FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Parenting With Awe in Mind

with Paul David Tripp | March 22, 2016
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Ask your kids to do something and they won't. Ask them NOT to do something and they will. What's going on? Most parents, according to Paul David Tripp, think that their kids have a "law" problem, so they set up rules. What they really have is an "awe" problem. Paul reminds parents to point their kids back to God's glory and to get to the heart issues driving their children's behavior.

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Ask your kids to do something and they won't. Ask them NOT to do something and they will. What's going on? Most parents, according to Paul David Tripp, think that their kids have a "law" problem, so they set up rules. What they really have is an "awe" problem. Paul reminds parents to point their kids back to God's glory and to get to the heart issues driving their children's behavior.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Most parents, according to Paul David Tripp, think that their kids have a “law” problem, so they set up rules. What they really have is an “awe” problem.

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Parenting With Awe in Mind

With Paul David Tripp
March 22, 2016
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Bob: There is nothing wrong with wanting to be successful at what you do, but there is a problem when success is a bigger deal than it ought to be. Here’s Paul David Tripp.

Paul: Success will never satisfy you—it’ll never satisfy you. You know what success looks for?—more success. And you taste success—it is a drug. You will think: “Wow!  I want more of that.”  If success has captured your awe, your family will suffer, your spiritual life will suffer, your schedule will be undoable, and the people that work for you will think, “I don’t want to work for this person anymore.” 

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, March 22nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Every one of us is longing to experience awe in our soul. The question is:



“Are we looking for awe in the wrong places?”  We’ll talk more about that today. Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Mary Ann and I were with some friends—this was, I don’t know, several months ago. First time ever—we drove into Central California and found ourselves on the floor of the valley in Yosemite with El Capitan off to the right and with—it was springtime; so, the falls were running. We got to go up to Yosemite Falls and got to go up to and look from the top down into the valley.

You can’t go there without wanting, at some point in your trip, to all break out and sing: “Oh, Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds thy hands have made. How great Thou art….”



It is—well, I’m going to use the word because we’re talking about it this week. It is awesome.

Dennis: It is awesome. I am just thinking of having seen that view myself, and it’s a valley. Think of that valley as God’s little pinky finger print.

Bob: Yes. [Laughter] 

Dennis: Not His handprint—

Bob: Right.

Dennis: —but a little pinky imprint.

Bob: Or think of it as His second-grade art project.

Dennis: I just wonder what God was doing in eternity the day He decided to create Yosemite Valley. I mean,—

Bob: —or the Grand Canyon.

Dennis: —He showed up and showed off. That’s just all there is to it. And we’ve got a guest today on the broadcast. Paul David Tripp joins us again and believes like us as well. Paul, welcome back.

Paul: It’s good to be with you.

Dennis: He has written a book called Awe. Paul has written a number of books. He is a pastor. He is a conference speaker, both here in America and internationally.

And Paul, I want to talk about how this awe of God can impact our parenting—how we can do a better job—as moms and dads and grandparents—



—by walking in the midst of the awe of God. I want us to talk about work, and I want us to talk about our emotions today. So, you’ve got just a little bit of work laid out for you here—that I’d like you to hit.

First of all, I’d like you to give the concept of why the awe of God ought to be more important to us on a daily basis. Then, let’s talk to the parents.

Paul: Well, yes. You have to understand that you were created, designed by God, for awe. You’re an awe-seeking human being. The awe of something will always capture your heart, and what captures your heart will control the way you live your life. Every human being is in search of wonder. Every human being has a heart that longs to be satisfied, to have something so big, so great, and so wonderful that they say: “That’s it!  That’s what I want to give myself to.”  We’re all searching for that.

That’s why a boxer, who is way beyond his years, will get back into the ring—



—because there is something he wants that he hasn’t found yet. We’re all thinking: “No, no, no. Don’t do another fight!”—can’t stop him.

