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Seasons of Christian Parenting – Fall (13-18) 7/16

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Seasons of Christian Parenting – Fall (13-18) 7/16


Peter Hubbard


July 16, 2023


1 Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians 2:1-20


It’s so good to see you all. We’re going to be talking about parenting today from 1 Thessalonians 2. In many ways the New Testament authors viewed parenting as a subset of discipleship, a specific kind of discipleship. Therefore, as Christian parents, we can gain a lot of insight from looking at passages that outline the way we are to minister or disciple others.

Also, this makes a series on parenting applicable to all of us. Whether you’re a teenager, single, a couple without children, seniors, or couples with kids, single parenting. All of us can learn from these principles because (we’re going to be applying this to parenting teenagers) … But the points apply because it really is a discussion as a subset, a specific kind of discipleship.

See if you see this as we turn to 1 Thessalonians 2. (And I want to let you know … quick health update. I’m doing much better. My hemoglobin is rising. Not fully there yet; hence, the chair if I start to teeter. But very grateful, feeling much better.) Verse 1 of chapter 2,

“For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain.”

Now, by “vain” that word simply means empty. Paul, in this context, is using it as “it was not empty in purpose or product.” It wasn’t aimless. It wasn’t fruitless. Paul is saying, “We weren’t in it for the participation trophy. We weren’t just going through the motions. We weren’t just winging it. We were intentional and, by God’s grace, fruitful in the way we came among you and discipled or ministered.”

Now, this is the passage, as I’ve mentioned years ago, that the Lord used in my life forty-two years ago when I was sixteen, and the Lord began to confirm in my heart he was calling me into ministry. And I woke up early for a year of high school to study this passage to try to begin to understand what does biblical ministry look like. I hadn’t grown up in a Christian school. I didn’t have a clue. Lord, show me what I have no idea about because if you’re calling me to give my life to this, I don’t want to do it aimlessly. I don’t want to do it humanly in the sense of just in my own machinations. I don’t want to invent this. You tell us. And Paul’s example outlines what a biblical ministry model looks like here and by extension what biblical parenting looks like. And especially today, we’re going to apply it to parenting teenagers.

So, I want to warn you. Heads up! This is way too much. I get overwhelmed just studying it. As a parent, feeling like, “Oh, no! I’ve ruined my kids.” So, they’re going to be times … We’re going to talk about five points. They tell you today to never have five points. You’re not Jonathan Edwards. I understand that. But I want us to cover the whole chapter, which really should be an entire series, but we’re going to do it in one message because I have so much confidence in your ability — not in my ability to communicate it — your ability to hang in there.

When you feel overwhelmed, pray this prayer. “Lord, what is the one thing your Spirit is speaking to me about here? Where do you want me to begin? I can’t take in all five, but I can start somewhere. You have a word for me today, all of us.” And if you’ll pray that prayer and if you have specific questions next week during one of the services, Karen and I are going to do a Q&A. You can come then and push back, tell us we’re crazy. We’re open to that.

Five characteristics of parenting as discipleship. Number 1, face your pain. Face your pain. When Paul arrived in Thessalonica, he had deep wounds from the mob violence he experienced in Philippi. Look at verse 2. “But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi.”

The suffering and shame he experienced was intense. If you read Acts 16, you’ll see a violent mob partnering with the authorities, stripping Paul and Silas of their clothes, beating them with rods. These were flexible mallets that would rip the flesh off their bodies and bruise them to the bone. Then they were then thrown into filthy prison cells, feet put in stocks.

The physical injuries were compounded by psychological injuries. They were shamefully treated. They were stripped of their clothes, humiliated physically, verbally. So, with blood-stained clothes, still walking rather gingerly, they hobble into Thessalonica. Now, think about it. If you were just mugged by a mob, you would want to lay low for a while. I would want to lay low. Can we take a year off? Can we take a more subtle approach this time? Maybe point to the new guy on the team. It’s your turn this time. But look what Paul says, verse 2 again.

“But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.”

