This series I’m writing is based on a simple idea: Each day, I’m going to wake up, pray and read in Proverbs with “parenting eyes.” Then I’m going to blog whatever comes to mind. This could be brilliant or an epic failure. But that’s the plan. The next set of entries will have to be different as the verses/chapters I’m reading are, as one of my former students referred to them, “Christian fortune cookies.” In other words, two lines of insight with no real connection or continuity among them for nearly 400 verses. So, there will be more smaller entries rather than longer ones and the verses will be pretty much randomly selected as ideas pop into my brain from wherever they are.
Today: Proverbs 10:1&2. “The Proverbs of Solomon: A wise child makes a father rejoice, but a foolish child is a grief to his mother. Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from mortal danger.”
Ever watched The World Series of Poker on ESPN?
Okay, it’s not a sport, but the “E” in their channel’s name once stood for “entertainment” so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for their coverage. But if I’m flipping channels and I’m in that 20-minutes between the show I was watching and the show I’m going to watch, I’ll stop down. I’m kind of a sucker for the high stakes drama as a cast of characters tries to win the “gold bracelet” given to the tournament champion. There’s also a bunch of real big money at stake, too.
And there’s no bigger moment of drama than when one of the players goes “All-in.” That’s when they take their stack of chips and bet it all. They’ve built their stacks of chips over several days and tried to make great decisions with minimal risk. Now, for whatever reason, a player is going to go “All-in.” It’s the highest risk possible in their game…either double your money or you’re out of the tournament. It’s even better because we know which player has the best cards and whether or not one player is bluffing or if one has the great hand that will turn their tournament around.
I’d imagine that feeling of anticipation must be delicious, too. High adrenaline rush. You look at your cards, you analyze all the options, you make the decision, and then you slide your chips into the pot and wait to see how it all turns out for you. Granted, sponsorship money is really what’s at stake (they play for points to win the tournament, but the “money” they’re playing with isn’t their real money…chips just represent points), but their prize money is certainly real that they’re gambling with. A false move could mean you go home with $5,000 instead of $100,000. Eventually, though, every player but one is going to have to go “All-in” at some point to see if the have what it takes to win.
There have been a couple of times in recent years where my wife and I have had “All-in” moments with our children and their decisions.
You know…those moments where your kid could make a fantastically wise decision and you’d be jumping for joy. Or they could blow it big-time and cause a lot of heartache and grief.
Sure, to get prepared we’d had a few smaller bets along the way. That situation with the teacher we let them handle. The choices about their class schedules. The decision about whether to quit a sport or activity we let them make. The party they wanted to attend that sounded sketchy. The friends/boyfriends we weren’t nuts about but didn’t say anything about and waited to see how they handled it. The job they wanted to get or quit. Even decisions we put on their plate about driving downtown for concerts or movies or whatever. I could go on.
Frankly, both my daughters made it easy for us to “bet” on them. Over time, they showed us that we could generally trust their judgment in most situations. Sure, some initial hiccups took place, but the consequences were relatively minor and lessons learned were invaluable. But, by-and-large, they have good heads on their shoulders and have good track records.
Even so, as they go hurtling towards adulthood, the chip-stack gets higher and the stakes seem much riskier.
Both of my kids have had to make decisions about finances regarding their post-high school lives. They didn’t ask for their dad to have been in ministry and month-to-month their whole lives but it’s the cards they were dealt financially speaking. They knew this for years. And their standardized test scores gave them some options that a lot of kids don’t get…
…and they had to make decisions about borrowing money to maybe pay for a high-dollar option or maybe go a different direction for something more affordable. Or maybe even go against the grain of our ridiculous community and take some time to work full-time and pay as you go.
But, remember, the option was out there to borrow a bunch of cash and they could get what they wanted.
Early on in the processes there were significantly differing opinions on what would be “wise” for my girls. We’d teach. We’d give insights. We’d have calm discussions. We’d have emotional ones with tears. We’d talk about dreams and goals. We’d talk about reality. We’d talk about their desires. We’d talk about seeking God’s will. Lots of talking. Lots and lots of talking. There was no question that we were at odds on things, either. Tracy and I on one side. Them on another.
In the end, we always knew it was their decision to make. And the consequences were all theirs, too. They were 18-year-old women…and we don’t know everything, parents.
So, anyway, we decided to pray. Yes. It had come to THAT. Sure, we’d been praying all along the way, but we got specific on these types of things. Ultimately, we wanted them to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness. We wanted them to choose wisely. We wanted them to be led by His Spirit. Oh, and we wanted to get rid of our own selfishness. And to show grace to our kids as they went hurtling into adulthood…no matter their decisions.
…we were “All-in” with our kids.
All those chips right there.
Waiting for the cards to turn over.
Waiting to see what the winning hand would be.
Hoping our kids would be wise with their decisions.
Double or nothing.
And I can assure you the adrenaline rush was more like nail-biting nerves that lasted for days, weeks, and even months.
Tension around the house was high, as were the stakes.
As the cards turned over, our kids showed us they had indeed sought God and His righteousness.
The decisions they made were incredibly wise…even if they didn’t necessarily look like what we thought was wise when we were dispensing advice and insight. And my girls are happy. And my girls are challenged and still having to trust Him. And Tracy and I, for about the millionth time, got back twice and many chips as we had before. We’re still in the tournament awaiting our next hand.
But we could almost hear God whisper to us as he slid our chips back to us before we ante up for the next hand, “At no point in this game were you ever really ‘All-in.’ You were trusting me with your ‘chips.’ Relax next time. It’s not a gamble to leave them in my hands. I love them more than you do, anyway.”
I don’t know, parents, that it ever gets easier to do that. What I do know is that there is rejoicing when it works even if you don’t let your kids see the Happy Dance. And I do know it causes grief if they blow it even if you don’t let the kids see the tears behind closed doors. I do know that if they’re seeking righteousness, well, the decision might be re-thought or whatever, but they won’t be devastating or anything God can’t fix.
And I’m okay going “All-in” when God’s keeping track of both the cards and the chips. It’s just hard to remember that sometimes.