Chapter 12 of AWE: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say, & Do by Paul David Tripp
A Review by Pastor Aaron Adame
Before my family and I moved to Oregon, we lived within a short drive to Disneyland. Once my kids hit an age where they could really enjoy it, we got Michelle a season pass so she could go whenever they wanted. I didn’t get one because I was busy with work and full-time school, which was also a great excuse because I thought Disneyland was quite lame. Sorry for those who are in their forties and still love Disneyland. Though I must admit, when I went on my own—before I was a parent—I thought Disneyland was completely lame. But when I took my young daughters there and was able to witness the awe in their eyes and joy in their hearts as they rode the rides, saw their favorite Disney characters and princesses, convinced that they were actually real, it was a pretty awesome feeling.
I was reminded of this experience as I read over the parenting chapter in Tripp’s book called Awe. You see, as adults, we can easily mask our propensity for awe. But kids can’t. They live in a perpetual state of chasing awe. This is why they love movies and story time and seeing new places. Because they want to be amazed; they want to be filled with wonder and astonishment. Which makes shepherding a child’s heart toward faith in God the easiest and most challenging work of parenting.
It is easy because of everything I already said. A parent doesn’t need to try to instill the sense of awe and longing for wonder in their child—they already have it. Of course, as kids get older, and move into their adolescent and teenage years, they learn to mask that longing for wonder and act as if nothing impresses them. In reality, nothing you are doing impresses them as they are looking for identity and meaning in their peer relationships more than their parents.
Early on, capturing a child’s heart toward an awe of God is easy. All you need to do is talk to them about how wonderful God is. How He made everything and makes everything work. How He loves by providing for everything and everyone. And how He loved us supremely in Christ. However, the only way this works, as Tripp pointed out, is if the parents are also in awe of God. The scary thing about kids is that they are shockingly perceptive. They can tell if a parent is genuine or not. They can see past the pretense. They can discern the difference between a parent going through the motions and one who is truly captured by the God they claim to love.
If a parent doesn’t love the church, then their kids won’t. In all the years I worked with students, I saw over and over again parents wanting their kids to love the church, but as soon as the kids left for college or moved out of the house, they didn’t. But what I also noticed is that a great majority of the time, the parents themselves also stopped going. This is perhaps the hardest part about parenting—they see you and how you live out your faith every single day. If we act as if we are perfect, they see the truth, and it pushes them away. The bottom line for every parent is to let their child see that they are truly captured by the wonder of who God is and what He has done for them by His grace.
But this is also really hard because, in the flesh, our kids don’t want to be captured by an awe of God. Like us, they often settle for lesser wonderment. They settle for the fairytale story when God offers them a truly redemptive tale that is able to give meaning to their lives and hope for eternity. Like Tripp mentioned, our kids are slaves to their desires for autonomy and self-sufficiency. On many occasions, they behave as if they want to live by their own rules and act as if they don’t need anyone. This is where parenting gets really hard because the sinfulness of sin, even in our cute little kids, is alive and well.
Parents (and I’m talking to myself, too), your job isn’t to regulate the sin out of them. That never has and never will work. Your job is to show them the One person who is worthy of their hearts—the Lord Jesus! To be like John, who wrote these amazing words in his little epistle:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” (n 1:1–4 ESV)
We want what John had and wanted for those to whom he was writing to. As Christian parents, we want our kids to see and feel and touch and taste what we have. We want them to experience the fellowship with God that they were made for. And we want our joy, and their joy, to be complete, which is only possible through faith in the one that was made manifest—the One who took on flesh, who lived and died as one of us, and who rose again for us.
I will also add that parenting can feel quite lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. One of the purposes of gathering with other believers is that we have a community of faith. In the local church there are other parents going through the same struggles you are. And there are older parents who have traveled the road you are on and can share in your struggle and offer wisdom and guidance. Our kids’ ministry and youth ministry exist to support young people and families in their faith journey. I am so thankful for the church this past year—that when life shut down, my kids had other kids their age to be around.
Understand that the three most important relationships in a kid’s life are the sweet P’s of parents, peers, and pastors/mentors. If all three of these influences are pointing them toward Christ, there is a great likelihood that they too will trust in Jesus. And don’t forget the most important “P” of them all: the ministry of prayer!
· Do you think your kids would conclude that their parents love the church? Do you think they see church as essential to their spiritual upbringing—because it is? Jesus didn’t die for individuals alone. He died for the church, His bride, and He prayed in John 17 that His church would be one.
· Do you model for your kids an awe of God and wonderment of His truth and salvation?
· If you analyzed your big picture goal (as Tripp talked about) would you say that your daily activity is more focused on producing good kids or godly kids?
· If you are a grandparent, how are you continuing to help shape the faith of your kids and grandkids?