Bob: Well, it’s why people will drive or fly thousands of miles to go to Yosemite National Park and look at a waterfall.

Paul: Absolutely.

Bob: We’re hungry for that; and somebody has said, “If you see this, it will scratch the awe- itch in your soul.”  Why is it that the spectacular beauty of creation does inspire awe in us? 

Paul: Well, because God designed it that way. God meant for this world to be an awesome place. He gave you eyes, He gave you ears, He gave you a mind that can think through it, He gave you a heart that responds to it. All of that is meant to drive you to Him—that the creation / awe of creation would stimulate awe of God. That’s how God designed it.

Dennis: He’s trying to wean us away from thinking we’re the center of the universe and reminding us of the truth that He is.



He is the Almighty God. He was, He is, and will be forever and ever. He is the original creator of us, and we tend to forget that.

Paul: Well, let me give you an illustration of what happens. It’s like me telling my family that we’re going to go to Disney World. I take them to the website. I show them all the glories that are at Disney, and they are just all cranked, “We’re going to go to Disney World!”  We start on the long drive. We get to that first sign in Florida that says, “Disney World 120 miles”; and I stop there. I unpack the car and I say, “We’re going to have our vacation.”  You would say, “That is an insane man, and he and his family will never be satisfied.” 

Welcome to human life!  That’s what the vast majority of human beings, living on earth, are doing. The sign is not the thing—the sign points to the thing. Creation is not the thing. Creation is a sign that points us to the thing that is glorious and will satisfy us, and we stop at creation.



We might as well be at that Disney World sign because you’re never going to be satisfied there.

Dennis: Okay; I think you’ve kind of taken us to the center point here in understanding what awe is. Now, let’s apply it to being a parent. You think that in order to be the kind of parent God created you to be, you have to be an awe-filled—

Bob: Not awful but awe-filled parent.

Dennis: Right.

Paul: So, there’s two parts to this conversation. First is that if, as a parent, you’re not living in awe of God, then, as a parent, you’re living in awe of yourself. You personalize things that are not personal. You turn moments of ministry into moments of anger. You’re adversarial in responses, and you’ll settle for quick situational solutions that don’t get to the heart of the matter.

Dennis: And can I add one more?  You’ll compare what you’re doing with what other parents are doing. You’ll become self-centered in that and want your kids to bring you value and esteem by doing everything right. So, you’ll put all kinds of pressure on your kids at the time too.


Paul: Think about the irrationality of that. I say to my kids: “I can’t believe you would do this to me!  I can’t believe it!”—as if my children woke up that morning and they conspired together: “At 7:35,—

Dennis: Oh, some—sometimes, they did, Paul! Sometimes, our kids—they met together. [Laughter]  It was—[Laughter] —it could not have happened by accident! 

Paul: Now, you’re scaring me. [Laughter]  I mean, it is craziness; but I want to talk about the other side of this. I believe, sadly, that most Christian parents think the problem their children have is a law problem—that’s all the deeper that they get. So, if your children have a law problem, you set up a neat set of rules with a really good set of enforcement. Your relationship with your children is law-giver, judge-and-jury, and jailer. Now, the immediate thing you can say about that—

Dennis: Sounds kind of good as a parent sometimes; doesn’t it? [Laughter]

Paul: If the law could change your children, if the law could rescue your children, if the law could make your children what God meant them to be, Jesus would never had to come!



Dennis: Right.

Paul: So, the gospel we believe says, “That’s not the way to think about parenting.” 

Dennis: Right.

Paul: What you need to understand is that your children have an awe problem that produces a law problem. Let me be specific. There are two lies that every child coming into the world believes. The first lie is the lie of autonomy. What autonomy says is: “I’m an independent human being. I have the right to live my life the way I want to.”  Listen, those fights with a three-year-old over what to eat are not about diet. This child has thought nothing about diet—it’s about autonomy: “You will not tell me what to put in my mouth. Try it!” 

