About the Guest
Children often become what you encourage them to become. David Jeremiah talks to parents about training children to depend on God.
David Jeremiah talks to parents about training children to depend on God.
Bob: As a parent, have you done the hard work of drawing appropriate boundaries around your children? Here’s Dr. David Jeremiah.
David: I remember at a Little League game one time a guy came up to us and he was talking to David and I asked David what time he was going to be home. David told me later that guy said, “You know, my parents don’t give a rip when I come home. I wish I had parents who cared about me.” I suddenly realized that boundaries are a positive way that we say to our kids, “We really love you and we care too much to let you go out in the street and play in the traffic.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, July 4th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll talk with David Jeremiah about boundaries, children and love.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition, the Fourth of July holiday here in the United States. We have a special guest joining us today, Dennis, somebody who agrees with the Scriptures when they teach us that children are a blessing from the Lord.
Dennis: Yes, and he’s a warrior for the Lord and one who talked to us yesterday about giving--well, imparting--courage to our sons. And today we want to talk about raising faith-filled Esthers: young ladies who grow up to become women who trust God and who obey him. And David Jeremiah joins us for a second day. David, that was fun yesterday.
David: Yes, we had a good time, didn’t we?
Dennis: And the clock went by way too fast. I wanted to turn it back a couple of times. Many of our listeners already know the voice of David Jeremiah through his radio program, “Turning Point.” He is also the Senior Pastor at Shadow Mountain Community Church; and undoubtedly, David, much of your preaching is in this book you’ve written, Gifts from God. You’ve written a book about the importance that children are to our lives and the responsibility that they are as well. I have a personal conviction that children today are not seen as a blessing.
David: I think you can prove that with the statistics of smaller families. I mean a lot of couples these days look at children as an interruption to their fortune-finding. They don’t want to have children because they get in the way. And you know, you would think Christian parents wouldn’t say that, but you hear that in the church. I wanted to write this book as a parent who had gone through the experience of having children and we didn’t have a road that didn’t have some bumps on it with some of our kids.
But as I look back over my shoulder, it’s been the richest time and there’s a kind of sadness in my heart when we walked out into the driveway and I got ready to drive Daniel back to Boone and I noticed that Donna had tears in her eyes and she was walking around the house struggling all morning, knowing this was going to happen.
And then all of a sudden, it caught me that this was the last time we would send him away from our home for the summer because he would be married and then he would not be in our home. And all of a sudden, all of the experiences and all of the joys and some of the trials--all of these things--began to just sweep in over me and I realized how blessed I was to have been a father to these kids.
Dennis: What is the most important thing you could share with us about preparing for the empty nest, if you had just one thing to share with us today?
David: Well, you know, I don’t know if there’s any way to prepare for that. You know, I think we can get ourselves ready, we can talk ourselves into what it’s going to be like, and how it’s going to impact us. But with every one of our children, when we knew it was their time to be on their own, it has been a horrendously difficult thing. I mean…
Dennis: You’re not much of an encouragement, David.
David: Well, you know, I wish…
Dennis: I know that feeling, David, already.
David: Yes, and I’m sitting here in this studio right now fighting back the emotion just talking about it.
Bob: Let me ask you about that transition from the 30 years of hands-on, direct interaction parenting to now being the patriarch of the Jeremiah clan that is extended. Have you all strategically, thoughtfully determined what your role will be in the lives of your kids in the next chapter?
David: Well, we’re kind of learning that as we go along. One of the things we’ve learned just in the last year is we will give counsel when we are asked but we don’t insert it when it is not requested.
You kind of learn that sometimes the hard way. But I realize that’s the right thing. And there have been many times when Cami and David have come to us and asked for counsel and we’ve always been glad to encourage them. And the rest of it is, you know, it’s kind of like when they’re growing up at home, Dennis. You still have to be their cheerleader.
David: You know, when you see young parents now struggling with a little child and the pressures and the challenges, and especially if they’re sick, you’ve just got to be a cheerleader and encourage them. “You’ll get through this, you’ll get through this. We’ve been there and you’ll be okay.”
Dennis: You have several tips that you give for parents as they communicate love to their sons and daughters. I do want to get to some of these principles of building a faith-filled Esther but these tips are so good. Pass on a few of those to our listeners, if you would.
David: Some of those things are by, for instance, establishing boundaries for their lives. That seems almost like the opposite of expressing love but I can tell you this: that we had rules for our family and we think they were fair. We had curfews and we had rules about who they could be with and where they could spend the night and all of that.
