Today is our middle son Alden’s 21st birthday. He and my husband Steve are headed to Tunica, Mississippi tonight because Alden wanted to go to a casino to kick off 21. We are way more worried about a gambling addiction than an alcohol one. He loves competition and math so gambling seems to tap directly into his gift mix.
Ignoring the fact that we may be enabling parents, what really struck us as his birthday approached was the fact that Alden wanted to experience his 21st birthday/casino outing with his dad. I’m sure us footing the bill didn’t hurt in the equation, but the fact that a 21-year-old college student wanted to hang with his dad on this milestone “party” birthday touched us both.
Our kids are not cookie-cutter, Focus on the Family-compliant children, and we had some bumpy years due to their intense personalities and fighting with the three of them being so close in age. There was no real time for the oldest child to become more mature than his siblings and take the high road when needed.
As of last year, they all were in college and even with Girault having graduated this past May, he stayed in New York so the empty nest is still empty. What has been encouraging is they seem to want to spend time with us when they can even though their dreams and aspirations landed them hundreds of miles away.
Somewhere along the line I read or heard a parenting philosophy that encouraged choosing relationship over righteousness. Having kids who never struggled with being pleasers, the righteousness path was fraught with many challenges because they weren’t motivated to comply just to make us look good or teachers happy. Even in their messes, we tried to stay connected in a way that expressed we were “for” them even when they disappointed us.
That to me is a picture of Father God.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus came to earth and loved people before they were saved by his death. He too chose relationship over righteousness, knowing his righteousness is what would bring us into a relationship with the Father. The relationship piece is what makes us want to spend time with the Father. Those who are motivated by righteousness and not need often fall into the Pharisee trap. The Pharisee-approach "payoff" is feeling superior rather than feeling known and loved regardless of what you bring to the table.
Scott Sauls talks in CPC101 about becoming more like Jesus by spending time with him not just trying to be like him. Righteousness for righteousness-sake is focused on the outer. A relationship is focused on the other person. Joining our kids in their interests and even their messes is about relationship. Jesus entered into this world through an earthly family and changed it through his relationships, and he calls us to do the same.