Lindsay’s Lens: A Challenge From a Grieving Father

Lindsay’s Lens: A Challenge From a Grieving Father

I was going to comment on Scott’s post — but my daughter says it better!

A Challenge From a Grieving Father — Lindsay’s Lens, November 22, 2013

Read more from Lindsay Wolfgang Mast on her blog, Lindsay’s Lens, at:

This blog has been long-neglected. Not for any lack of thought on my part, but because much of my thinking has been going on in the background while things that required doing demanded my time more urgently. I am pleased to have the desire and the time to be back at a keyboard and writing this morning.

This week much of my ‘doing’ has involved praying for and trying to encourage a number of people I know who have been touched, again, by death. This time, it is the death of a 25-year-old man who went out to enjoy a fall day and drowned in Kentucky’s Barren River. I did not know Adam Smelser, but many people I care about cared deeply for him, and still do. By all accounts, he had both an insatiable appetite for life–first, for eternal life, but also for the life God blessed him with on Earth. Funny, talented, vibrant. His loss is being felt deeply here.

I have been praying for his friends. I have also prayed fervently for his family, who lost a beloved son, the second of 6 siblings. I have heard Adam’s father, Scott, a preacher, teach about parenting, and I know he takes his role seriously. He has been quite transparent about his grief and his faith via social media, and his handling of this unspeakably hard situation is so very admirable.

His words yesterday, though, have pierced me to the heart:

“A newly married friend just asked -as many have- if there’s anything he can do. I’ve been asking for a time machine, but nobody has had one yet. Today I came up with a better request:

Here’s what you can do, you and that sweet wife of yours. Have a baby boy (girls are fantastic, have some of them too, but right now we are one short on the boys). And for all of them, expect great things of them. And don’t let the world get their hearts. And love them like crazy, and train them like they’re going to be workers for the King of the Universe.”

The request of that grieving father is so challenging to me–to us. His son had a profound effect on others both his age and beyond. That doesn’t happen by luck or circumstance. I want to respond to the wisdom of a man who raised a soul like Adam.

Here is what strikes me about it: It is so very single-minded. And dedicated. And sincere. There is one reason, and one reason only that we are here: To Know God, and thus to Make Him Known.

When Mr. Smelser says, ‘Expect great things of them,” I’m pretty sure he doesn’t mean, expect them to walk or talk early, or to take home all the MVP trophies, or to land the highest-paying job out there. He means to expect excellence in God’s sight. He means it in the same sense as Colossians 3:23–our work is to be done heartily, yes. But it is to be done for the Lord, not for men.

Yet it is so easy as parents to forget that *our* work is for the Lord, too. We want to raise children who follow Christ, but who also (insert other thing that the world thinks is important right now too). That’s not single-mindedness. Of course there will be Christians with some traits that are lauded by those who do not serve Christ. But that is not the goal. And Satan loves to muddy up our thinking by telling us we really can have both. Jesus himself says it’s not possible (Matthew 6:24). But since God doesn’t write spiritual milestones in our child’s baby books, or give out trophies when our kids show kindness, or hand out raises when they tell someone about Jesus, it’s tempting to look elsewhere for the validation we want in growth, even when it is of an earthly nature. But that is just one way that we as parents let the world get *our* hearts, and when he has our hearts, he’ll get our children’s, too. That thought is chilling to me. May it never be.

I feel like I’ve got the love thing down. The constant challenge, though, is to remember that our primary love must be for our children’s souls–not for their volatile emotions. I have to do what makes them better, not what makes them happy (though a child whose parent truly cares for their soul is going to know much happiness).

Then there is the final urging to train them, to train them to serve the King of the Universe. Wow. I mean, no pressure, right? Our boss hung the stars and knows how many hairs are on my head, yet here I am trying to teach little kids (who will soon be big kids, and who all too soon be adults) how to work for Him. But clearly, it can be done, and He will help us.

So, I think about the best training I’ve gotten over the years. First, I needed to know what the job was and who my boss is. This is a big job, with a big boss, and I need to spend time teaching the children who they serve (bonus: I learn more about Him too). A worker also needs to know what is expected of them in their job. That is still more for us as parents to input into our children. And finally, the most effective way to train someone is to have them observe us on the job–and this one requires us to be in the field and on the clock all the time. I can’t farm this training out, y’all. It starts with me. It starts with me.

I suppose you could look at a challenge like this and feel overwhelmed by it. But when I see how very well the Smelser family did this, and how well other families I know have done it, I’m strangely not intimidated at all. Because I can see how they did it and where they got their strength to do it (Phil. 4:13). It makes me want to have oodles of babies. It makes me want to remind all the young couples who are waiting for the perfect time to have children: there is no perfect time, but there are always abundant blessings in children (Psalm 127:3). But most importantly, it gives me new resolve to do the things Mr. Smelser has said to do with my two children who are sleeping in their beds right now, who will wake up eager to learn new things, new skills, and to be shown the way they should go.


Because how else will they know the path to take?
Lord, may I be single-minded, sincere, and constant in my love and service for you. May I teach your way diligently to my children, and may we all never stray from it.
And a comment from Lindsay’s mother, who trained her in the way she should go:
“Thank you for this testament to what The Lord is able to help us, as His children, to do through His son. I thank Him that you and their father are the parents of those precious children in the beautiful photo on their path. I thank Him for your compassion, heart, and wisdom to do this most awesome task.
I continue to pray to God for the Smelser family and for so many who grieve so deeply, and know that He knows how deep that pain is and is ABLE and is the Source of hope, which saves us from despair. He turned the earth dark when His son died and accomplished His work.”  — Bette Wolfgang

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