What We Want for Children
There the child grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him.
A week ago my identity changed in a unique way. No, I didn't receive a new title at work or become a superhero. My driver's license still contains the same information it did two weeks ago. But I am grappling with a major change in myself. You see, my son, Nathan, the oldest of my two children, had a birthday, and not just any birthday, but his eighteenth birthday. This means he is now a legal adult. It also means that I am the parent of an adult.
The parent of an adult . . . I can't believe I'm that grown up . . . or that old, at any rate. It seems like it was just yesterday that I was holding Nathan in one arm while rocking him to sleep in the hospital. Now I can barely lift him, and he stays up later than I do.
I thank God that Nathan has grown up healthy and strong, just as Jesus did. For many years, Nathan struggled with asthma, but he has outgrown that condition. All parents want their children to have healthy bodies so they can grow to flourish as adults who make a difference in the world.
But, as in Luke's description of Jesus' young life, what we desire for children—our own children and all children—is more than just physical strength. We want them to be "filled with wisdom" (2:40). Wisdom is something we generally associate with age, not with youth. So if children are going to be full of wisdom, then they'll need to get it from trustworthy, wise sources.
First and foremost, children need to learn God's truth in Scripture. By consistently studying biblical stories and precepts and by discovering how these can be worked out in their daily lives, children can be filled with wisdom that is well beyond their years. Second, if children are going to understand and love God's Word, they need help. They need parents, Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, and counselors who instruct and guide them, and who model a life governed by God's wisdom. Young people will be most profoundly influenced by what they see in our lives, even more than what we say with our words.
Most importantly of all, if children are going to be wise, then they need to know the One who is God's Wisdom. Jesus Christ embodies the very Wisdom of God. When we live in relationship with him, he teaches and guides us through the Spirit. Today's youth need to know the Lord personally, as all of us.
Luke's description of Jesus encourages me to pray for children today, for my own children, including my adult child, and for all children. Moreover, I am challenged to consider how I can help young people know the Lord and live each day according to his wisdom.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Are the children you know growing in health and in God's wisdom? What obstacles are there to this kind of growth? How can you help children, including but not limited to your own relatives, grow in God's wisdom?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, when I read Luke's description of Jesus' early days in Nazareth, I think of other children. I thank you for the physical health of my own children, and pray for other children throughout the world, especially for those who are malnourished or lack medical care. May our care for children include a commitment to care for the needs of the poor.
I also pray for children who have ample food and excellent medical care, yet who are not filled with your wisdom. They are inundated by the values of a culture that is alien to you. Many do not know you or your Word. Others may have been introduced to you, but lack adult guidance, instruction, and encouragement. Stir us up, Lord, that we might have a renewed commitment to young people, to seeing them grow not just physically and intellectually, but also spiritually, emotionally, and relationally.
Help me, Lord, to be continually invested in the full-orbed growth of my own children. And may I be aware of how you might want to use me in the lives of others.
I pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.
P.S. from Mark
Given the theme of this reflection, I would be remiss if I didn't mention a marvelous opportunity for young people to grow in God's wisdom. Laity Lodge Youth Camp, a sister ministry to Laity Lodge and the High Calling, offers to children ages 7-16 a unique opportunity to experience the life-changing power of God while having more fun than they've ever had before. LLYC promises kids "the best two weeks of your life," and they deliver on this promise to hundreds every summer. In addition to amazing fun and strong biblical teaching, LLYC has an unbelievably strong group of counselors: solid Christian collegians who invest their lives in their campers.
If you know of some young person who needs what LLYC has to offer, you can find out more information from the LLYC website. Even if you don't know of anyone who should attend LLYC, please join me today in praying for this transformational ministry.