Boldness literally means “all speech.” In other words, Paul didn’t hold back. He spoke freely, confidently. Now, we all know what it’s like to speak when we should be silent. It’s my spiritual gift/curse. We all know what it’s like to be silent when we should speak. We feel intimidated, embarrassed, maybe manipulated, perhaps even bullied. But Paul is saying, “When I was tempted to be timid because of the past pain I just experienced in Philippi, I found courage from God to speak plainly, boldly.”

Last summer Frederick Buechner passed away, ninety-six years old. He had been born into a wealthy family in New York. On the outside, his family appeared to have everything anyone would want. His father had been the captain of the water polo team at Princeton. His mother was so stunningly beautiful wherever they went they drew attention. They were the envy of all. Frederick graduated from Princeton and then wrote his first novel at twenty-three. Immediately, magazines across the country like Time, Life, and Newsweek hailed him as a brilliant young author.

But behind the curtain, their family was not what they appeared. Both his parents became alcoholics. The only thing open in their family was his parents’ infidelity. They both had multiple affairs. When Frederick was ten years old, his father peered in the room where he and his brother were playing, walked out the door and took his life. There was no funeral. There was no mourning. There were no words spoken. His mother simply packed up the two boys and moved.

“Don’t talk; don’t trust; don’t feel.”

Buechner says those were the unspoken rules of the family.

In one of his most successful novels, one of Buechner’s characters named Godric describes his memories of his father that seem to be echoes of Buechner’s own experience. He says,

“His face [his father’s face] I’ve long since lost, but his back I can still behold.”

Buechner would spend the rest of his life trying to get to know the man he never knew, could barely remember. Who was he? And this would have huge implications on the way he parented, especially his daughter, who battled anorexia and alcoholism. How do I parent when I feel like I need to be parented? How do I face things that we’re not allowed to speak of?

However, in this struggle, I believe Buechner provides some help. He became a Christian as an adult, and in an essay entitled “Adolescence and the Stewardship of Pain,” Buechner applies Jesus’s parable of the talents to suffering. He raises the question what if what we are entrusted with are not simply the good gifts (which is what we typically think of with that parable) but also the bad ones, the ones we would rather not have? He said it this way.

“What do we do with these mixed lives we are given, these hands we are so unequally dealt…. How do we get the most out of what we are so variously and richly and hair-raisingly given?”

So, he’s talking about Jesus’s parable, and in that parable, three servants were given talents. The first was given five; the second, two; and the third, one. The first two invested theirs. The third did what? He buried it. He buried it out of fear. Buechner writes,

“We all of us have good reason to be afraid…. So we dig the hole in the ground, in ourselves, in our busyness or wherever else we dig it and hide the terrible things in it,”

which is another way of saying that we hide ourselves from the terrible things.

“I think that what the parable means is that the buried pain in particular and all the other things we tend to bury along with the pain, including joy, which tends to get buried too when we start burying things, that the buried life is itself darkness and wailing and gnashing of teeth, and the one who casts us into it is no one other than ourselves.”

Now, Buechner’s theology at times is dubious, but his main point here is vital. What if pain is a stewardship, and by refusing to face it, we end up burying it and we end up burying ourselves? He says it more directly here.

“The trouble with steeling yourself against the harshness of reality is that the same steel that secures your life against being destroyed, secures your life also against being opened up and transformed by the holy power that life itself comes from,”

from God.

[Most Buechner quotations were taken from Reading Buechner by Jeffrey Munroe.]

So, what does this have to do with parenting teens? Two questions that will hopefully provide answers. Number 1, What if God has entrusted you with pain (think stewardship) in order to transform and use you? Rohr has famously said,

“If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.”

The pain we will not face, we will pass on to our kids.

Second — What if, as you face your pain, you are modeling and training your teens so that they can know how to redeem suffering? This is part of what Paul meant in verse 2 when he said, “We had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.” Paul was not imagining declaring the gospel of God in a sterile environment. That was the perfect setting. He is saying the gospel will come alive as we live and give it in the middle of the mess, in the middle of the suffering, as imperfect disciplers and imperfect parents, trying to process what we have been entrusted with, the good and the bad. And watching the gospel transform, redeem that.