I mean, my daughter had a hydraulic vice for a mouth. She would clinch her teeth, and the Jaws of Life couldn’t open her mouth—[Laughter] — 



—I mean, that’s autonomy!  Or fighting to not go to bed—that’s not about my philosophical views on sleep—I’m fighting for my autonomy. That’s the first lie because, if you’re created by God, you immediately belong to the One who created you. So, autonomy doesn’t exist.

The second lie is the lie of self-sufficiency. That lie says: “I have everything inside of myself to be what I’m supposed to be and to do what I’m supposed to do. I don’t need your help. Thank you.”  You’ll see that with little Johnny who, now, has realized that his shoes have laces. He’s fumbling trying to make a bow. He could fumble for a century, and he wouldn’t make a bow; but you reach down to help him, and he slaps away your hand because he wants to hold onto that—that’s self-sufficiency.

What do those lies say?  They say: “I have power that I don’t have. I have independence that I don’t have. 



“Life is about me.”  Every child, who has ever been born, is born as a little self-sovereign: “I’m the lord almighty. Thank you. Don’t get in my way.” Well, that produces just a whole catalogue of iniquity—no wonder I’m disrespectful, no wonder I fight you, no wonder I mistreat my siblings, no wonder I envy, no wonder I steal, no wonder I do acts of violence—it just all makes sense! 

What I have to do is begin to open that conversation with my children—how about, in a moment of anger, not just saying, “How dare you do that to your sister!”—how about saying, “Why are you so angry right now?  What is it about?”  And will your child say: “Oh, I get it!  I’m an awe-less human being. Won’t you take me to God?”—of course, not! [Laughter]



But parenting is having that conversation ten thousand times.

Dennis: Yes; it is.

Paul: And every time, the Spirit of God is nurturing the heart of that child. At some point, the child begins to get it: “I am my biggest problem. It’s me.” 

Dennis: This is what wore me out—and Barbara as well—as parents. It’s called the rabbinical method of teaching—over, and over, and over again—but it is the assignment of a parent; isn’t it? 

Paul: Yes; it is.

Dennis: You have to struggle with your own self-centeredness, while at the same time, training your son and daughter to know what to do with theirs.

Paul: I’m doing two things: I’m presenting, every day, to my children a God of awesome, stunning glory. I want to look for ways of showing them His glory because I understand my children have the perverse ability to look at creation and not see God. So, I want to point them to God’s glory. Alongside of that, I’m pointing them to awe gone wrong—the evidence of that in their lives.



What I’m doing is—I’m trying to fight the battle of the cross with my children: “What did Jesus come for? So those who live would no longer live for themselves. Jesus came to give you back your awe of God again because there is no safer place to live than when you live in awe of God.” I want to be part of the agenda of Jesus in the lives of my children—I want my children to get the awe back again.

Dennis: What a privilege to do that!  Psalm 78 really contains what you’re talking about. It tells us to do two things. First of all, teach your children the truth about God, which results in the truth about yourself. Secondly, teach your children and share with your children your experience of God of how you’ve seen Him show up. It’s called the mighty works of God. Some of that is pointing out El Capitan at Yosemite Valley and showing off where God put His little pinky to create that valley. Others are talking about how He invaded your life during the day—how He gave you an opportunity to help someone.

Paul: Right.

Dennis: Your assignment, as a parent, is to introduce your child to God in the Bible, but also, to introduce Him to your children through your own experience of God.



Paul: Sure. And Psalm 145 says, “One generation shall commend your works to another.” 

Dennis: Yes.

Paul: That’s parenting.

Dennis: Yes.

Paul: That’s a parenting passage—that’s what I’m meant to do. It’s not enough to set up rules and regulations because that heart of that child is searching for awe / they are searching for glory. They don’t know it, but they are. And so, the love of a little girl, the accomplishment in athletics, the want for possessions—all of those things are the searching heart of that child. Look at that infant and understand something will capture the awe of that baby’s heart. What captures awe will control his life.

