Five Ways to Be Different
As followers of Christ, we are aliens-this world is not our home. Jen Wilkin introduces five areas in which our children can display their allegiance to God's kingdom.
About the Guest
As followers of Christ, we are aliens-this world is not our home. Jen Wilkin introduces five areas in which our children can display their allegiance to God’s kingdom.
Five Ways to Be Different
Bob: When you think about what you’re trying to accomplish, as a parent, can you put words to that? Jen Wilkin thinks she has an idea.
Jen: If I were to ask you, “What is your greatest hope for your child?” I would get a varying number of answers. I’m guessing that we would mostly all say something similar to this: “Our greatest hope for our child is that they would grow to know, love, and serve God with everything they have.”
But here’s what I think we need to come to terms with—those who grow to know, love, and serve God with everything they have do not blend in; they will look radically different—which means that the goal of the Christian parent is to prepare a child to live in a world that is not their home.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, April 18th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Have you ever thought about raising kids to make sure they don’t fit in? We’re going to explore that today with Jen Wilkin. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. Our listeners may have noticed that we’ve been talking about parenting a lot over the last couple of weeks. There’s a reason for that—it’s on our minds these days; isn’t it?
Dennis: It is very much on our minds. Barbara and I had holed up for the better part of—four months?
Dennis: I mean, we really hunkered down; because we looked at each other many, many times and said, “Do you realize the task that we’re trying to accomplish, writing about the art of parenting?”—28 years of being parents—and reflecting on the great moments, the challenging moments, and the despairing moments of raising 6 children to adulthood.
And yet, Bob, I have to tell you—I think Barbara and I will look back on this—it was written back last fall and winter. I think I burned over a cord of wood—[Laughter]—
—we have a fireplace in our living room. I got a heating bill that said we actually used 30 percent less electricity when it was 20 percent colder.
Dennis: I think our fire, both in the fireplace and in our hearts, warmed our home as we relived just the art of parenting and how we did it—and just want to bring hope, and practical help, and encouragement to moms and dads—because it is—it really is a big challenge.
Bob: Your book is going to be available this fall—it’s not out yet. I think the thing that people, who know you, will recognize—is that this is not a book of everything you did right, as parents.
Dennis: That’s correct.
Bob: This is a book of what real parenting was like—the challenges you’ve faced, the mistakes that got made, and what God taught you in the process. You spend a lot of time looking at what the Scriptures have to say about our assignment, as parents.
You said there are some clear priorities and objectives that God has given us.
Dennis: Yes; and we also, Bob, compared what the Bible has to say with the world we live in. We just talked about how the world today is far more challenging than it was when we raised our kids; and yet, this book, the Bible—not our book—but the Book / the bestseller in history—this book has never been more relevant to help people think about the straight line of righteousness, of right living, of being wise and not a fool.
I think there’s a great need for parents today—and millennial parents are—there’s over, I think, over 16 million millennials, who are parents today. We added another one million to the number last year. I think they’re looking for help and hope, practically, with those that won’t preach at them; but put their arm around them and say, “Let me tell you where we found a drink of water when we were thirsty in raising our kids.”
Bob: We’re going to hear a message this week from our friend, Jen Wilkin, who shared about her experience, as a parent. In fact, we’re going to hear Part One of that message, here, in just a minute. She’s a mom who’s in the midst of raising her kids. She and her husband live in Dallas; she’s a Bible teacher; she’s an author and a speaker. She had the opportunity to kind of take us into her parenting journey in a message that she presented several months ago. We thought this was a great message for our listeners to hear.
In Part One of this message, Dennis, she makes the point that we have to have a proper mindset when it comes to parenting. In fact, what she says in this message reminds me of something that Tim Kimmel says in the Art of Parenting™ video series that FamilyLife® has created that will be coming out in a few weeks. He says, when you stop to think about how long your children are going to live, it changes everything in your parenting. [Laughter]
And then he says, “I know how long every kid’s going to live.
Bob: “They’re going to live forever.” When you recognize your kids are going to live forever, and you have to have them ready for forever—not just for college, not just for marriage, not just for adulthood, but for forever—that changes your parenting.
Let’s listen to Part One of Jen Wilkin’s message on the things she’s learning, being a mom and a parent.
Jen: The reason that I have been invited to speak here this morning is because I am a perfect parent, and I have raised perfect children. [Laughter] Anyone who is in my club, please come find me afterwards, and we’ll celebrate our great success. [Laughter] No; the reason that I am here—I’m actually not sure the reason that I’m here—but I do have kids, who have made it to young adulthood; and I’m clothed and in my right mind. If you’re willing to accept those as my credentials, we will move forward.