Kevin Huggins in his classic book, Parenting Adolescents, writes,

“The more wounded a parent is, the greater the probability that he’ll imagine the real sickness in the family to reside in someone else — the spouse or the children.”

In other words, if we won’t face our pain, we will model and train our kids to live on the pendulum of blame and shame.

What is the pendulum blame and shame? Pendulum of, first, blame –“It’s not my fault. It’s my parents’ fault. It’s that church. It’s that youth pastor. It’s those hypocrites. It’s that teacher. It’s those kids that won’t obey.”

And then when we get tired of blaming, we swing over to shame — “It’s all my fault. I’m the worst. I never get it right. I shouldn’t even be alive.” And we swing from shame to blame and back again. But blaming and shaming keeps us from facing our pain. We never own it. And by “own” I don’t mean accept responsibility for something someone else did. That’s not it. By “own” I mean embrace the stewardship of what you’ve been entrusted with — the good and the painful.

The teenager who lives on the fringes of blaming and shaming is in grave danger. He’s not actually living his life. She is perpetually reacting to others, missing out on the greatness and goodness of God in the midst of much conflict. In other words, Paul is saying the gospel comes alive in the midst of much conflict, the tension, the unresolved questions.

So, boldness in our God breaks the blame-shame cycle because it gives us courage to face honestly and hopefully the hard things in our lives. Secondly, it gives us clarity to reinterpret the suffering through the purposes of God so that we are neither repressing or obsessing over our pain. Does that make sense? By “face your pain,” we can tend to either repress it (“I don’t even want to talk about it”) or face it or obsess over it, and it begins to define us. I’m not talking about either of those. Face your pain. Now, many of us will need help doing that. So, we’ve got to be humble enough to go to the right person, wise people to help us process that. So, number 1, face your pain.

Number 1, be genuine. Be genuine. Teenagers are like sniffer dogs. Detection dogs are trained to smell drugs, firearms, even cancer, bed bugs. Years ago, a lady tried to smuggle marijuana into a prison. She put the marijuana in a balloon, sealed it, wrapped it with petroleum jelly, pepper, coffee, hid it in her clothes, had many other smells, and the dog went straight for the marijuana. Your teenagers will smell your dope. They will smell what you wish would be hidden. Ironically, they can’t smell their own dope, but they can smell yours. So, this is why five examples Paul gives here of being genuine can be super helpful to all of us, specifically to parents.

We minister, Paul says, we parent, number 1, not to deceive. Verse 3,

“For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive.”

Second, not to please people. Verse 4,

“Just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.”

When you have been embraced by God through Jesus, you are secure, and you don’t have to live and worship people. You live for him. So, we’re not in this to make people happy, primarily.

Third, not to take advantage of. Verse 5,

“We never came with words of flattery.”

To flatter is to say things to gain influence for selfish reasons.

Number 4, not to get something. Verse 5,

“Nor with a pretext for greed.”

In other words, we cannot use our kids to meet our own needs or fulfill our own dreams because we were not a great athlete or because we didn’t get into the elite school or because we didn’t play this instrument so beautifully, We’re going to somehow pressure our kids to become something that we never experienced and longed to experience. That’s a pretext for greed.

Number 5, not to pull rank. Verse 6,

“Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.”

We’ll come back to that. But take a step back here. Look at those five. Your teenagers don’t need perfect parents. Good news! They do need real ones, not fake ones. Be genuine.

Number 3. Are you feeling overwhelmed yet? You look like you’re hanging in there, at least on the outside. Number 3, give yourself wisely. Give yourself wisely. Verse 7,

“But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.”

This is the first of two parenting analogies Paul uses in this passage.

“So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”

So, you’ll notice parenting is not simply transmitting truth, but transmitting a life. We embody what we share. We’re not just telling. We’re living and giving. Give yourself.

But I added the word wisely. Let me take a step back and show you what I mean. Look at the end of verse 6. Paul said (we just kind of flew past this),

“Though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.”

