Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dedicating Our Children to God

Heather and I had the privilege of dedicating Micah to the Lord on Mother’s Day, 2009, at Bethlehem Baptist Church. We were excited to share this day with our friends and family. The Lord planned for Pastor Kenny Stokes to lead the dedication service at the downtown campus that morning and to dedicate Micah.

In dedicating Micah to the Lord, Pastor Kenny recited the following words of dedication:
“Together with your parents who love you dearly and this people who care about the outcome of your faith, I dedicate you to God, surrendering together with them all worldly claims upon your life in the hope that you will belong wholly to Jesus Christ forever.”

During the days leading up to the dedication service, Heather and I recall having discussions about whether we could “surrender all worldly claims” upon our son’s life. Were we really called by God to relinquish all worldly claims on our son’s life? Certainly, our prayer was that Micah would belong “wholly to Jesus Christ forever.” But does God really call us to give up all of our claims? Don’t we have at least some entitlements to our son, such as health and longevity?
Our society assumes we, as parents, have certain entitlements to our children. Parents complain to teachers or coaches when “their” children are not given each and every opportunity for athletic or academic successes. Christmas card letters written by boastful parents suggest that they live vicariously through “their” children’s grandiose achievements.

Jesus knows and understands the love that parents have for “their” children. In fact, He alludes to this love in discussing the high cost of being His disciple. In Matthew 10: 37, Jesus says, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Jesus’s words are particularly remarkable because He demands that we prioritize our relationship with Him above all else—including those personal relationships that we hold most dear to us.

In making this remarkable claim about the cost of being a disciple, Jesus assumes that we will naturally hold our sons and daughters closest to us. Indeed, Jesus was confronted with suffering parents on several occasions throughout his ministry, and he seems to have often responded sympathetically to the plain of these suffering parents. We know that he healed Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:21), he raised a widow’s only son (Luke 7:11) and healed the official’s son (John 4:46). Jesus understood the suffering in each of these parents. In each of these instances, Jesus listened to their pleas for a miracle and granted their requests for “their” children.
Most parents are given, by God’s common grace, a desire to love their children. Jesus indicated, through word and deed, that we should love our children. For us, it was a tremendous blessing to be fully invested emotionally in Micah during his short life. This engagement was a good, God-given blessing, despite the significant, seemingly bottomless grief caused by his death.

The prayer dedication recognizes, however, that all of us, including our little children, ultimately and eternally belong to the Lord. Romans 14:8 says, “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” We do not possess our children—they ultimately belong to God. All of our worldly claims on our children – no matter how much we love our children, and no matter how much we hurt when they are gone, are ultimately subservient to the claims of our Creator and Sustainer.

Job’s response to the devastation in his family is a great example to us, because his response includes not only (1) the natural emotional response of losing his children but also (2) his recognition of the superseding claims of the Creator. Following the tragic death of his children, Job tore his rob, fell to the ground and worshipped God. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21. Job could have had a possessive attitude not merely with his material possessions, but particularly with regard to his children. But Job’s perspective on God’s sovereign provision over him, taking the form of both abundant provision and unspeakable, cataclysmic loss, is largely the reason why we find his attitude so exemplary. While Job mourned the loss of his children, he never questioned God’s sovereignty or God’s goodness. Job didn’t resolve his grief by deciding that he, in fact, wasn’t suffering all that much, or that his children were not worthy of his love and affection. His response was to fully mourn his loss while still continuing to trust in God’s goodness to him.

For us, fulfilling the commitment of Micah’s dedication means to fully mourn the loss of our little Micah while also trusting in God’s goodness to us and God’s goodness to Micah. It means to become fully emotionally invested in the life of our second child, now in utero, as well as any future children, without regard to the risk of loss. I pray that I have the same attitude as Job—worshipping our Creator and Sustainer because whether we live or die, we ultimately belong to the Lord.

1 comment:

  1. SO Good, Cory. So few of us ever really contemplate the truth of what we say when we dedicate our children to the Lord. Thanks for these challenging words and your strength to live it fully.