I am going to talk to you this morning about raising an alien child. I need you to know a little bit about my family so that you can filter properly what I’m going to talk about. In the Wilkin family, we had four children in four years. By the time I had my third child, I had an oldest child who was two years and four months old. We just like—when we decided we were having babies, the Lord said, “Yes; you are.” [Laughter]
I think what happened in our house was—we needed to crystallize some methods a little quicker than the person who has children a little further apart or has a little bit of a different situation than we did. Just as the saying goes that “All theology is autobiography,” I would argue that all parenting methods probably are too. I’m going to talk about some things today and tell you the way that we did things in our family, but your home is not my home. There are six unique individuals that lived under my roof, and you have individuals living under your roof as well.
I would task you—in general, with any parenting information that you receive—to take what you can use and leave the rest behind. I cannot tell you what to do; I can tell you what we did. I want to give you some general principles that I think were helpful and that are based on my understanding of God’s Word.
I also need to say that everything I will share with you today is not from me alone. It comes from the Lord, of course, when we go to parent; but my husband Jeff is an absolute partner with me in raising these children. His wisdom is behind many of the better things that you might be able to take away from this; because I’m the one who, when a kid goes and does something, where you’re like: “You embarrassed me. Why are we related?” he’s the one who says, “Calm down.” We all need someone like that.
If you would, turn with me to 1 Peter 2—
—1 Peter 2. What we’re going to be talking about is how we can help our children trade the comfort of fitting in for the calling of standing out.
In the summer of 1982, I went to see a movie with my brothers and my best friend, Wendy. Wendy was my next-door neighbor. She was sort of a surrogate sister for me, because I did not have any sisters. I was very self-conscious in middle school. I was 13—13 years old—and wanted my brothers to want me around and also wanted no one to actually look at me any other time. We lived in a relatively small town. When you went to see a movie in the summer, you went to the only theater that there was; and you were probably sitting there with friends and neighbors.
Wendy came with me; she sat next to me. The movie was E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. About midway through the movie, things turn ugly for E.T. Wendy is overcome with emotion and screams at me in the theater: “Does he die?! Does he die?!”—like at the top of her lungs!
I thought to myself, “I don’t know if he dies, but I sure want to right now.” [Laughter]
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was the fourth largest grossing film of all time, because it’s an endearing story. I mean, you think about that movie—I hope this is not a spoiler for anyone; because, for heavens’ sake, you’ve had 35 years to watch it. [Laughter] I remember the first time that E.T. came on the screen, because they hadn’t shown him like in any of the previews. You didn’t know what he was going to look like, and you were just so distracted by this sort of partially-human appearance that it took a while to stop focusing on the externals to realize that the message the movie was communicating is that E.T., the extra-terrestrial, was sort of a better version of us.
It starts to make sense—doesn’t it?—why that movie would be one of the most high-grossing films of all time?—because someone comes down to earth; is revealed to his follower to be a better version of humanity; he suffers at the hands of wicked men; he dies; he comes back to life; and he ascends home.
That’s a powerful story—that’s a story that can be told again and again; because, like all good stories, it’s the one true story.
First Peter 2:11 and 12: “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day that He visits us.” I learned these verses for the first time about the time that I had seen E.T. Every time I read them, I’m picturing [sounding like E.T.] Elliott.
It was a little hard at Scripture memory camp—to recite this without having sort of a grin on your face—because you’re like, “They said, ‘aliens’—you know, that movie?” But it was actually a really good image to carry along—it was a really good idea to hold onto, as I pursued my own walk as a believer; but then, as a parent, as well, it’s an important image for us to keep in mind.
If I were to ask you, “What is your greatest hope for your child?” I would get a varying number of answers. I’m guessing that we would mostly all say something similar to this: “Our greatest hope for our child is that they would grow to know, love, and serve God with everything they have.” That’s what we want; right? That’s why you came here; because we want to be someone who has a child who grows to know, love, and serve God with everything they have.
But here’s what I think we need to come to terms with—those who grow to know, love, and serve God with everything they have do not blend in; they will look radically different—which means that the goal of the Christian parent is to prepare a child to live in a world that is not their home, which begs the question then:
“How much of our decision making, with regard to our children, centers around helping them fit in?” because there is a strong pull for us to want to medicate some bad memory that we have of not fitting in by giving our children a freedom from that tension as often as possible and in as many ways as possible.
Not only is there a desire for us to want the child not to feel that tension, but we, ourselves, do not want to feel the tension of other parents looking at us and saying, “Why don’t you express your love for your child by doing ‘X,’‘Y,’ or ‘Z,’?”—according to the markers that are common to our culture? We need to be asking what opportunities we can take to train our children to be comfortable with feeling different.