So, as I mentioned, Paul didn’t pull rank, but there’s more there. The apostle Paul could have approached the Thessalonian believers from a position of authority. He was an apostle. He was over all the churches. He could have come wielding authority. He says here that wasn’t his primary posture. Why? Well, because the Thessalonian believers were rising up to maturity. You can see it in chapter 1, verse 9. They turned to God from idols, and then verse 6,

“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction.”

You did what we just illustrated coming from Philippi.

“… with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.”

Now, this is huge if we’re going to understand what we mean by Seasons of Christian Parenting. A few weeks ago, Andy talked about Spring, [ages] 0-5, characterized by Loving Discipline. Summer, last week, John, 6-12, Intentional Training. Today we’re talking about Fall, ages 13-18, Inspirational Coaching. So, in every one of these seasons we are loving, giving ourselves to our kids. The shape that our love and our giving will take throughout the teen years should be morphing. What do I mean by that? Remember this graph, how when our kids are little, we’re doing more requiring. When you have a three-year-old, you shouldn’t be debating with your kid about whether or not he can go play in the street. You do more requiring. But as your child develops, you should be morphing from doing more requiring to doing more inspiring. You’re still giving yourself, but the style, the way you give yourself will change.

And throughout this third season, the change is really up to the teenage. What do I mean by that? Well, think of the example of Jesus. It’s so cool to watch him disciple his followers. It always makes me nervous when he sent them out before they were ready. Do you know what I’m talking about? He would send them out by two’s, and they would struggle and fail, risk, trust God, pray, come back, be debriefed, send them out again. What is he doing there? He’s inspiring them to, on their own, learn how to trust God, take risks, fail, get back up, and keep going. This is the season for that. It’s vital, but it takes wisdom. I say “give yourself wisely” because each child will embrace that call differently. And each child will need different degrees of help in that maturation process.

Let me show you one other example, and then we’ll bring it down to where we live, 1 Corinthians 4:21. Paul said to the Corinthians, “What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?” So, he’s like a waitress, a server. (You don’t call them waitresses server anymore.) What do you want? Do you want a rod? We can do the rod. Do you want a spirit of gentleness? We can do the spirit of gentleness. What is he doing there? He’s inspiring the Corinthians to rise up to maturity.

So, what does this look like with our teens? So, as our kids were moving into the eleven-, twelve-, thirteen-year-old … I’m not saying you’ll always say this. I didn’t say this to all our kids. But you communicate this in the way you relate to them. Or you may say, “Basically you have two options. We can do this one of two ways. Way number 1 — you can walk in wisdom, which means you’re embracing God’s call for you to rise up in maturity. You’re not controlled by your friends. You’re not swayed by online insanity. I’m not saying they’re going to do it perfectly. But you’re not just giving in to the latest temptation from within or just having to be like everyone around you. You’re open. You’re honest with us. We set a curfew. You tell us where you’re going to be, and you will be shocked at the freedom your mom and I give you. Stunned! And it will be so much fun! All these stories about the horrible teen years … Nuh uh, we’re going to have fun! Trust. Honesty. Transparency. Walking in wisdom. That’s way number 1.

“Option number 2 — you walk in foolishness. You’re swayed and controlled by whoever you’re with. You’re someone different when you’re online or with friends than you are with us. You’re not completely honest about what’s going on in your heart or your life. You’re making poor choices. You’re putting yourself in danger or others spiritually or physically. You’re going to be shocked at what a pain in the butt your mom and I are going to be to you if you choose option number 2. We’ve been called by God to care for your soul, and we intend to do that even during the teen years. We will establish rules and boundaries and be checking on you constantly. Just look at a helicopter, and you will know what we are as parents. We will be hovering and tracking and tracing, and you will not like us at all. You will think we hate you and we want you to be miserable. Please choose number 1.” I’m not saying you say all that. But that’s the posture because what you’re doing is you’re seeking to inspire your teenager to rise up and, in essence, to be an adult. What’s an adult? Someone who parents himself. You’re trying to prepare your teenager (next week) to launch. You don’t just do that in a moment. That’s a process. And there’s a pattern of making wise choices that ultimately leads to a successful launch.

