Hello and welcome to Parent Like You Mean It – the podcast where we discuss the hows and whys to parenting with intentionality, instead of just letting life happen from day-to-day. I’m Jefferson Drexler, and like many of you, I love a good superhero movie. It seems like most of America does, based on the success of all the Batman, Spiderman, and most recently Ironman, Captain America, Thor movies.
Why is it that I am so drawn into the same old story of the Avengers seemingly being completely defeated, but then rising up to victory; or Rocky taking a horrific beating for fifteen rounds, only to muster up enough strength for one finishing blow; or Danny Larusso suffering through bruised ribs and a severely injured leg, only to assume Mr. Miyagi’s crane stance and win… why?
Maybe because, as a parent, I can relate to these heroes.
Maybe because I know first hand what it is like to face what seems to be insurmountable odds, incredible pain, and weariness beyond measure, only to rise to my feet and press on with even more determination, intentionality, and purpose than ever before.
Or maybe because, as my dad’s kid, I see a bit of myself in Ultron, Apollo Creed, and Johnny of the Cobra Kai.
Maybe I remember too well what it was like to ignore what was right and just, moral and virtuous, and instead go after what my pride told me I was entitled to or what I selfishly wanted without regard of others.
Throughout most of my childhood, I was considered a goody-goody. I was raised in the church, was taught that God had a wonderful plan for my life and that through my parents’ loving instruction, if I obeyed God’s will for my life, I would rest in hope and peace.
Then I turned sixteen.
It wasn’t a light switch that flicked off immediately, but rather a dimmer that slowly and gradually allowed the light to fade, thus allowing me to redefine to myself what “light” and “darkness” even meant. I mean, if there was still enough light to see two steps ahead of me, there must be sufficient light in my life, right? One step? My hand in front of my face?
The truth is that I knew enough truth to really put myself into troublesome situations. I knew that God loved me – more than I could ever know, and would forgive even my greatest of sins. I knew that God was patient and kind, no matter what types of decisions I made, so long as at some point down the line, I asked for forgiveness.
And I assumed that my parents loved me in the same way that God did.
But my parents aren’t God.
You see God’s love endures forever, but my parents did their best to be long-suffering. God is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, but my parents pressed on as best they could, overcoming each disappointment with prayer and hope that God would see me through, once they realized that I was going to make my own decisions and there was little they could do besides pray.
For a season, I was the villain. The bad guy of my family’s story.
My parents were the heroes.
Perhaps my mom’s greatest prayer ever was “God, take my son through whatever is needed in order for him to return to You. Just, please, on his way to rock bottom, don’t allow him to make any mistake that will ruin him for the rest of his life.”
That’s how my parents fought.
And they fought hard.
And now, as a parent, it’s my turn to suit up.
Now, my kids are still quite young. They’re sweet. They still think that I’m admirable… even wise, and because I rarely lose at Trivia Crack, I must know everything!
But I’m not naïve enough to think that this season in our home will last forever. I have seen too many well-intentioned, amazing parents “raise their kids right”, only to watch them make one bad decision after another until their moral compass has no bearing whatsoever. I’ve seen people who were Godly, loving, caring kids and teens go completely off the rails and live lives that don’t resemble anything close to what is righteous.
So, why fight on?
Because I love my kids.
I love them beyond measure. When I read bedtime stories of “loving them forever and liking them for always…” I meant it then, I mean it now, and I will mean it as long as I am alive.
The key is how we define “love”.
My love for my kids is an uncompromised version of what you often hear at weddings: 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
My love for my kids is patient and kind. When it comes to my boys, I am is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Because I love my kids, I don’t demand my own way. I try – I mean really try to not be irritable, and because I love my sons, I keep no record of being wronged. I never rejoice about injustice but, together, we rejoice whenever the truth wins out. My love for my children never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Yes, there are a lot of other teachings throughout the Bible about how to parent, how to instruct your kids, how to teach them. But, I keep suiting up and fighting on, despite the appearance of an ever-changing culture, despite what seems like ever-increasing odds against all of my kids following in line with what my wife and I teach them, despite what the world around us seems to be pointing to, I keep fighting on because I love them. I love them when they are obedient, I love them when they are kind, I love them when they talk back, I love them when they yell and scream, I love them when they slam doors in my face, I love them when they hug me, I love them when we eat dinner together and play games together, I love them when they refuse to talk to me. And I will continue fighting the good fight, as their loving dad, no matter what decisions they make every day of their lives. Sometimes, my love will be “tough love” and they won’t like how my love feels coming at them. Sometimes they won’t agree that what I say or do is actually love. But, just like my parents did, I will prayerfully love them so long as I live.
You see, as parents, we don’t need shields, iron suits, or mighty hammers to be heroes. What we do need are calloused knees and abandoned pride.
That is how we heroes parent like we mean it.