Now, don’t panic. We’re not talking about intentionally making ourselves odd for the sake of drawing attention to the gospel; we’re talking about following Christ in such a way that that occurs. Romans 16:19 says, “But I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.” We are to be in the world but not of the world; we are to understand what evil is and to flee from it; but we are also to be present in the midst of it. Verse 16 of Matthew 10 says, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.” We are going to ask our children to trade being the same for being set apart. That means that we’re going to think differently about the decisions that we make.
I want to talk about five different key areas, this morning, that you can consider as you think through how you might raise an alien child: activities, speech, possessions, entertainment, and friends.
Bob: Well, that’s Jen Wilkin, and we’re going to get to hear her thoughts on raising alien children in those five areas as we continue to hear her message this week.
Dennis: I can’t wait. I was there—I was at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission Parenting Conference—because I spoke. Jen hits it on the head here, because these five areas—activities, speech, possessions, entertainment, friends—this pretty well wraps up the main issues your kids are going to begin to face in grade school, in middle school, and in high school, and then leaving school to go to college, work, service. These are all areas they have to be grounded in and know how to think, biblically, in each.
Bob: She has some great observations—we’ll hear those, ahead this week; so you’ll want to keep listening for that. But we wanted to just make sure our listeners are aware of the fact that this is a year where FamilyLife® is turning a big part of our attention to this parenting challenge and trying to provide help and hope for moms and dads.
We’ve already talked about the book you and Barbara have written that’s coming out this fall, but we have a video series that’s based on the content of your book. I should just say—the video series is not your book in video form—it’s really a companion piece to your book. The same themes are explored, but you need both the book and the video series together to get the big picture; don’t you think?
Dennis: Well, you actually shot the video—the Art of Parenting™. You did so using 15 different experts—pastors, counselors, authors—
Bob: —there’s a pediatrician!
Dennis: —doctors; yes.
Bob: Dr. Meg Meeker joins us on this series, along with Tim and Darcy Kimmel, Bryan and Korie Loritts; we have Elyse Fitzpatrick and her daughter Jessica Thompson, who are a part of this series; Pastor Kevin DeYoung; our friend, Alistair Begg, has contributed to this series—I mean, the list goes on.
We’ve tried to make sure that we’re not just representing one person’s thinking on parenting; but we’re trying to get at these biblical themes and making the point that: “There’s a consensus here on what really matters when it comes to the main themes that parents need to be addressing.”
Dennis: And, what we’re saying is—if you want to be a great parent / I’m not talking about average—if you want to be a great one, you’re going to do this in community. That’s what this video series will help you forge and form. I would predict that the four, six, eight couples that you go through the Art of Parenting with—maybe you go through it with a larger group and they break down into smaller groups—I predict that the couples that you talk with about your convictions, your values, where you’re going to draw the line as you raise your children in many of the key areas that they’re going to face in grade school, middle school, and adolescence—I think it’s going to help you a great deal to hear what other people are afraid of—
—to hear their lack of confidence.
I’ll tell you—by the time this comes out, there will be a fresh series of battles in the culture that: “Who knows how you could begin to answer them?” You have to be with a group of people, who are thinking and going, “Well, let’s talk about ‘How are we going to respond to this latest bit of a twist on the straight line here?’”
Bob: When we were raising our kids, there were other couples, who were on the journey as well. We’d get together with them regularly, and we’d talk about parenting challenges. I remember going to those meetings, thinking, “Our kids are going to be in jail someday,” [Laughter] and we’d get there; and we’d have the conversations. I’d drive home going: “Okay; we’re not the only parents who are facing these challenges. There’s still hope.” We encouraged one another in that journey.
In fact, I’ve told people about the Art of Parenting video series: “If all you do is watch the video, you’ll get about 25 percent of the benefit of the series.
Dennis: That’s right.
Bob: “If you watch the video, and then you team up with some other parents, and you have the discussion questions that are in the workbook, that’s another 35 or
40 [percent]. And then, if you’ll do the homework that we give parents, and you’ll actually fill out the arrow, which is a short-term strategic plan for each of your children, to say: ‘What are the issues we need to be focusing on? How do we get these addressed? How do we keep our priorities straight with our kids?’ now you’re up to
100 percent of the value.”
So, it’s the videos, it’s the small group, and it’s the homework—those three in concert will, I think, revolutionize your parenting.
Dennis: And Bob, I don’t think there are many resources available today that do a better job than the Art of Parenting—of helping parents move from theory and truth to application—specifically to a child—because children are different. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to raising children, just in case you haven’t noticed, as you raise your kids.