But Paul’s example of the way he was “Do we need to use a rod? I don’t to use a rod. I don’t want to come as the disciplinarian” is what he’s saying. “I’d rather come as a cheerleader. Can I be the cheerleader? But the ball’s in your court. Your choice. And my response, your mom’s and my response will be contingent on your choice.”

Well, the three ways teens respond … Number 1, a wise response. These are the teenagers who rise up to the opportunity to mature, not perfectly. Will they struggle, fail? Yeah, but they actually are energized by that. You say, “What does that look like?” Read Proverbs.

Second, a weak response. There are many teenagers who want to rise up and to be trusted and to have this growing friendship with their parents where there’s trust and open honesty and they make decisions together, but they they’re still weak; they’re still vulnerable. Maybe they’re insecure. They want to fit in. They don’t want to be viewed as weird, and they’re probably going to need help, support, accountability, care as they resist the pull of temptations and unhelpful influences.

And then third, there’s a willful response. And these are the teens who resent authority. They view all authority as a challenge to their autonomy. They have tons of confidence in their own thoughts and feelings. Tons! And tragically, they are the ones who hate boundaries the most and need them the most. Isn’t that ironic? Often the ones who hate boundaries the most end up in prison, a bit of a boundary. So, that’s what I mean by “give yourself wisely.” Your response, the way you give yourself during these years will be contingent on their response.

Number 4, train 24/7. Yes, you’re going to have to sleep. But even when you sleep, you are training. Look at verse 9.

“For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.”

Now, Paul’s talking about he was tent-making while he was disciple-making. Verse 10,

“You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children …”

See another parenting analogy. He’s talked about mothers, talked about fathers.

“We exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.”

I believe Peter Drucker was the first one to say the well-known business maxim,

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

What he meant by that was not to minimize the benefit of strategic planning. It’s important. But what he’s saying is no amount of strategic planning can compensate for an unhealthy culture or habitat or atmosphere in the company or in the family. What does that mean? Slick strategies of business or, in our case, of parenting can’t overcome distrust or dishonesty or discouragement or dissension. Toxic relationships eat the most impressive visioneering for breakfast.

A couple of thousand years earlier, Paul is here saying something similar. We didn’t come with clever strategies, but with “labor and toil; we worked night and day.” What is his point? We served you. We didn’t use you. And in verse 10, when he says, “holy, righteous, blameless,” he doesn’t mean that he was sinless. What he means is what you see is what you get. He’s coming back to that authenticity point. But there’s more here. Look at the word at the beginning of verse 10, the visibility. “You are witnesses.” For Paul to say that the people had to see it. And the same thing is true with us as parents. You have to be with your kids.

My wife and I have been reading slowly through a book called The Men We Need. I’m not sure why we’re reading this, but it’s funny and not super deep. But Brant Hansen comes up with some really helpful stuff. He’s addressing dads here.

“If you’re married with kids, now’s the time to be home a lot. It’s not the time to relentlessly do ‘whatever it takes’ to build your career. Now is the time to concentrate on the people around you, the ones depending on you. This is your garden. Keep it. Don’t leave it.”

He’s going all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Adam’s call, our call.

“You get one shot at this, and it’s only for a season. Now is the moment to make financial and lifestyle sacrifices to make time with your family. I hear the objections: ‘Yeah, sure, but if I did that, we’d have to rent a place in a trailer park.’ So rent a place in a trailer park. ‘I’d have to sell my awesome truck. Are you saying I should drive an old $2000 Corolla or something?’ Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. You can drive an awesome truck later. Really. For you, it’s not Awesome Truck Season. It’s Kids Season. Awesome Truck Season can start later….

“‘Okay, but what about my golf hobby? If I didn’t work so much, we couldn’t afford it.’ Golf later…. ‘We couldn’t take any vacations!’ Buy a little inflatable pool. Put it outside your trailer, and spray your trailer kids with your trailer hose. It’s like a fancy waterpark without the lines and the $14 turkey legs. They’ll love it. And they’ll never forget it, Dad. All that time giggling and playing with you.

