“Do advise – don’t badger.”
That’s a piece of advice from former prodigal Carol Barnier. She was raised by faith-filled parents, and after a season of wandering, came to Christ later in life. She says parents whose child has wandered away from the church should wait for them to invite your counsel.
If you offer advice without openness, it will harden their heart and lead nowhere. If your child invites your counsel, you have an open door! Use your response carefully.
“Is it something that’s helpful? Beyond [saying it] once or twice, you’ve got to stop.”
Focus on boundaries, not behavior.
A lot of parents start focusing on the behaviors of their child, which is natural as a person’s behavior is an indication of his or her heart posture.
“We can get so caught up in trying to get their behavior to change that it then becomes about behavior. Not about heart issues. Not about salvation issues.”
Imagine your wayward son comes to you and asks you for a list of things you want him to do. At your request, he moves out of his girlfriend’s apartment, he leaves his job at the bar and starts going to college again. He’s back in church every Sunday and shaking hands with everyone. He’s stopped swearing. Wonderful things are happening.
So what’s the problem?
It’s a surface solution that will not result in real change. His actions are being done to please you, not because he’s encountered God.
“He’s learned how to play the game. But he hasn’t had any change in his heart.”
If you focus only on the behaviors you’re sending a secret message to your children: It really is more important to me how you look to others.
Carol says we have to die to our pride. We can’t worry about what others think of our child and worry instead about what God thinks of them instead.
“When you focus on those behaviors, you end up pushing this child farther from the very God that you want him to embrace.”
Key Scriptures: Job 4:12
Featured Songs: Joy by Rend Collective; I Believe by Chris August; Can’t Be Moved by Jeremy Camp