Bob: We still address and correct behavior when they’re acting wrongly.



We don’t ignore the fact that they’ve misbehaved; do we? 

Paul: But you root it in this thing that we’re talking about. Every moment of transgression is an opportunity to talk about awe because, again, it’s an awe problem / not a law problem. Think of the Ten Commandments—where do they begin?  They begin with the awe of God because, if you’re not living in that, you won’t keep any of the rest of the commands—it’s the very way the commands are set up.

I understand, when I walk in that room, now—to talk about the wrong the child has done—I have an opportunity to talk about this big thing that is going to capture this child’s heart. I want to say this: “What we’re talking about is grace. Grace never calls wrong right because, if wrong were right, there’d be no need for grace. Grace is a way of dealing with wrong.” 



It’s not just going to be a punishment and “Don’t you dare ever do this again!”—it’s an opportunity for me to say, “I get your struggle because I’m like you.”  We have a conversation. Every moment of those conversations, the Spirit of God is working in the heart of that child.

Bob: We’re talking with Paul David Tripp about the subject of awe on FamilyLife Today. And you’d mentioned that you wanted to talk about it in the workplace as well.

Dennis: I do, but there are some parents who want the book right now—

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: —because they don’t have that kind of awe. They’re going, “I need to be mentored myself.” 

Bob: You can go to We’ve got copies of the book, Awe, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center; and you can find it online. Again, is the website—and you can order from us online—or call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” 

Dennis: We’ve got two more subjects you’ve got to tackle here, Paul. One is work, and the other is our emotional life. Let’s, first of all, talk about—

Bob: And you’ve got about seven minutes to take care of both of those for us here.

Dennis: Yes.



Talk to us about making our work take place in the midst of having an awe for God.

Paul: Well, let’s start with the negative. My work was never meant to be the center of my identity. My work is not meant to be the place where I find satisfaction. Work is a way that God normally provides for me. It’s a way that God gives me an ability to express the natural gifts He’s given me. It’s a way to reflect the truth of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it’s a way to live for the glory of God. It’s not meant to be the thing that grips me, and I look to it for identity and satisfaction.

If it is, then, it’s hard for me to say, “No.”  It’s hard for me not to work four more hours, and to be in ridiculous, unhealthy competition with other workers, and to let go of some of my moral standards because it’s hard to hang on to those and advance in the company I am in, or it’s hard for me not to be that horrible boss that just demands, demands, demands, demands, demands and is never satisfied because I have fallen into believing that success will satisfy me.



Somebody needs to say—because we have a culture that is crazy in this area: “Success will never satisfy you. It’ll never satisfy you.”  You know what success looks for?—more success. You taste success—it is a drug. You will think: “Wow!  I want more of that.” If success has captured your awe, your family will suffer, your spiritual life will suffer, your schedule will be undoable, and the people that work for you will think, “I don’t want to work for this person anymore.” 

Bob: You are describing a workaholic.

Paul: Absolutely.

Bob: And you would say what he is doing is—



—he is getting or he’s trying to get from work what God has said, “You’ll only find in Me.” 

Paul: See, work is noble, work is a wonderful thing, work is a gift from God—it’s a beautiful thing. When I go through a big city, and I see these magnificent buildings, I think, “How could it be that God would give gifts to people like this?”  I mean, it just blows my mind. That’s a wonderful, beautiful thing that reflects the Creator; but it can’t be the thing that you are living for. You can’t turn work into your own personal savior because it will never satisfy you in the way that you want it to satisfy you.

What protects me is—when I go to work with a heart that is already full, I don’t need work to do that for me. Work, now, is in its rightful place. So, I can say, “No; I’ve got four children.



“I’m not going to take on another project.”  I’m free to do that because I’m not asking work to be for me what it can’t be.

Dennis: Yes; as you were talking, I thought, “So, what is the right place of work?”  I think another Paul—the Apostle Paul—put it quite well in Colossians, Chapter 3. He said, “Whatever you do, work heartily….”  So, you’re not talking about not working hard.

