She Won't Always Be With Us

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is a guest post by college buddy Joseph Horton. Joseph is a terrific youth minister for the church in Winchester, TN. As one who will become a father in the next 30 days, Joseph's words about fatherhood touched me. I pray they touch you. Check out Joseph's own blog, "Musings of a Youth Minister." Thanks, Joseph! - mcw As I write this, my 2-year-old daughter Elise is down the hallway in her room taking her afternoon nap. She is precious to me, and I tell her that all the time. My wife Lauren and I often remark that we can’t remember a time when we did not know her. It seems she has been with us forever.

But she hasn’t been.

Nor will she be.

Her time with us as a child, living under our roof and depending on our care, is limited. This stage is temporary. We have only a few short years to impact her life, and then she’ll be gone.

This reality reminds me of a poignant scene from a recent film. Toy Story 3 brought many from my generation to tears as it wrapped up the beloved story of Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and the rest of the toy gang, as well as their owner Andy. In the first film, Andy is a young child, seemingly frozen in time as he creates new imaginative worlds with his toys. But by the third installment, the boy is nearly grown up and preparing to go off to college. Toward the end of the movie, Andy and his mom walk into his room one last time before his departure, and the emptiness of that once lived-in space is overwhelming to her. Andy tries to comfort her by saying, “Mom…it’s ok.” She responds tearfully: “I know. It’s just…I wish I could always be with you.”

fatherhoodWe wish we could always be with Elise too, but we know the time will come when her room will be emptied of dress-up clothes and baby dolls. This child is with us temporarily. And as Christians, we believe that her limited time with us is a gift from above. We believe our daughter is on loan to us from her Heavenly Father, who knows her and loves her more deeply than her mother and I ever could. Out of His abundant grace, He sent her into our lives as an enormous blessing…and responsibility.

A little about that last word in the last sentence: responsibility. I didn’t truly understand that word before I became a dad. I mean, from the beginning I knew that parenting required responsibility. But as I have journeyed further into fatherhood, I have increasingly felt the weight of this truth. And I’m not talking here about the financial responsibility I have for my child (though that would definitely be worth talking about; one recent estimate puts the cost of raising a child from birth to age 17 at $235,000). What I’m talking about here is the great spiritual responsibility parents have when their children are young. Our children are God-sent gifts, and our primary job as parents is to create space for a pathway of relationship between them and the One who loves them best.

It is much too easy for parents, even Christian parents, to misuse the small amount of time we have with our young children. Parents can quickly become consumed with teaching their children knowledge and skills in order to make them more useful for the world. Parenting becomes primarily focused on soccer drills, math equations, hitting practice, and dance lessons. And before we know it, our children have grown up and they know about baseball but not the Bible, about gymnastics but not Jesus. They have a lot of useful knowledge, but they don’t know the true and living God. They have many useful skills, but they aren’t skilled in how to connect with their Creator.

Elise won’t always be sleeping down the hallway in her room in the afternoon. Someday, she will have grown and moved away into adulthood. And the kind of adult she becomes depends in large part on what my wife and I are doing with her now. God help us as we teach her and mold her and love her and point her to her Heavenly Father, with whom she will dwell not for a season, but for eternity. Our children may not always be with us, but they potentially will always be with God. As parents, we are responsible for introducing them to Him in their short time with us.

A Prayer For Every Parent: Father, thank you for this precious gift, this child. Help me remember that my time with him is short. May I spend this temporary season drawing him towards You, the One who made him and the One who loves him more than I ever could. He will not be with me forever, but he can be with You forever. May I increasingly feel the weight of my responsibility to point him to You and to your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

fatherhoodAbout the Author: Joseph Horton is married to his college sweetheart Lauren (Lusk) Horton, who is a preschool teacher. They have a rambunctious 2 year-old daughter named Elise and are expecting a new little one in May 2013. Originally from Chattanooga, TN, Joseph graduated from Freed-Hardeman University in 2007 with a BS in Youth Ministry. He is currently working on a Master of Divinity degree at Harding School of Theology in Memphis.

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