Years ago, the families in my church small group decided to meet for lunch at the church building. We were all having a good time until my two oldest boys started horsing around. I had to get stern with them when one brother hit the other in the eye with his sock. Then, when it came time for us to leave, the offending brother decided he would disappear. We searched inside the building, but no one could find him. Finally, we all got in our cars hoping he would come out of hiding. A few minutes later, he sheepishly walked out from behind the building. I felt both a sense of relief and embarrassment in front of the other parents. I remember saying to my wife, Ellen, in the car, “I’m sure glad that we don’t get our identity from our kids.”
Our daughter has Down syndrome. She is very loving but has experienced a lot of rejection in school and church because she can’t perform like others think she should. An “expert” once proclaimed she would never mature past a 3rd grade level. Yet, she has made it to being a junior in a special university program designed for young adults similar to her. It would be very easy to get our identity from her successes or the opinions of others rather than Jesus.
One time I saw a call from my wife on my mobile phone while teaching a large Grace Life Conference. I couldn’t take the call but listened to the voice mail on the way home. One of my sons had been doing doughnuts in a field that night and rolled the car over on its top. The car was totaled and thankfully neither he nor his friend was hurt. The police were called and he was charged with trespassing. As we later stood in the Sheriff’s office, it sure would have been easy to get our identity from our son rather than Jesus.
My children have made many mistakes. They have also had many successes, making good grades, helping a friend in need, achieving student of the week, earning college scholarships, making the Dean’s List, working hard on their jobs, serving God effectively and more. Ellen and I are proud of them for all of these achievements but we still don’t derive our identity from them.
As a parent, we need to remember that whether our kids succeed, fail, obey us, disobey us, make good decisions, make bad decisions, follow Jesus or reject Jesus, our identity is in Christ. It helps to remind ourselves often that we are forgiven, righteous, accepted, loved children of God independent of our kids. Colossians 2:10 reminds us that we are complete in Christ, not our children.
Parents, when we do a good job parenting and when we make mistakes, even then our identity is in Christ, not our children. I sense as I am writing this that some parents whose kids are now adults, need to be reminded that your identity is also in Christ and not your adult kids.