All six of ours—it just was staggering the challenges that would present to us, especially when they teamed up against us—
Dennis: —you know, so then they’re taking one another’s strengths or weaknesses together and taking advantage of you.
But it was a great privilege. One of the things we did was—is we talked about our strategy with each of the children and tried to anticipate—key word: anticipate—the issues that our children were going to be facing. Rather than playing defense—
Dennis: —for instance, rather than going to the grocery store and telling your kids that they can’t grab stuff off of the shelves / they can’t run down the aisles; in the parking lot, before you put your kids in the cart and go inside, you explain to them: “How are we going to behave?
Dennis: “What are the ground rules for what we’re doing?” and “What’s the reward if you follow through on it?”
Bob: Yes; and “What’s the consequence if you don’t follow through on it?”
Dennis: Oh, yes; there’s always that too.
We talk about this in our book.
Dennis: And one of the things Barbara had on the dashboard of our van was—just, occasionally, things would get out of hand to such a degree she felt like she needed to have an object lesson. [Laughter] And Megan, do you have any idea what Barbara would have put out on the dashboard to remind our kids?
Megan: [off mic] A wooden spoon?
Dennis: Correct, Megan! [Laughter] Correct answer! I can tell you’re in the battle! Way to go. [Laughter]
And again, people who equate spanking and physical discipline with violence—I’m sorry—I’m not going to be accused of that, because we didn’t do that; okay? But there’s a way to do that, and we talk about it in our book—of how you can install corporal punishment and do it with love, with compassion, and help create a little wheel alignment in attitudes with your children.
Bob: So, let me kind of lay out for folks all that’s happening and let our listeners know what we’re recommending in terms of engagement. First of all, we have a movie coming out—it’s going to be in theaters May 1st and May 3rd—it’s called Like Arrows, and it’s a movie about parenting. We think of it as Session Zero for the Art of Parenting. Tickets are on sale now; you can buy them now and plan to go—take your small group from church.
Once the movie’s over, then you can start, right away, on the video series—the eight sessions of the Art of Parenting are going to be available starting May 1st. If you pre-order the Art of Parenting right now—you can pre-order—and it’s a significant discount to buy it ahead of time. Go ahead and get your order in; you can go to FamilyLifeToday.com for information on the pre-ordering.
Dennis: And by the way, just to give you an idea of some of the topics: we’ll talk about training your children to get along with their siblings—
Dennis: —even though we were not able to fully do it—[Laughter]—we’ll talk about how they can get to know God; we’ll talk about being wise and not a fool; we’ll talk about character.
Do you know what character is?—
Dennis: —what forges character in a child? That’s one of your main responsibilities. We’ll talk about relational identity, emotional identity, [and] spiritual identity; and last, we’ll talk about raising your child to release them and have a mission.
Dennis: That, to me, is the missing component in most families today. They are not raising their arrows to be aimed at a target and let go to have impact.
Bob: You could go through these eight sessions over the summer with a small group. I’m hoping that some churches will begin to incorporate Art of Parenting classes into the regular rhythm of their church; so when you have baby dedications or when you have baptisms, depending on what you do at your church, you could have Art of Parenting classes before the babies are dedicated or baptized—
Dennis: I think that’s a great idea!
Bob: —or before they get permanent name tags in the nursery.
Dennis: I think one of the great outreaches of a church today can just be to advertise your church as a marriage and parent equipping center.
Bob: So, the movie, May 1st and 3rd; then the Art of Parenting video series, available beginning May 1st. There’s also going to be an online component for it, so you can actually go through an online course on your own—it’s free of charge. We have information about that on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. And then, finally, your book will be out in August or September; right?
Dennis: Yes; right.
Bob: We want to make parenting a priority for you. We’ve made it a priority for FamilyLife, and we hope that 2018 will be the beginning year for a parenting movement of intentional, focused, gospel-centered parenting.
Again, you can find out more about what’s available when you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can call if you have any questions: 1-800-FLTODAY. Tickets for the movie are on sale now.
Dennis: Go to the movie, please.
Dennis: Lots of folks are going to be there—they’re all friends of Bob’s—[Laughter]—so come join them. You’ll like them!
Bob: You can get your tickets now, and find out more about the Art of Parenting video series as well.
Now, tomorrow, we will hear from Jen Wilkin about some of the areas where she is hoping to raise alien children in her home. We’re going to hear how they are addressing activities and speech in their home and how they’re trying to do it differently than their friends are doing it.
Dennis: Is she talking about teenagers? Because they become aliens. [Laughter] It’s like an alien takeover!
Bob: I hope you can tune in for that tomorrow.
Dennis: They can become that way.
Bob: I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. See you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry.
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