I fear, being a mere 18 months in love with my son (that’s how old he is), that I idolize him too much. Meaning I love him more than anyone on earth (besides my husband). My love and devotion for him is so strong, intense, and all-encompassing that I’d do anything for him. Isn’t this the natural protective love of parents? What’s so wrong with being willing to do whatever it takes, whatever the cost, the sacrifice, for the sake of your child? While love and utter devotion is a natural instinct, I believe many parents idolize their children. An idol is anything or anyone other than God whom we worship. It takes the rightful place of adoration and devotion that belongs only to Almighty God. While God creates our children and gives us our families, I fear that we devote all our time, energy and attention raising, nurturing, caring for our family, which is right and good that we should. But to the full extent that caring for our families takes precedence over worshiping God, that’s an idol.
We idealize our perfect family in professional (or non-professional) portraits that we post on social media or Christmas cards for all the world to like, approve, admire. I admit I am guilty of this. Before having a kid, I never understood the obsession of kid pictures my mom friends would post. Excessive. But once I became a mama, I became THAT mama. My camera is inundated with my boy’s every move, every day. I also take pleasure and pride whenever anyone comments how cute he is (which is often). Don’t we all garner the praise of our children from their teachers and coaches, welling over with pride, feeling like their performance is a reflection of us. But while our children are a genetic extension of ourselves, they don’t define us. Our Creator defines us, and He commands that we have no other gods, no other images, no other idols, for He is the One True God and the only Holy One deserving praise. God takes idolatry very seriously with His chosen people, the nation of Israel, when they constantly turn to other nation’s gods rather than to Him. We are not Israel, but we are still His chosen possession. We idolize not just our children, but our marriages, our homes, our self-images, our possessions, our wealth, our status, our jobs, dare I say the American dream. We idolize both what we can see, what is tangible, and what we can feel, our emotions (highs, sensations). But these idols are false, unreliable, temporal and dead. Psalm 135:15-17 speaks to this: “The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths.”
- Who (or what?) do you idolize? Who do you put in place of God?
So how can we keep from idolizing our children, when so much of our lives exist for their well-being?
I believe the first step is to recognize when we are placing our children on a pedestal and not God. Recognizing that God’s rightful place is first in our hearts and lives requires that I know deeply, intimately this God who demands my devotion. Mark 12:30: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Prioritizing time and worship with your Creator is the best way to keep the right perspective.
Next, teach our children that their gifts and abilities come from God, and are to be used to glorify Him. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,” instructs Colossians 3:17. We exist to please our Heavenly Father, not our earthly parents. Earthly parents will be disappointed, displeased, and demanding. Our Heavenly Father loves us unconditionally, not based upon performance or abilities. Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Thirdly, admonish yourself to not be embarrassed by your child. This can be from a full blown temper tantrum in the grocery store, to a bad report card or a catastrophe on center stage or court. My child will make mistakes in his/her lifetime. My child will undergo trials and tribulation. But my child will grow through it all, because “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4). Your child’s behavior is not an indication of your failure (or success) as a parent. To some degree how you raise and train your child shapes his character and future, but he also has a free will and a sin nature. Putting all your hope in solely your child will disappoint because he is human.
Lastly, think about your life. Scripture says that you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:14). We all want our lives to count. We all want to leave a legacy. Thinking outside of ourselves, outside of our own family, and serving our community is always a reality check towards something bigger than us.
- Examine why you may get embarrassed by your child’s actions. Do you think it’s due to a reflection of you?
- Who are you helping outside of your family? If you’re not, what prevents you?