“‘But what about my kid’s college fund? Sure, I’m gone a lot and stressed out. But I’m busting my rear end to help them get into a great college.’ That’s a big mistake. They don’t need a college fund. They need you. You’re not charged with getting your kids a lucrative career. You’re charged with shaping their character. The security they need right now isn’t financial security. It’s I-know-my dad-and-he-knows-me security…. If your kid becomes a doctor but doesn’t truly know you, and she never got to see your real love for your neighbors, well, you missed the point. And you don’t get do-overs.”

Now, the point of that last statement is not for all of us whose kids have already grown to be covered with regret. That’s super easy. But it’s to motivate all of us as parents whose kids are still young to hear the call. Train 24/7.

Number 5, point beyond. If you’re going to prepare your kids to launch well (next week), we must point them beyond ourselves. Long after they are not with us or we’re dead and gone, they must be pointed to something beyond us.

Three examples Paul gives — number 1, point beyond yourself to the Word of God. Verse 13,

“We also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.”

Do you see that? You received it. And it wasn’t just the word of mom, the word of dad. That works when they’re six. But you’ve got to point them to the Word of God, so they know what it’s like to be confronted with the Word of God and know what it’s like to be convicted by the Spirit through his Word so that long after they’re out of your house, that Word is deep in their hearts. We must not pretend we’re smart enough to parent in our own wisdom or gifting. Think, breathe, speak, live God’s Word.

Point beyond (number 2) to the church. Look at verse 14. We’ll just look at the first part.

“For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea.”

And he goes on to talk about how they have suffered together as churches. Why does that matter? The church is being beat on constantly by our culture and sometimes for good reason. But the point is, we have to point our kids beyond just our own family or just our own culture. We have brothers and sisters here that we can look to who are imperfect but who are humbly seeking to follow Jesus, and your kids need them way more than they need Taylor Swift or Drake. They need to imitate the average Christian who messes up and gets back up. That’s why the church, though fallible, is so important. And we need to point beyond, not just our church, which is vital, or the churches in Greenville, but beyond, around the world. We’re part of something much bigger than us!

This is one of the reasons as a family we read missionary biographies. We wanted them, our kids, to see that vision that goes way beyond us. Go on mission trips, have people from around the world in your own home to where you begin to see, “Oh! What God is up to is so big!” And we get to be a part of that. It’s beautiful when the body of Christ partners together in raising the next generation.

I’ll never forget when our Encore ministry (this years ago) adopted teenagers. A couple of our kids were adopted by seniors in our church, and these older Christians committed to pray for these teens every day. And the impact that that has when you have this multigenerational Christianity! We need each other, young and old! And I’m so thankful we have every generation here. If we’re going to make it, we need to be in this together. Point beyond to the church. There’s so much more we can talk about there — serving, connecting, giving yourself.

Point beyond (number 3) to the coming of Christ. Verse 17, the coming of Christ.

“But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person, but not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you–I, Paul, again and again–but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.”

This is big-vision parenting, long-range parenting. When our kids are struggling or straying, we’re aiming higher, further.

So, let’s sit back and look at all five. Any one of these specifically the Spirit put his finger on for you? Good place to start there. I know I’ve just backed the truck up and dumped. So, you might need to start with one and relisten. Whatever the Spirit is saying, follow through on that. Let’s pray.

Father, our culture is screaming the opposite from what we’ve just heard. May we hear your voice. Please don’t allow Satan to grip those of us whose kids are grown with regret. You give us grace to help right where we are. You’re still doing miracles, Lord. We pray for those of us who need to process pain, that you would give us boldness in our God to break the blame-shame cycle. We pray for those of us who are way more concerned about what people think. We wear a mask. We worry more about image than reality. Help us to see that you see us as we are. You sent Jesus to die for us as we are. Give us humility to be honest. We pray for wisdom so that we will know how to give ourselves to those we love wisely. And for those of us who need to reorder our priorities so that we can be fully present, help us to take action. Lord, we look beyond ourselves to your Word. Thank you for redeeming your church. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Amen.