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Seasons of Christian Parenting – Winter (19+) 7/23

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Title

Seasons of Christian Parenting – Winter (19+) 7/23

Teacher

Joel Taylor

Date

July 23, 2023

Scripture

Psalm 100, Psalms

TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to everyone here and online. It’s a privilege for me to be here, batting cleanup for the last season in this series and representing my family that you see on screen, and we have grown since that picture. Peggy and I have been married thirty-two years. We have four great kids, four great grandchildren, and one more coming in September. It’s also a privilege to share what God has put on my heart, and really through all these seasons, I’ve been very grateful for the teaching that we’ve gotten.

As a quick recap, you may remember that Andy taught us through the Spring season that all of our children are born to worship and we as parents need to help orient their worship away from themselves and towards God. And John taught us the Summer season and that as the child grows, our training should point them vertically to God and horizontally to God’s people. And then Peter took us through the fall season and helped us see that the teen years, although exciting, can be exciting for growth for both the parent and the child as we work wisely and patiently to point them to Jesus.

Now, these seasons are all parts and pictures of fulfilling God’s expectation that his people would fear and follow him from generation to generation. And you heard that, as we all read in Psalm 100. And that psalm started with an invitation to “make a joyful noise to the Lord,” to worship God, “all the earth.” Then the psalm ended with a promise — “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” So, this invitation to worship God is for everybody, not just God’s people. And God’s forever love and faithfulness is promised to all generations. I wanted to start there with these truths, because as a Christian parent of a multigenerational family, it means everything to me to know that God’s invitation to know him and experience his faithfulness is for me, for my children, my grandchildren, and every generation after. And it’s these truths that help us as parents to move to and through the Winter season.

When Peter asked me to teach on parenting adult children and in particular how to release your adult children, my first and sarcastic reaction was, you know, it’s simple. You open the door. Get out of the way. You know, for some of them you maybe put some food out there, give them a little incentive, but man, they’ll go. In some ways, it is simple, but it’s not easy. So, letting go of adult children can be a struggle for all parents. And this “adult children” is the guilt part when we consider that nearly twenty years of our lives are invested in raising, nurturing, and caring for a child, it’s easy to see why letting go of that role can be hard.

I do want to make two qualifications. The first — I am not preaching today because I am the world’s greatest father, and my wife is not the world’s greatest mother although we do have the mugs. It’s because of God’s grace and mercy in our lives. We’ve learned quite a bit as we have walked this path, and we have made mistakes, and my children are here now. They’ll be staying after the service if you’d like to ask you about those mistakes. But by God’s grace, we’ve also seen a lot of victory, and I’m just simply sharing what we’ve learned.

So, qualification number 2 is I cannot possibly address every circumstance and dynamic that’s going on in your family. You may have done everything right, and your child won’t talk to you. You may have done everything wrong, but your children remain close. In every circumstance in between, you may be dealing with physical, relational, emotional, or developmental issues that nuance everything that we’ll talk about today. Every parent and every child should enter into this season with humility and strive for unity.

After thirty-two years of marriage and a good eleven years into this season, Peg and I have noticed that the very best circumstance that you can be in is if both parents and children are spiritually healthy, able to both ask for forgiveness and forgive each other, and view each other through God’s eyes. And even then, it can be difficult. The less healthy any party is, the more broken they and the relationship will likely be. And I know that there are some here today who are healthy and some who are experiencing the most broken of broken circumstances. I pray that God will use something in this message to both, well to encourage you, but then also possibly challenge you for God’s glory and the sake of your family.

So, what is the Winter season? Peter described this as the season of releasing, and it’s characterized by supportive friendship. For parents who struggle with the idea of being a friend with your child, let me tell you the biblical definition here. So, the word is “philos,” meaning “dearly loved, prized in a personal and intimate way, a trusted confidante, held dear in a close bond of personal affection.” This is a special relationship, and you are still the parent to be honored, but to enjoy the very highest and most special friendship is something to be desired.

