The Legacy

“Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do no exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.” Colossians 3:20-21

My Dad, Don Miller, has been faithful to select annually a Verse of the Year. I have tried to follow suit, but have to admit I have not done it with the same consistency. Still, I have tried, and that has to count for something. Can I get a witness?

When I was in one of my more diligent periods of applying this principle, I preached about it. I encouraged others to at least consider it, pray about it, and see what God led them to do.

 I recall a particularly pouty, privileged teen-ager approaching me one morning after I presented this challenge.  She asked me what verse I might recommend for her. I admit it. I couldn’t help myself. I gave her Colossians 3:20.  She never saw it coming.

Backstory: I had just spent a great deal of time that week listening to this same young lady’s father pour out his heart about the trials of raising a G-rated daughter in an X-rated world. She was consistently resistant and he was virtually exhausted.

From all appearances this young lady was suffering from a case of terminal VGS, “Valley Girl Syndrome.” Some may remember when it was cool for big-haired girls to make a gum-smacking response to every question with a disdainful and flippant “Whatever.” It could make the most loving parent reach for a stun gun.  But I digress.

When this young lady wrote the Scripture reference down and walked away, I knew I would see her again real soon.  That night she came back to church with a look on her face that told me she had read the reference, but hadn’t received the message. This happens all the time. Teenagers aren’t the only ones that do it. Adults have a pretty solid track record with the same thing.

I was met with a heated protest. She strongly resented the suggestion that her life might be improved by obeying her parents.  I had gone from preaching to meddling. It is an occupational hazard, and comes with the job.

This encounter took place a number of years before Dr. Phil, so I was on my own. I didn’t know then how to ask his brilliant question when people offer up excuses for continuing to move in the wrong direction. In fluent Texan, Dr. Phil always says, “How’s that workin’ for yah?” Great question!

I do remember asking this troubled kid if she was happy with the results of her current behavior. To her credit, she admitted she was miserable. I said, “You have done it your way. What have you got to lose trying God’s way for a while?”  She nodded her head in agreement, and turned and walked away. I keep up with her on Facebook. She turned out just fine. I want to be like her when I grow up.

Obedience to parents seems like such a waste of one’s options. What could they possibly know? It is amazing how much smarter my parents become the older I get.  What once sounded like a total commitment on their part to rain on my parade was actually their offer of a helping hand to get me into a life-boat. I just couldn’t see it at the time.

Paul isn’t finished. His challenge to young people is followed by his urge to parents to avoid acting like irritating, infuriating “know-it-alls.”

I still recall the day, as a 24 year young man, that I heard my mother admit for the very first time, “We didn’t know what we were doing. We had never raised kids before.” I knew it. I just couldn’t prove it.  I remember the sense of relief that came over me. I said, “I don’t know if it would have made a difference at the time, but it helps to hear you admit, now, what I was pretty sure was the case, then.”

The truth is that some great parents have some pretty sorry kids. No matter how hard parents try, it takes some kids longer to get over fool’s hill. Some kids turn out to be world travellers and committed to a fool’s journey. Most respond to any parent willing to stop in the middle of the chaos and ask God for help. They aren’t stupid. They can smell panic. Don’t panic. PRAY!

Most parents need to admit they don’t know what they are doing. They need to stop listening to a lot of free advice, and stop digging a deeper hole. Prayer is a great way to stop the madness, throw out the shovel, take a break and take a knee.

Parents are wise to allow their children regularly hear them asking God for a helping hand. Children need to hear their parents say a blessing over them by name. Most parents have been heard blessing cheeseburgers more than they have been heard saying a blessing over their children.

Prayer builds healthy families, because intercession will end most of the exasperation. Children know what their parent’s say. The problem is they can’t ever forget it.

Children need to hear what their parent’s pray, not just what they say. Prayer can leave a legacy. Talk can leave a mark.  Fathers! Lead the way. Leave a legacy. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!