Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Desiring Second Best

Have you ever gone into a pizza place and, seeing that the pizza they made is practically perfect, said to the server, "Um, excuse me, but, could you please take this back and make me something a little less appetizing?"

Or how about going to some retailer and asking to see a salesperson who is a little bit rude and less-than-helpful?

Likely not. I think we all tend to want the best. Often, we feel we are entitled to the best. The best service, the best food, the best health care, the best education, the best quality products, etc.

For our children, we often pursue what we see as best for them, or in their best interest. Often parents will make life-changing decisions based on their desire for their kids to get the best possible education so that they can get into the best colleges and end up with the best jobs. For example, parents might buy a house they can't really afford in a great community that has great schools, rather than in a neighborhood with less-than-best schools, but is more affordable.

While there is nothing wrong with any of this (except, I would argue, the "house they can't afford" part!), it seems that when it comes to our own spiritual walk, and by extension, the spiritual walks of our children, we end up desiring second best. Or third best. Or perhaps something not really best at all.

And usually we're happy about this.

I've mentioned it before in another post, but too often we get caught up in "what is sinful", and how we might have "freedom in Christ", that we accept not pursuing what is BEST for our children. If it isn't technically a sin, then it is okay. We allow "almost sins" to creep into our lives, or allow actions and activities that fail to draw us closer to God, and perhaps even tear us away from God.

I'm a strong believer in homeschooling. We homeschool our 5 kids. (Well, technically we homeschool four of them...the fifth is just still learning to talk!) We made the decision to homeschool for many reasons. But when you sum up those reasons, it comes down to this: we felt it was what was best for our children spiritually, academically, and socially. It has strengthened our family in a way sending our kids away to public of private school could not. But this decision was not the easy decision. It has been expensive (having to buy all curriculum ourselves) and tiresome (particularly for my wife, since she does a vast majority of the in, practically all of it!), and there have been times I've come home and my wife has wished she could send the children away!

But ultimately, we know that our kids are better for it. Not that it is wrong to send your kids to public school or private school. But we didn't want "second best". We wanted what was best.

The same is true of every other aspect of our lives and how we raise our children. Unfortunately, there are plenty of times we, in our sinfulness, settle for second best. For example, while we greatly limit the amount of media (television and gaming) we allow, sometimes we allow it to "control" our family life. Sometimes it is just easier to allow these things to influence our lives when we could (should?) be spending our time together as a family doing far more productive activities.

Sometimes we aren't even aware that we're settling for second best. Sometimes cultural norms are so ingrained in our minds that we fail to realize that what is best isn't what is normal or usual. There have been times that my wife has presented to me areas of concern with our kids that I just don't see as an issue. But, usually, she's right.

For example, one things we've learned about our daughter is that she's a follower. She wants to be "like the other girls" she plays with. She latches on to what they do or have that we don't. So, several years ago, when my wife suggested that we limit her time with certain friends with a particularly poor influence on her, at first I thought it was a bad idea. I mean, how would she learn to deal with peer pressure and her own identity if she didn't deal with such friendships?

But I was wrong. Because the more we allowed it, the more her sweet nature was being tainted and skewed in a direction not consistent with our values. We had to pull her away and limit her exposure to these friends...not because we are trying to be exclusive, but because we are entrusted with protecting the heart of our child. Before she can learn to protect her own identity, we needed to be sure that her identity was grounded fully on a Christ-like attitude, not a worldly attitude. Once that happened, and once she claimed it as her own, then the outside influences of others would not be an issue.

Today, she's still only seven, and we still have work to do. But we've found a balance that works best for our child's spiritual growth. Still, we are constantly re-evaluating our decisions as parents as to what is ultimately best for our children (and ourselves!) spiritually. It is called growing.

Take time to question everything you do. Are you settling? Are you desiring second best because it is what is easier or "normal"? Then ask God to guide you in what He thinks is best. Consult the bible, or other parents who have raised spiritually strong children. "When you walk with the wise, you will grow wise."

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