January 27, 2015

The Chief End of Parents

The Presbyterian church I attended years ago drew attention to the Westminster Shorter Catechism by posting the document’s questions and answers on the main lobby wall – one or two at a time, eventually rotating through them all. The words were written in bold, beautiful calligraphy, so the practice served as a great memory tool for picture-smart members. I learned many of the catechism’s principles, but the first one stands out most clearly:

Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever.

Now as a mom, I realize it’s crucial that I remember and apply this truth to my kids.

Simply put, I must remember that my kids’ main purpose – their “chief end” – is to glorify God and enjoy him. Now that statement may sound like a no-brainer. After all, most Christ-followers quickly learn – even if we don’t memorize the actual catechism – that our main goal is to bring God glory. But knowing that in our heads and even seeking to apply it to our own lives is not the same as embracing the idea for our children.

We can talk a good line. But if we’re honest, the reality – because our kids are born of our wombs or (with adopted children) of our hearts and, thus, “belong” to us – is that we tend without even realizing it to fall into the trap of acting as if they should “glorify” us. They look like us, and we see some of our personality traits mirrored in them. We want to give them everything we feel we lacked, too. So it’s easy to unconsciously start living vicariously through them. And then they get the inaccurate message that they’re supposed to be like us and make us happy.

My father did this. He was built for football, but was forced to quit playing because of difficult family circumstances. Fast-forward 20 years, and he demanded that my tall, lanky, basketball-loving brother play football, too. He allowed Tom to play basketball, but only if he first agreed to live my father’s dream on the gridiron.

As my girls enter adolescence, I understand the temptation. I can see their personalities taking root and their talents blossoming – some similar to my giftings and propensities and others very different. And I know that one of my main responsibilities before God is to help them discover and develop the unique purpose he has given each of them. But I struggle against a tendency to want to see them grow into my image, rather than his.

I know this will be an on-going struggle over the next few years. I’ll need to measure what I think each of my daughters should do against the unfolding plan of God for each of their lives. And I’ll have to decide to choose his path even when I don’t want to. But part of glorifying God for every parent is acknowledging that our children are really his children. And holding fast to that truth is among the very best things we can do for our kids.


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