Early in our marriage there was a time when my wife, Meredith, and I seriously contemplated not having kids. I chose to verbalize this contemplation one evening while we were attending a Christian couples retreat.
We were sitting in a circle with other young couples. Everyone was sharing about marriage, family, and kids. Some couples shared their hopes for future children, other couples shared how great it was to have kids.
I sat there with my knee nervously bouncing, completely unable to relate. For me, the thought of having children seemed overwhelming and not great.
So I raised my hand, waited for our group leader to call on me, and then I asked a question I knew was heretical in some Christian circles…
“Why should we have kids?”
Still more silence.
Finally, one husband (a future pastor) piped up, “Because, we are commanded to.”
I knew he was referring to Genesis 1:28 where God commands Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”
“Touche,” I thought.
So I followed up with my real concern.
“Ok, but isn’t it inevitable that you’re going to cause your kids pain? Isn’t there going to come a time when they no longer like you or may even hate you? How can you willingly bring a child into the world knowing that you’re just going to screw them up?!”
Again, dead silence.
This time the silence was broken by the leader of our group, a seasoned wife and mother whose children were adults (and still walking with Jesus). She calmly replied,
“Yes, that is all very possible…”
She then shared with us some of her own parenting mistakes. She recounted the many times she and her husband “lost it” with their kids. The many times their kids “disowned” them. And the many times she and her husband did not do the right thing in the right situation.
I thought, “Yes, this is what I am talking about!”
But then she gave us the best piece of parenting advice that I have ever heard.
“Pray for your kids,” she said.
The advice was so simple, I couldn’t help but think, I could do that.
She explained, “That’s one thing we’ve done right is we pray for our kids. Every night after our kids went to bed we prayed for them. When they were still little I would go in their room and put my hand on their warm little backs and pray that God would heal them from any hurt that I have caused them. That he would remove any evil that had come into their life that day. And that he would protect them from the consequences of my sins.”
She assured us her kids weren’t perfect and their family still had hard times.
But she said, “Jesus answered those prayers. Jesus was bigger than my mistakes, and today we have good relationships with our kids.”
In that moment I had a strange sensation of hope.
As I write this we now have three kids and another on the way. Meredith and I are far from perfect parents. And our kids are far from perfect kids. But we have made it a priority to pray for our kids, every night at bedtime, sometimes in the morning and at times through out the day. I don’t do it because I’m a super spiritual pastor. I do it because I recoginize I am a very imperfect parent with imperfect kids in need of a very perfect God.
And I pray for my kids because in the decade plus years since that couples retreat, I have talked to many other parents. And I’ve met a number of parents whose kids I wish I could duplicate. Parents who have excellent relationships with their kids (even as adults). They all have one thing in common. They all spent time–lots of time–praying for their kids.
And so I pray for my kids.
It’s the best piece of parenting advice I’ve ever received.