The Winter season traditionally begins around nineteen, but it’s really just when your child is ready for launching. For some, it may be right after high school while others may need more time for additional schooling or life preparation. Some will shoot out of the nest while others fall out, and still others need to be dragged out. Some move far away, and some move down the street. The Winter season of parenting should be the longest. With a normal lifespan, you can expect to be the parent of an adult for about fifty years. And if the Winter season were a book, it would have several chapters in it, chapters on launching, freedom, responsibility, faith, work, ownership, marriage, and parenting, and so on. And a lot of that activity happens right in the first ten years in particular.

But this is a relationship that will grow until one day your children are in the Winter season as well. This is a really exciting season for both children and parents. And Peter reminded us to think snow skiing, right? This is a really exciting time, but it can also be an awkward season. Think skiing as you try to live out your new roles and, like every season, can have its joys and its struggles. For some, it may be exactly how you planned it or hoped while for others, there may be unbelievable heartbreak. Yet God has called you to be your adult child’s parent through this season. And as with any season, there are adjustments that need to be made.

Just as the child moves from dependence to independence, the parent moves from responsibilities to opportunities. Jim Burns, author of the book Doing Life With Your Adult Children (and it’s subtitled Keep Your Mouth Shut and the Welcome Mat Out) … Old Jim says to the parents,

“At this stage, we need to change our job description. The old job description involved command and control, provision and protection, cultivation and correction, supervision and sustenance. But now, if we are to help our children move toward responsibility and independence, and trusting God for themselves for all these things, we must diminish and yield control … to God, who they are fully subordinate to.”

So, what does this new job description look like? Well, I’ve got four opportunities that I want to talk to you about, and each opportunity has a posture that’s connected to it that I hope will help you identify with it and remember it. The first opportunity is trust; don’t tremble. This is an opportunity to put on faith, put off fear, and trust in the character of God. And your posture is hands out, hands out before God in submission to him. Yielding control of your adult child to God can be an anxious thing even though you made it through the teen years, you made it through teaching them how to drive, and survived it. You went through the ups and downs of relationships and in school, and you’ve been easing your foot off the pedal for years. There will still, for some, be more worries because this time your kids are not with you. They’re outside of the home. They’re beyond your reach and control. It’s normal to worry some, but God wants us to trust him with our cares and with our children. So, that worry has to really move from, or move toward, trusting in God. And then we have to learn to do it over and over and over.

1 Peter 5:7 says,

“Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.”

One way Peg and I trust God and cast our anxieties on him is to go to him and acknowledge his ruling in any given situation. Normally the calm one helps the worried one know what God says in his Word, and then we give those truths back to him in prayer and in praise. For me, Psalm 139 is a familiar place for me to go when I worry about my children, their walk with God, their relationships. Are they lonely? Are they safe? I need to remember Psalm 139 because it’s here that I’m reminded of at least two things. First, God knows. God knows my children.

Listen to David’s words starting in verse 1.

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me!”

And that word “searched” means “to be examined intimately.”

“You have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it all together.”

God knows my kids better than I know my kids. I might know some of their thoughts, but God knows all of their thoughts even before they think them. And God doesn’t use this knowledge to destroy them, but to love them and protect them. So, God knows my children.

Second, God sees. God sees my children. David continues in verse 7,

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”

Even when I don’t know where my kids are because they’re not showing up on the tracking app, God sees them. And this information was so impactful to David that he reacted, and I love this translation in the Message. It says,

“This is too much, too wonderful — I can’t take it all in!”

And I agree with David that the fact that he can see our kids is wonderful.

Now, my wife, Peg often goes to Psalm 37. Listen, for all of these action words.

“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: he will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret — it only leads to evil.”

So, when worry has you stuck and you don’t know what to do, Psalm 37 tells you and helps you move from trembling and toward trust in the one who knows and sees.

My daughter-in-law, Peyton, wrote this to our little Ryder for his first birthday.

“I know it’s just been twelve months and we will learn so much more. But if he was faithful even once, then what all does he have in store?”

And this is so true. And we heard it in Psalm 100 that God’s faithfulness is forever. So, God has been faithful, he is faithful, and he will be faithful, and he is worthy of our trust. So, trust; don’t tremble. Remember — hands out, submission to God.