I remember at a Little League game one time a guy came up to us and he was talking to David and I asked David what time he was going to be home. And David told me later that guy said, “You know, my parents don’t give a rip when I come home. I wish I had parents who cared about me.” And I suddenly realized that boundaries are a positive way that we say to our kids, “We really love you and we care too much to let you go out in the street and play in the traffic.”
Bob: Yes, but the kids, when you impose the boundaries, don’t say “thanks for expressing your love to me, dad.”
David: No, that’s true. But you know what? They learn the essence of that…
David: …a lot earlier than we think they do because they interact with all the kids. We had friends of our children when they were going to high school who could stay out until 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning and their parents didn’t care what they did. Over a period of time our children began to see that, not as an evidence of great love for their children, but as an evidence of, you know,” they really didn’t care.”
Dennis: I’ll give you an illustration of this. Last night I was with all three of my daughters and we were driving along. And they were talking about the youngest, Laura, and a boy who’s got a crush on Laura. One of the boundaries in our family, David, just to affirm what you’re saying here, is that I interview the young men who want to hang out with my daughters. And so this young man has heard about that. And as a 14-year old boy he is scared spitless, which is exactly what I want him to be.
Dennis: And for that reason he’s not willing to come around. And it was interesting--as the girls were talking among themselves in the back seat, they were saying, “Well, you know, that boy who asked Rebecca out, he looked forward to meeting with Daddy. He wanted to meet with Dad. He’s pretty cool.” And the others kind of went, “Yeah. That’s kind of what we need to be looking for. . .”
Dennis: . . . is a young man who isn’t intimidated, who doesn’t run from authority, but sees the protection of that authority in place.
Dennis: And it’s one of those moments, what you’re talking about here, where even though they’ll fight you on the boundaries, even though they will push back--and I notice you said--when you described it you said, “Boundaries that we felt were fair.”
Dennis: You don’t get the fairness from the kids.
Dennis: The mom and dad establish the fairness.
David: That’s right.
Bob: Don’t you think in general today, David, Christian parents are retreating from what they ought to be doing in this area of boundaries? They’re too relaxed with their kids?
David: Well, I think that parents in this regard are the victims of the peer pressure that they feel through their kids from the other parents who have let down the boundaries. You know, “Well, why can’t we do that? Johnny and his parents let them do it.” And maybe this guy is an upstanding leader in the church. And, you know, we’ve used the same line that every parent does, “I don’t care what their parents do. This is the way it is here and this is the way we’re going to live our lives.”
Dennis: David, I know one of the things that I’ve heard you talk about is that parents just need to enjoy their children; just have a sheer delight in their children.
David: When we ask our kids--if we’re hanging out at one of the holidays or something and we get into one of these remembrance modes--“What is the greatest thing you remember about growing up in our family?” As a pastor I guess maybe in the back of my mind I wish it would be, “Well, you know, Dad, it was the day you opened the Scriptures and you gave us these truths from the word of God.”
David: But that’s not--they’ll talk about the crazy things that we have done. I hate to camp but I succumbed one time to going camping. We waited until a board meeting was over and we went to this place, this campground, and set up our tent. And we couldn’t see really well.
And the next morning when we woke up we were all in a ball kind of down at the bottom of the tent and we had set the tent up on a slope and during the night we had all slid down to the bottom of the tent. We were just kind of in this heap at the bottom and we had to untangle ourselves from each other. And, you know, when we talk about “What do you remember about growing up in the Jeremiah household,” it’s that kind of stuff.
And the night I took my son to repay all the people that had been TPing our house for about three weeks, you know. I drove the get-away car.
I mean, they don’t ever forget those kinds of things. And if I could go back and do it over again, that’s one of the things I’d do more of, and we’ve had a lot of fun. I think our kids sense our love for them when we get involved in their lives and enjoy them.
Bob: Now, even though they don’t bring up you opening the Scriptures, you still did that with them?
David: Absolutely; right. In fact, I think the greatest things that happened in our family weren’t the formal times so much as it was, for instance, when I was driving back across the country with Daniel and we had a chance to talk about spiritual things. You know, the book of Deuteronomy says we’re to do this as we go in and out, as we interact in the norm of life. And that’s where the real--I think the real meaningful--things happen, when we can take the things that are happening in life and relate the Scriptures to them to our children.
Dennis: Can you think of an example where you allowed God’s work in your soul, in your life, and it was passed on in a dramatic moment to your children?
David: Well, one of the things that I have had a tendency to do in the past--and the Lord’s been working on me in this regard--is to sometimes make judgments on things before I hear everything I need to hear, you know. I remember one occasion when I took my oldest daughter--she wanted to go to the mall for some reason. It was before she was driving. I went over there almost at her insistence that it had to be done before dinner.
