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ParentingHow to Raise Spiritually Healthy Kids
By Bill Hybels Kevin Harney Sherry Harney
ZondervanCopyright © 1996 Willow Creek Association
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSESSION 1
To Be or Not to Be?
THE BIG PICTURE
"When are you going to start having children?" That's the question so many couples hear after they get married. Friends and family members sometimes even ask this question before the couple is married. It seems marriage and children just go together. Many people approach this topic with a built-in presupposition that all those who get married are expected and obligated to have children.
In recent years I have begun to struggle with this presupposition. I have started to wonder if every married couple ought to have children. In the past I have even spoken on this topic and have written down some of my personal feelings about the idea that all married couples ought to move naturally toward having a family.
I found out firsthand how controversial this subject is after the release of a book I wrote entitled Honest To God?. Buried in a remote part of chapter seven, I just happened to mention that maybe, because of the times we live in, it might be time for married couples to think twice before starting a family. Maybe it's time to submit a decision of that magnitude to careful prayer and thorough analysis before making plans to get pregnant two years after the wedding. I even went so far as to suggest that maybe, just maybe, there are valid reasons for holding off on having children for a time. And quite possibly there are some valid reasons why God would lead some couples to decide not to have children at all.
Little did I know how many people would be upset by that notion. Letters of protest began coming in. As I read the reasoning behind some of those protests, I found myself more motivated than ever to go on record as saying that parenthood might not be for everybody. I also found myself moved to clearly state that bringing children into today's world is a decision that had better involve a lot of sincere prayer and sober-mindedness.
A WIDE ANGLE VIEW
1 Respond to these statements:
There are some couples who should never have children.
We live in a day when serious prayer and reflection should precede any couple's decision to have children.
Marriage is about family. If a couple gets married, they should plan to have children. That's God's design for marriages.
A BIBLICAL PORTRAIT
Read Colossians 3:18-21
2 In this passage we find words of challenge to family members. Take a moment and put each challenge in your own words.
v. 18-Wives ...
v. 19-Husbands ...
v. 20-Children ...
v. 21-Fathers (Parents) ...
What kind of a spirit would begin to develop in a family who followed these biblical challenges?
3 Why are mutual submission and mutual love essential between a husband and wife who are seeking to raise healthy children? What leads to, and what can hinder, mutual submission and mutual love?
SHARPENING THE FOCUS
Read Snapshot "Times Have Changed"
TIMES HAVE CHANGED
The world in which we raise children today is dramatically different than it was just one or two decades ago. In the 1960s we sang "I want to hold your hand." Today fifth graders sing "I want your sex." When I was a kid, Eddie Haskell on "Leave It to Beaver" was the rowdiest kid on television. My mother would pull me aside and say, "Don't ever hang around with guys like Eddie Haskell. They'll mess up your life." Today you flip through the channels and are bombarded with programs sensationalizing rape, incest, homosexuality, and satanic-inspired ritual murders. Times have changed.
4 What changes have you seen in the world since you were a child in the following areas?
The media (music, TV, and movies)
Views of sexuality
Respect for authority
The importance of the family
5 How do these changes impact children growing up today?
What personal fears or concerns do you experience as you think of raising your own children?
Read Snapshot "Wounded Parents"
Parents these days tend to be more wounded themselves than they were a generation ago. Surveys of married couples between the ages of twenty and thirty-five reveal that alarming numbers of these husbands and wives have come from divorced families, troubled families, and dysfunctional homes, or were brought up by alcohol or drug abusers. Record numbers of husbands and wives have been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused. As you might expect, these traumas tend to cause deep wounds in the lives of husbands and wives. If those wounds are not treated carefully and not processed thoroughly, they often end up infecting and poisoning the marriage relationship. And if children are already on the scene, inevitably the toxicity of the parents' wounds affects their lives as well.
6 How were you wounded in your upbringing, and how could this experience impact your ability to effectively parent?
What steps have you taken to seek healing in this area of woundedness?
What work remains to be done as you move forward?
Read Snapshot "Three Critical Questions"
THREE CRITICAL QUESTIONS
Because of the climate of our culture and world, we need to be prayerful and wise about having children. Also, because many adults are still deeply wounded, we need to slow down and be discerning before we jump into family life. To help in this process of evaluation and discernment, reflect on the following three questions:
1. What are you doing to build your marriage so that it will last a lifetime?
2. What have you done to work through areas of your brokenness?
3. How would you gauge your level of commitment to paying the price of raising children?
Once you have prayerfully and honestly answered these questions you can look at parenting with a healthy and responsible perspective.
7 Take time alone with your spouse to discuss the three critical questions in the above Snapshot. Then come back to the group and reflect on the additional questions below.
What costs are involved in raising children in this day and age?
What sacrifices are you going to have to make if you want to raise healthy children?
Read Snapshot "Passing a Broken Baton?"
PASSING A BROKEN BATON?
In previous generations couples could get married and for the most part assume that their partner would be emotionally healthy. Not so today. Those days are probably gone forever. The moral, spiritual, and relational disintegration occurring in our culture over the last twenty or thirty years has generated record numbers of young married couples from broken and troubled homes and drug-and alcohol-tainted environments.
These same couples are all fired up about having children without first paying the price to process the pain, anger, and disappointment of the wounds they received in their families of origin. As a result, this "brokenness" gets passed from generation to the next like a baton in a relay race. Generation after generation receives the same broken baton. It's time to break this cycle of brokenness.
8 As a result of this session, discuss the changes you would like to make in order to bring wholeness to your life and marriage. Find a partner in the group. Share your thoughts and pray for one another.
PUTTING YOURSELF IN THE PICTURE
If you identified an experience in your childhood where you were wounded, what will you do in the coming month to seek healing in this area of your life? Who are the people who will support you in this process? What are the resources available to help you? If you are not sure what steps to take as you move toward healing and wholeness, seek the counsel of a mature Christian relative, friend, pastor, or a Christian counselor.
A Lifetime Commitment
If we are going to raise whole and healthy children, a solid marriage commitment is an essential asset. Take time in the coming week to reaffirm your commitment to your spouse "as long as you both shall live!" Review your wedding vows and discuss how you are doing at keeping them. If you have an audio or video tape of your wedding ceremony, take time to watch it together and discuss how you can continue to grow more in love with each other.
Excerpted from Parenting by Bill Hybels Kevin Harney Sherry Harney Copyright © 1996 by Willow Creek Association. Excerpted by permission.
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