The second opportunity in our new job description is release; don’t retain, and our posture as parents is behind our children (or our adult child), and it’s officially time to let them go. They are launching or have launched. They are out in front leading their lives while we remain behind them in a supportive position. We’re moving from supervision to support, and we have to understand that every generation is different, and every child is different. So, despite growing up in our home and under our influence, our kids have come to adulthood differently. The culture when I was growing up is very different than the culture now. When people in my generation grew up, it seemed like there was a clear path to adulthood — you graduate from school, you get a job, you move out, you get your own place, you find someone to marry, you buy a home and have children, and mission accomplished. That was a clear path, and that’s exactly what I did.

But that path isn’t so clear anymore. Children today don’t necessarily have that structure or feel the pressure to do things the way they were done in the past. Our kids may do things differently, out of order. They may skip some steps or make choices that we may not have made, and that’s okay. And it really leads me to my first point, which is we are releasing them to God’s sovereign hand and plan. According to Jeremiah 29:11, God has a plan for you. Well, if that’s true, he also has a plan for your child, and part of letting our children go is so they can discover that plan personally and not always with Mom and Dad’s oversight. In God’s design, he made us, the parents, to become caretakers through the seasons of parenting, helping them move from adolescence to adulthood, from immaturity to maturity, from dependence on us to dependence on God. And all of these seasons require us to let go. We are not abandoning our children with a Bible in a bag in the middle of a busy intersection and, you know, like, good luck! We’re not doing that. We are releasing them into God’s sovereign hand, which is the best hand ever, and into God’s plan, which is the best plan ever.

One scripture Peg and I have leaned on in this season that reminds us of this reality is Proverbs 16:9,

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

And the NKJV says it this way —

“The Lord directs our steps.”

Our kids, their ways, and their plans may not always make sense to us, may cause anxiety. But to know God’s Word, that he directs their steps, we can rest in that truth and trust him to work out his sovereign plan in their lives, no matter how we feel, how it may look to us. And that brings great freedom to us as parents.

Secondly, we release them to make their own decisions. So, there is likely a 100% chance that your kids are going to do things differently than you did. And that’s okay. They’re going to take different jobs for different reasons. They’ll handle money differently. They’ll cook differently and clean differently. They’ll buy different cars than you might have bought. They’ll have fun differently. And when they have kids, they may discipline differently. And all of that is okay because our biggest desire for them, our biggest hope for them, is that they would know and copy Christ, not us. And we have to remember that when our children make decisions, there may be or will be consequences, some great, some painful, some financial, others relational, some professional, some spiritual. And in this time, it’s important to wisely shepherd them and remember that so much of our own learning how to trust God, how to obey God came through trials. So, our job isn’t to save them from the trial, but encourage them through the trial.

And finally, we release our children with no expectations. For us it was things like traditions, holidays, family vacations, but it can be anything that you required them to do while they were in the home. It could be meals. Maybe it’s a Sunday afternoon lunch. And it’s great if you have that tradition, but you have to make sure that what was an obligation turns into an invitation with no strings attached and no manipulation. “We would love for you to come over for Sunday lunch, and we can talk about releasing with no expectations, but you’re not required to do this. You are welcome, but not required.” And listen, letting go will take on a whole different look when you add a spouse and children. So, if you don’t have a position on leaving and cleaving, you need to get one, and I feel like the Bible’s clear on this. Genesis 2:24 says,

“Therefore, a man shall leave [meaning “forsake or loosed from”] his father and mother and hold fast to” [meaning “cling, cleave, or be joined to”] his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

So, Peg and I have always pushed our married children to unity with each other and not just conformity with us. You need to be sensitive to your daughters or sons-in-laws and remember who everybody is and what your role is. They’re adults now, responsible before God. You are not the sovereign. They are the married couple. They are the parents, not you. So, honor the primacy and priority of that marriage relationship. Let them leave and cleave. And the truth is that, for the Christian family, they’re no longer just children. They are now brothers and sisters in Christ, and we relate to them as we do our friends in the Lord. Release them to their primary identity as children of God and enjoy them as a brother or sister and a friend.