I had a deacon’s meeting after dinner at 7:00 and I said, “Honey, you can’t be long. I’ve got to get back for this meeting.” I went over there and, you know, the only thing I do at a mall is go to the bookstore and after I’ve done that I go wait on the women. You know, that’s kind of--so I’m waiting and she’s supposed to be back by 6:40, and 6:40 comes and she’s not there. And to make a long story short, 20 some minutes later she shows up and I had been rehearsing my speech for all these moments waiting for her to come back.
Dennis: You were irritated?
David: I was upset.
Dennis: Pastor of the church was upset?
David: Absolutely; and I had gone out of my way to take her at an inconvenient time. I told her ahead of time I needed to be done. I knew I was not going to get any dinner now and I wasn’t going to get to the deacon’s meeting on time.
Dennis: So your martyr meter was already going off?
David: Oh, I was ready. When she got in the van I said, “You know, that’s the most inconsiderate thing you’ve done in a long time.” And I just gave her my speech and she started to cry. And finally, I said, “What in the world were you thinking?” She said, “Daddy, my watch is broken.” She said, “It works for a little bit, then it doesn’t, and then it works and I thought I was okay, but my watch stopped.”
I said, “Boy, that’s about as sorry as anything I’ve ever heard.” And when I got home I said to her--her mother said, “Where in the world have you been?” And I said, “You’re not going to believe this one.” And I told her what had happened and she said, “David, her watch is broken. We’ve been meaning to get it to the jeweler and get it fixed and I just haven’t had time to do it. But it works intermittently and it stops.”
And all of a sudden I realized what I had done. And I just--I mean--I just--I felt so foolish and so wicked, evil. I went back and sat down on her bed and I asked her to forgive me and apologized for making such a foolish mistake, and told her I was going to try not ever to do that again but to listen to her and that I did believe her and would she forgive me.
We cried together. Probably I communicated more through the process of dealing with that mistake than I could ever have done in dealing with some other principle that was . . . . Because, you see, our kids need to see our humanness. You know, we may be pastors; we’re just not perfect and God isn’t finished with us yet. And I have the same challenges in my life that any other man has in the sense of the ups and downs and the pressures.
It’s not “do we all have problems?” We all do. But it’s what do we do with them when we see them and when we face them? That’s what our kids learn from, I think, more than anything else--the reality of the life.
Bob: You have faced lymphoma, health problems.
Bob: That’s not something that you’ve faced in isolation but you’ve faced it as a family. How has your health impacted your relationship with your kids? What have they learned from that? What’s gone on there?
David: When I found out that this disease had returned--I found it out on Wednesday. I got on an airplane and flew to a meeting that I had to do Thursday and then down to Boone, North Carolina for a play-off game that Daniel was involved in; and I didn’t want to say anything to him about it, didn’t want to get his mind on it before the game. But after the game was over we went to this restaurant in Boone called The Mellow Mushroom and we ate.
Actually, it’s a great place where the kids hang out and the rest rooms there are called the Mellow Flush Rooms, so it’s really quite a place. Anyway, we were eating lunch and afterwards Daniel’s truck was over in another lot and I said, “I need to talk to you, son. Can I walk over there with you?” And I don’t think I ever told my kids anything so hard as I had to tell him that because I wanted him to have a strong dad, you know.
I just said to him, “I need to tell you this disease is back and I’m going to have to go through some treatments and I just feel so bad. I don’t want this to be an issue with you or a problem with you.” He was such a great encouragement to me but, you know, I’m a pretty strong person, type-A from day one. I think the disease has made me very vulnerable to the softer side of my life; this thing that God has allowed in my life is not an accident.
He’s up to something and I’m not rebellious about it, but I think anybody who has been through this as a man, especially as a father, the hurt of it is more for what it means to my family than what it means to my own life. And so telling my children about it and interacting with them--of course, with Donna it’s been even more so that way. But again, I can’t be anybody I’m not, so I just have to be who I am and let them see, hopefully, Christ even in this in my life.
Dennis: Have you let them in on those moments of doubt?
David: Oh, sure!
Dennis: On those down days?
David: I was in a hotel in this particular stem-cell program in Southern California. They do it as an outpatient. You actually stay at a hotel twenty minutes from the hospital and you go back and forth every day. I happened to be going through this process during Easter. I got up Easter Sunday morning and I went out; I was really not doing well; I was weak. I turned on the television just to see if I could find something to encourage me on Easter Sunday.
I found a religious program and all of the sudden, out of nowhere, I just began to sob.
My wife came out of the other room and she said, “Are you okay?” I said, “No, I’m not okay! I don’t want to be here. Why am I here? I want to be at church. I can’t imagine not being at the Easter services.” I just began to weep. My kids all knew about that and we talked about why that was. I said, “You know what, it just hit me right then.”
