“What does God look like?” Young children without the capacity for abstract thinking often ask this question as they struggle to understand our spiritual commentary on life. Some people think God resembles Reb Tevye and his friends in Fiddler on the Roof—fiftyish or older, long beard, Yiddish accent. Others imagine a celestial Santa Claus, always willing to hand out exactly that for which they ask. Some do not even personalize Him; they find gods in their cars, flat-screen televisions, or even the government. None of those images fit the biblical description of God. Neither does the concept of God as a grandfatherly figure—old, wise, silent unless sharing a deep thought.
So if God is not the grandfatherly type, what makes us, as home schoolers, think that He has grandchildren? I know—you are thinking, “I do not think God has grandchildren!” Do you, though? How often do we think that our children are automatically Christians because we are? Do we think that their salvation is in home schooling, in being with us all the time, in isolation from worldly influences that might taint their thinking? If only we can control all of the input, we can control the outcome. Do you think that? If so, are you playing God in your children’s lives and relegating God to grandfatherly status?
The Bible clearly states that our children are gifts from God. Our own lives, for those of us who profess Christ, are not really our own—they are bought with a price. What makes us think, if our very own lives are not really our own, that our children’s lives are any more so?
No, our lives are not our own. Neither are our children’s. Our children are God’s children, and we are merely stewards.
So if we are not God, then what must we do as stewards of these children, in order to ensure that their relationship with Him is not lost to grandchild status? Grandparents tell us all the time how wonderful it is to have grandchildren. They almost always remind us, though, that the children go home with someone else.
On a spiritual level, do you want your children to go home with someone else? If not, then you must be a responsible steward and point them to Christ, who is the only Door for them into the presence of God. For all that you may have learned and all that God’s grace has provided for you, each child must also find his own relationship with God through Christ. Anything less is a counterfeit.
One of my precious sisters in Christ, also the mother of a special needs child, sent me an e-mail today. Three days ago her son was near death. His needs are much more severe than our son’s, but we easily could have been in her shoes. In her e-mail, she described her profound attachment to her son. As she watched him suffer, the Lord asked her to give him up, in much the same way that Abraham laid Isaac on the altar. In the process, she learned an important truth that all of us need to remember. She said in her e-mail:
I no longer have to carry a burden to “make MATTHEW WELL.” I truly do know that God has Matthew in His hands. I am just a diaper changer for Jesus … and Matthew’s caregiver … not his savior. *
Does that sound familiar? Have you ever thought that you needed to be your child’s savior? I wonder, with the divorce rate so high among special needs families, if sometimes dads leave because they feel like failures at saving their kids. And who knows the mom of a special child who is not rabidly obsessive, as a friend of ours says, about that special child? There are a few, but most of us have to admit that we fall into that category.
No matter how many programs I try, how many supplements with which I gag my child, how many new recipes I try in the process of putting him on some miracle diet, how many different curricula I try as we learn to add and subtract (for yet another year), how many doctors and therapists and labs to which I drag him—no matter what I do, I am not his savior. I am his mother, his nurturer, and by virtue of being a home schooler, I am also his teacher. But I am not his savior.
This fact is no less true for my children who are developing typically. No matter what curricula I use, or how many Bible stories I read, or how many biology labs or basketball teams or dance classes in which I register them, I am not their savior. I am mother, nurturer, teacher—but I am not God.
When God spoke to Moses through the burning bush, Moses asked Him what to tell the people when they asked who sent him. God spoke, “I AM.” When He said those words, He echoed down through the ages, “And Patsy, You Are Not.” I am not God. When I pretend to know it all, do it all, or have all the answers for my child (or yours), I am removing Him from the throne of my life and placing myself there.
Lord, keep me humble. Ouch. How afraid are you to say those words? Are you afraid that something bad will happen to your child if you do? Then you have put yourself on the throne of control. You need to admit to your child—and to yourself—that you are not in control.
Are you afraid that your child will see your imperfections and respect you less if you admit that you are wrong? Then once again, you have elevated yourself to the position of God in his life—and told him a lie that he will discover one day. Allow yourself to admit to your child that you are not perfect. Otherwise, you may confuse your child regarding who God really is.
What will your child say some day when his children ask, “What does God look like?”
Will his response look like a grandfather, who loves the child but lives far away from him, or will your child follow an example that you can set today and point his own child to Christ, that He might usher the child into the knowledge and presence of the Father?
May our children be God’s children—for God does not have grandchildren.
*Name changed to protect the child’s privacy. Since the first draft of this article was written, Matthew has gone into the arms of Jesus for eternity, where he is free from the physical bonds that restrained him here. With his family, we are thankful for his relationship with Christ, Matthew’s true Savior and healer.