Okay, so, the first two opportunities — Trust; don’t tremble; hands out. Release; don’t retain; you’re behind your children in support. The third opportunity is encourage; don’t encroach. And this posture is simply a big, hearty thumbs up. So, we are going from corrective words to encouraging words, from instruction to inspiration. For years, parents have been used to giving feedback in real time, and sadly for some, our feedback has been more directional and critical. You know “don’t do that. Stop that. Do this.” And that’s where encroaching comes in because when your child is an adult, this feedback can become encroaching. And if you’d like a definition of the word “encroach,” you should ask your daughter-in-law or son-in-law. They would be happy to provide a comprehensive definition. But for time’s sake, it just means “to intrude, to infringe, or invade.”

So, in this season, parents need to be very careful not to force their way in and take control. And we do this mostly with our words and in particular our advice. Going forward, we should advise at our own peril. In fact, the first rule is do not give unsolicited advice. And the second rule is do not give unsolicited advice. It can be so hard not to encroach. But Jim Burns says that “unsolicited advice is usually taken as criticism.” So, even though a parent may view giving advice as an act of love, many adult children resent it. It encroaches on their independence. It feels like you’re telling them what to do, and it restricts their freedom. If we choose to continue to give them unwanted advice, even if it’s great advice with the best of intentions, and your kids really don’t have a clue, our intrusive council may ultimately harm the relationship. So, the best way to not encroach is to communicate with your kids, but just in a different way.

So, the first thing is to listen respectfully, stop howling, and start hearing. Proverbs 1:5 begins,

“Let the wise hear and increase in learning.”

Wise people listen. And Proverbs 18:13 says,

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”

Fools speak before they learn. Rather than giving unsolicited advice, show them respect. Your kids want your respect. And ask good questions that may help them come to a decision before God on their own. So, less expression and more inquiry. And most of our children still want our input. It’s just the way that we give it.

The second way to encourage and not encroach is speak gracefully. Solicited advice should be given honestly but kindly, and then trust in God to lead your child in the way that they should go for their overall care. Don’t be false but encourage them when you’re able to and look for the best in every situation. Notice what they do that is good. Let them know it. Tell them how proud you are of them, that you love them. And if they don’t follow your advice, don’t act like they went against God.

Now a good guideline for communicating is Ephesians 4:29.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths.”

So, that’s what not to say.

“But only such is as good for building up”

That’s what to say.

“As fits the occasion,”

which is the timing of our words.

“That it may give grace to those who hear.”

And that’s the goal. So, if it doesn’t fit the pattern, then it may not be time to speak.

Now, one of my kids had a problem that they were working through. As I’m saying this, they’re all wondering which one it is. So, I’m not going to say him or her. But they were working through this problem, and they had talked to everybody. They did talk to Peg and me and a couple of times. We resisted giving explicit advice, just asked a lot of questions. But we hoped that they wouldn’t do it and prayed they wouldn’t do it. And it had become a thing in the family. Everybody was worried. I ended up calling that child, asking for permission to share and just saying, “Listen, I’m your father. Mom and I have talked. We love you. And can I share this with you?” And listen, they listened. They did end up following our advice, which we thought was best, but it was their decision. Right? I believe God used all of those times of listening without telling them what to do, being patient with them, not freaking out about their thinking or their plans. And I think ultimately God used that for them to trust our counsel and follow it. So, that was a victory. But we really have … I mean, listen, we’ve encroached in all of our children’s lives and probably some of their friends’. And we’ve worked through a lot of hard things. But we’re learning, and we’re striving for unity. Lest this feel like a line dance, we are to trust and not tremble, release and don’t retain, and encourage don’t encroach.

And the fourth and final opportunity is worship; don’t withdraw. And your posture is simply hands raised in praise. So, you are still God’s child, and you need him, and your children still need you. Paul Tripp’s video last week started by saying that we are parenting worshipers, and what controls the heart of a child controls their behavior. Well, guess what? Same thing is true for the parents. And it’s in the Winter season that we will show our children what we have really believed all of these years. The apostle Peter encouraged us and warned us in 2 Peter 1:5-9 that without a healthy and vibrant Christian life, we can live as though we are so nearsighted that we’re blind because we’ve forgotten that we have been cleansed from our sins. And it’s at this time that we look the most like the world.