Paul: No.

Dennis: But it says, “…work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”  What is unclear about that? 

Paul: Boy, that is—it’s just right there.

Dennis: You have to have an awe of God as you work so you do your best and not lose sight of the fact that: “You know what?  He sees, He knows, He appreciates all the effort you took—whether you are at the top of the heap at your workplace or whether you’re somewhere near the bottom.



It doesn’t matter. The assignment from God is what matters.” 

Paul: There are thousands and thousands of Christian men—when they come home at night, if they could be honest, what they really want is to be left alone because where they are getting their identity, their meaning, where they are feeding spiritually is their work. Their home exists outside of that. When they punch out from work, they punch out from life. That’s not just a lack of love problem—that’s an awe problem. That sets up a lack of love with my family because work is in a place it was never meant to be.

Bob: I’m just sitting here, thinking, Dennis, about the subject of how awe affects our emotions. Honestly, we don’t have time—in the time we’ve got left—to unpack that. But here’s what we’re going to do—we’re going to continue the conversation. If you want to hear about how awe impacts your emotions, you can go to our website,, and listen to the special clip that we’ve got there that addresses this subject—



—the ongoing dialogue we’re going to have with Paul on this subject.

We, also, have copies of his book, which is called Awe—it addresses the subject. You can get a copy of the book, Awe, when you go to; or you can call to request the book at 1-800-FL-TODAY. It speaks to the subject as well.

Again, Paul is going to join us on the Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise in February of 2017. And you get to see some nice scenes onboard the cruise. There are some—there is a little awe that happens out at sea; isn’t there? 

Dennis: Not just a little awe—the ocean declares the glory of God. There is nothing like that deep blue—nothing quite like it. Paul, you’re going to love it! And I’m glad you’re coming to speak.

Paul: Me too.

Dennis: That’s going to be a lot of fun. We’ll break some bread there and have some great moments onboard as we have a captive audience.



[Laughter]  You’re going to love it!  There is nowhere—well, there are a lot of places they can go!  The casinos are empty during our cruise— 

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: —they don’t get any business at all.

I just want to thank you for being here! 

Paul: It’s been great to be with you.

Dennis: Yes; thank you for doing some business with some listeners because I think there are many who needed to hear what you had to say.

Bob: Yes; and I’ve got to take care of a little more business before we wrap up here today. We’ve got to say, “Congratulations!” to Larry and Beth Reimers, who live in Yuba City, California, and listen to FamilyLife Today on KFIA; Mark and Tami Kolbe live in Crystal Lake, Illinois, and listen on WNBI; and Anthony and Cheri Beasley listen in Fresno. All three couples are celebrating anniversaries today—the Beasleys and the Kolbes / 36 years of marriage today—and the Reimers—it’s 41 years of marriage today. We just wanted to say, “Congratulations!” to these folks.

We’re all about anniversaries—



—especially this year as we celebrate our own 40th anniversary as a ministry—40 years of providing practical biblical help and hope for marriages and families so that more couples would have more anniversaries. And we just wanted to make sure we said, “Congratulations!” to the Reimers, and the Kolbes, and the Beasleys.

We’d love to congratulate you on your anniversary and provide you with some ideas on how to make this year’s celebration even better. Go to and give us your anniversary date. We’ll be in touch with you about a month before your anniversary comes along with some ideas to make your anniversary celebration even better.

And of course, if you can help with a donation, we appreciate your support of this ministry. We’re thankful for those of you, who for 40 years, have helped make the ministry of FamilyLife possible. If you can make a donation today, we’ll send you a copy of the book, Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family—just make your donation online at; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY; or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; the zip code is 72223.



And that’s it for today. Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about an exciting museum that’s going to be opening in Washington, DC—not this year but next year. Join us as we talk about the Museum of the Bible tomorrow.


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.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


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