth girls, I can think of at least 5 who came to me with suicidal issues. The first one took me off guard so I passed it on to the youth minister and hoped he would handle it. He didn't, but the child took my advice and talked to her mom. After that, I have a no tolerance policy. I'll go with you, but we're going to talk to your parents and we're going to be sure they understand. Jane still loses sleep and she's wracked with questions she won't get answers to on this side of Heaven. Her heart will never be whole. Her family will never be complete again and she is left with a question in her heart that she dares not utter, "Did my child ever really truly know Jesus. Did she really put her faith in Him?" Because she can't remember the last time the child mentioned Jesus. She can't remember the last time they made that simple thing we call Church a priority. They meant to. They had good intentions.
If you don't have a Church home, I'd love to invite you to mine. One of the most important things to us (aside from doctrinal issues of course...you know me) was to be sure our child was loved and could be comfortable with the leadership as well as make sure there were other parents who would love my child and give him GODLY advice should he need it. If he's in a crisis, I know his youth minister will be there for him at 3:30 am if he doesn't feel he can call on me. I know his pastor would do the same. His friends aren't all Christian but his best friends are and if something is amiss, I know their parents are watching out for him and I'm doing the same for them. We aren't playing! I'd rather be wrong and hated than keep my mouth shut and lose one more child. I hope I articulated this well. I hope you can see how such a simple thing can have such eternal consequences. The fact that God said it should be enough for us but let's be honest. Sometimes we need a reminder of why He said some of the things He said.
Please don't think I'm holding either myself or my children up an an example of perfection. I'll have to tell the truth and shame the Devil...we're far from it! I only used our rules because they're the ones I'm familiar with. I'd love to hear your feedback. Do you agree or disagree? Do you also have a story to tell?