When Phil and Diane Comer held their firstborn infant in their arms, the truth pressed on their shoulders like the weight of the world: This is a person, a human—we hold the potential to hurt him, to damage him, to turn him away from God. What should we do? How should we do it? What if we make a mistake and this child we love with such ferociousness grows up and decides not to follow Jesus? Now, thirty-seven years later, having raised four children who love and follow Jesus, they realize their job has changed: they are doing all they can to bring hope and practical help to parents whose desire is to raise up the next generation of passionate Jesus followers. It’s a grace to welcome Phil and Diane to the farm’s front porch today…
Our daughter Rebekah was one of those children who really, actually wanted to please.
Like many people-pleasing children, she would sometimes lie in order to avoid getting into trouble.
When she was about ten or so, I caught her in a long, ongoing lie.
Unbeknownst to me, she’d been cheating on her math homework—not because she couldn’t get it, but because she wanted to get it over with and head to the barn behind our house, where she boarded her horse.
Just before we caught the lie, Phil and I had been praying for wisdom, trying to figure out why our happy little girl had suddenly become unhappy and cranky.
That’s what hidden sin does to us, doesn’t it? It makes us miserable!
When I discovered Rebekah cheating, she was devastated, genuinely repentant—even relieved to get it out in the open.
It was one of those rare teachable moments—we get just a few of them when we’re raising our kids.
Rebekah’s heart in that moment was wide open and vulnerable. Tears flowed down her cheeks. We sat on the front porch and spent a good long time talking about failure.
About Paul saying in Romans 7:18-19: “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”
I didn’t punish her.
Instead I just held my little girl as she cried.
I told her all about God’s astounding grace—that God covers her sin. That freedom is just one step of repentance away. That He welcomes her with open arms, failure and all.
And that: The way of grace is not about following the rules perfectly, but about coming back to Jesus over and over again and saying, Without You I can do nothing. I can’t even be honest.
I watched Rebekah’s faith become real that day on our front porch. I watched her fall in love with her Savior. I saw her sweet, Sunday-school faith progress to a real, vibrant, going-after-God kind of faith that would hold her close to Him in the years ahead.
Don’t be afraid of your people’s failures!
Just like Paul and Peter and Jacob and David, mistakes can be the very realities that bring them into an authentic faith of their own.
It was Albert Einstein who observed that, “In the middle of every difficulty lies an opportunity.”
Of course we want to guide our people around the quicksand of habitual sin, but, even more, we need to introduce them to a Redeemer who can take the worst about us and turn us into people who are all about Him.
Be alert to those moments of vulnerable brokenness, and show your people the way of God’s amazing grace.
Teach them the beautiful truth of Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
No condemnation! No more shame!
Remind your children of what they may not yet understand, while you tell them what John Lawrence discovered: “Greatness does not consist of not making mistakes, but in what we do with them.”
You’re not trying to disciple perfect people, you are trying to raise godly people— people who love God with all their hearts and who are following hard after Jesus.
But, you might protest, shouldn’t godly people be especially well behaved with stellar attitudes and high standards?
What is a passionate Jesus follower anyway?
Rather than a one-size-fits-all-definition, let’s continue the Rebekah’s story. Fast forward about six years. Rebekah was seventeen by then, with a summer job at a coffee shop.
I woke up at four-thirty in the morning and noticed a light on down the hall. I thought maybe one of the kids was sick, so I hurried out of my own warm bed to investigate.
There sat Bekah, propped up in bed, reading her Bible.
When I asked her what in the world she was doing up when she didn’t need to be at work for another hour, she said: “I just can’t go in there without this time with the Lord. It’s harder than you know, Mom. I need this.”
She was delving into God’s Word because she personally felt the need.
My girl wanted Jesus.
It was all I could do not to dance my way back to my bedroom!
Phil and Diane Comer founded Westside: A Jesus Church, a church filled with young families in Portland, Oregon. They went on to launch Intentional: Raising Passionate Jesus Followers conferences. Phil and Diane have been married for nearly forty years and have four grown children and a growing cadre of grandchildren.
Raising Passionate Jesus Followers is a manual full of practical, biblically based guidelines that parents will be able to turn to again and again through each stage of their children’s development. Starting at birth, into grade school, through the daunting teenage years, to launching them into college, and finally letting go, this book contains the why’s and the how’s parents need. This book will serve as an invaluable resource for any parent whose greatest longing is to shepherd their children into a vibrant faith in God.
[ Our humble thanks to Zondervan for their partnership in today’s devotion ]