Whatever it is that God has been doing in my life through this process, my kids are party to it, because they’ve been there through it all. Sometimes I walked in the house when all of this was going on and I saw their mother talking to them. I would ask her later and she would say that they were afraid. They didn’t feel comfortable asking me about this particular thing, so she would explain it to them. So I knew they were having lots of conversations about this while I was going through it.
Dennis: You know, as I was listening to you share that, I thought, “This is the substance of a real family--relationships.”
Dennis: It’s how you build it; it’s how you maintain it; it’s what fortifies it. And you’ve got to be real. You’ve got to let them in…
Dennis: …on the interior of your life. And whether you’re a mother or a father or a grandparent, these are important lessons for us to take away and begin to apply to say, “How am I going to pursue my child?” whether they’re three, thirteen, or thirty-three.
Dennis: But to pursue them and say, “You know what? I want to have a real relationship with my children. I don’t want them to remember me as this distant person who couldn’t relate.” I so appreciate your authenticity, David, of sharing here today that you admitted you did struggle with that authenticity…
Dennis: …and being distant and not knowing how to touch their hearts. But you got there.
Dennis: You’ve gotten there, haven’t you?
David: Right; I have. I think one of the things that I did early on was I just started to make the important days of their life important days in my life. I’d sit down with my secretary at the beginning of the year and as soon as I got the athletic schedules, they were entered into my schedule. And you mentioned earlier, you know, once you make this commitment, you’re going to be tested.
I remember one day, Dennis, I was in my office and I was getting ready to go to David’s basketball game over in Claremont. And I heard my secretary Glenda talking to someone who obviously had tried to come in and get into my life. And this guy said he had to see me. He was having family problems and she said, “Well, he can’t see you right now. He’s already late for an appointment. He’s on his way out the door.”
I had to go down the elevator to our lobby to go out and to get my car, and this guy was waiting in the lobby. And when he saw me he came right up to me--I can’t believe to this day he did this--and he said, “Where are you going?” And I said to him, “Well, if you really want to know, sir, I’m going to see my son play basketball.”
And he just came unglued. He said, “I can’t believe that you’re leaving me to stand here with all the challenges in my life spiritually. You’re my pastor and you’re going to see your son play basketball when I need you.” I remember--I don’t get voices and I haven’t gotten any special audible words from the Lord, but God put this in my heart.
I’d never thought this thought before but I just blurted out, “You know, sir, there are five guys upstairs who are pastors who can help you. But my son’s only got one dad and I’m gone.” And I left.
Dennis: Good for you.
David: And you know what? I’ve had numerous occasions like that but over the years, one of the things that happens is other fathers in your church see you doing that. They see you at the games where your kids are.
I had a staff member come up to me not long ago and say, “Pastor Jeremiah, I don’t know what would have happened to me if I hadn’t come on this staff, because I came from a church where they had such expectations of the men that, you know, you had to put in so many hours, almost on a quota basis. And if I had wanted to slip off early and go see my son play basketball or my daughter play soccer, I never would have been given approval. But you gave us instant approval to do that.”
He said, “I think that’s one of the things that may have kept my family together.” So we teach a lot more by what we do as pastors a lot of times than we think. Whatever else our families know at Shadow Mountain--and I can say this without reservation--they know of Donna’s commitment and my commitment to our kids because they’ve watched that now for 18 years and it hasn’t changed over the time.
Bob: That’s powerful! That modeling really is powerful in the lives of those who not only hear you preach the Word but see how you live it out. Our commitment to our children is one of God’s high priorities for us. If He blesses us with children, then raising those children with a legacy of spiritual vitality is central to what He’s called us to.
In fact, if you stop and think about it, there aren’t many parents who have raised healthy, well-adjusted, spiritually-vital young men and women who have a lot of regret about where they’ve invested their lives. 3 John says, “I have no greater joy than this, than to know my children are walking in the truth.” That’s what we’ve got to be investing in as moms and dads.
If you go to FamilyLifeToday.com, we have listed there some resources that are designed to help you as a mom or a dad; to encourage you to stay the course, stay involved, keep your relationship with your son or your daughter strong, and make sure that in that relationship you are making the spiritual hand-off that we need to be making with our kids.
You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about resources we have available. You’ll find articles online and other help we can provide as you raise your sons and daughters in the faith. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. We hope you’ll stop by and check it out.
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And we hope you can be back with us again tomorrow. Our friend, Jedd Medefind, is going to be here. He is the President of the Christian Alliance for Orphans. We’re going to talk about how you can make sure that the priority in your life is the right priority. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow; I hope you can join us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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