Sadly, some withdraw from God by forgetting who they are. Some turn inward, selfishly, and invest all their free time, all this money now that they have just on themselves. Some withdraw by running from God, leaving the faith and a broken family behind. Some choose divorce; some, estrangement. The apostle Paul is a great example for us to learn from here. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul encouraged others to run the race of faith to win it. And then later he told Timothy in his last letter that he had finished that race and kept the faith. He did the very thing that he called others to do, and he never gave up. He kept his eye on the prize. Whether shipwrecked or stoned, whether in jail or Jerusalem, Paul kept the faith because of the miraculous gift of grace that he had received from Jesus. And he never forgot. And your example of faith through this season impacts your children greatly.

Now, as parents, we need to understand and anticipate that our faith will be tested when we become empty nesters. But this is a great time to lean into God and grow in his grace. There are two ways to turn to God in worship and not withdraw from him. The first is to stay faithful. This is a call to cultivate your relationship with the Lord and do his work. And listen, here at North Hills, we are so grateful for the many empty nesters who are growing closer to God, so involved with men’s and ladies’ Bible studies, with life groups and prayer groups and care groups. We are so blessed. These are people who listened to Paul’s warning in Colossians 2:19 to hold fast to the head and stay connected to Christ. And we are so grateful for the empty nesters, some of whom long for grandchildren, but invest in God’s children who faithfully serve in numerous ministries in the church and in the community to live out their calling in Ephesians 2:10 as God’s workmanship. So, well done and stay faithful!

And the second way to worship and not withdraw is to pray faithfully. Colossians 4:2 says,

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

Now, of all the ways that you can pour into your children, prayer is the greatest and possibly the most overlooked way to lead, shepherd, advocate, and love them. So, God led Peg and me years ago to start praying together, and we have faithfully prayed for our children almost every day of every year of their lives. And praying has drawn us closer to God as a couple and unified Peg and me as we’ve cried out together. I’m going to warn you about this next part. It’s a little Dr. Seussy. It was late as I was writing, and it just got away from me.

“Pray for your children with your spouse. Pray for your children in your house. Pray for them when you walk by the way, and pray for them every day. Pray for them when you are alone, and pray for them on the phone. Pray with them personally, and pray with them mercifully. Pray for them gratefully, and pray with them faithfully.”

Thank you.

Yes, it was silly, but obviously the point is to pray and pray and pray for your children. Pray for them, pray with them, pray over them, pray blessings, pray promises, pray God’s Word, pray God’s heart, and even when your children have withdrawn from you, don’t withdraw from praying for them.

So, what is the great benefit for our children when we parents stay faithful and pray faithfully? Simply put, your children still need a model. They need an example of how to live out a life of faith in the Winter season. You will always be twenty to thirty years farther down the path than your children, and you can show them the way if they will let you, leaving clear signs so they can stay on the path and avoid the pitfalls. Job 12:12 says,

“Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.”

Amen. A friend of mine told me once that it is so important to maintain your integrity in this season because your children are still watching you and determining if they should count you as a trusted advisor and friend. And that’s one of our hopes in the Winter season because our children will need to know how to trust and not tremble, how to release and not retain, how to encourage and not encroach, and how to worship and not withdraw.

As we close this series, I know that it’s been encouraging and timely for many, and we praise God for that because he’s doing some work. But it’s also been a challenge and tempted some to regret. So, listen to Paul’s words about righteousness through faith in Christ in Philippians 3, starting in verse 12.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind”

And listen, he’s not minimizing his sin here because Paul repented. He received forgiveness, for sure. He changed his robe of guilt and put on a robe of righteousness given to him by Jesus.

“forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

To everybody here, whether you’re a parent or grandparent, a child, a grandchild, an adult child, press on. Press on through these seasons. Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let’s pray.

Father, thank you, that we can pray in your name, the most powerful name, that we can pray for families. We can pray for help where you’re leading and pray that your love would be manifested in our homes, that you would transform us and make whole any brokenness, strengthen any weakness, and that parents and children would look more and more like you each day, and that that would give you great glory, God, because we know it would be for our good and the good of our families. God, I pray all of this in Jesus’s name alone. Amen.