I sat on the park bench, watching my eight-year old son playing with a friend. As I enjoyed the beauty of the day and the simple joy of the children laughing and playing, a Scripture came to my mind: Love your children … Oh no, there it is again, I thought! That Scripture had been on my mind constantly, returning time and again. Love your children … I had heard it over and over in my mind. I knew the Lord was trying to speak to me, but I just didn’t understand.
What, Lord? What are you trying to say? Here we were at the park. I had gotten his friend to play with him, picked up a pizza to bring along, and brought the boys to the park for the afternoon. Yet, I was hearing love your children again. I was actually feeling a little frustrated and confused. I really didn’t know what The Lord was trying to get me to understand. What else did I need to do?
As the boys played, I ran many thoughts through my mind. I truly did hundreds of things for my son. I left a career to be a stay-at-home mom. I cared for his physical needs impeccably. He was very well-dressed at all times. He was well-fed, with his nutrition as a priority of mine. I homeschooled him, spending hours pouring into his heart the Word of God, as well as being certain that academically he functioned at the top of his age group. But still the prompting persisted: Love your children. I really didn’t know what more I could do. I had given my life to raising him, and I reminded myself once again of the multitude of things that I did for him.
Well, the play date was over. We took his friend home, and we happily returned to our home. Happily for him, but I was still troubled within. I knew there was something that I needed to learn. I grabbed my Bible and withdrew to my room. I bowed my heart before The Lord and asked Him to show me what He was trying to say. I knew there was something that I just didn’t understand.
I opened my Bible to Titus 2 to the passage where older women are instructed to teach the younger women, and there it was … Love your children … Love your children … Love your children. I knew that I had to understand that phrase. I pulled out a Bible dictionary and searched for the definition. What I found opened my eyes, spoke to my heart, and answered my question. The word used here for love was not agape, the self-sacrificing love to which the Bible so frequently refers. This word for love was phileo, the kind of love that focuses on relationship. It actually describes a friendship love. It was then that I saw the truth that I had missed. It was then that I understood. I had spent years doing things “for” my son. I had actually given my life to that. But what The Lord was calling me to was to do things “with” my son. I could see that I needed to focus, not only on the tasks at hand, but on the relationship.
I began to run so many things through my mind. Yes, I did that “for” him. And I did that “for” him. And I did that “for” him. But there were not too many “with” things. Even the afternoon outing to the park had been “for” him. Then came the flood of questions that I heard replayed in my mind. Mom, will you play Legos “with” me? No, Mom has to fix dinner… Mom, will you ride bikes “with” me? No, Mom needs to do the laundry… Mom, will you play a game “with” me? No, Mom is busy right now. The tears began to flow. Now I saw. Now I understood. I had been so focused on all of the things that I did “for” my son that I was missing the most important thing of all – the relationship “with” him!
God did something major in my heart that day. He gave me a new priority. The truth love your children became very special to me. Now, when my son would say: Mom, will you play Legos with me, I could hear the “with me” loud and clear. And I would do my best to say: We sure can! Even if I could not do it right at that moment, I was sure to let him know that we sure can! Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into years. Although I still made mistakes, I am thankful that The Lord persisted to teach me that truth. Love your children – a truth I desperately needed to learn.
My son is grown now, with a family of his own. Do I have any regrets in raising him? Do I regret giving up a career to be a stay-at-home mom? Not for a moment! Do I regret giving all of those years to homeschooling him? Not for a moment! Do I regret painstakingly caring for his needs? Not for a moment! Do I have any regrets at all? Only one comes to mind – that I would have taken every opportunity to do things “with” him.
The childhood years pass way too quickly. Love your children. It is a decision that you will never regret! Mom, will you play Legos with me? We sure can! We sure can!
Great post! I find myself in the same place so often, doing things for my children but using that as an excuse to not do things with them. Thanks for the reminder!!