(If you’d like to read the previous articles in this series, please do so.)
Teri and I were eating dinner with another couple earlier this year at a homeschooling event, when a sixteen-year-old young man asked if he might sit in the empty seat next to me. I said, “You are welcome to as long as you don’t mind me asking you a ton of questions.” He told me that was fine as long as I didn’t mind him eating. I chuckled as I thought about what he said while looking at his plate. It was what you would expect of a young man with an appetite, lip-lopping full without a square inch of empty room. As Randy sat down, I observed in him a young man with a confident smile, who looked accustomed to working hard. True to our words, he commenced to eat, and I began launching questions his direction. How old was he, how many in his family, how did he spend his time, what did he like to do, what sort of friends did he have? As soon as he answered one, I had another one for him.
His replies were not just courteous but also full of respect. The more I listened to his answers the greater appreciation I had for his parents and what they were doing in his life. I could hear how much he enjoyed his family. He truly loved his parents and his six brothers and sisters. The average sixteen-year-old young man would feel his siblings were a nuisance, to be avoided at all costs. Randy clearly loved his family.
His favorite person to be with in all the world was his father. He had one friend outside the family, a young man in his twenties who had a construction business. He really enjoyed working with his friend and learning the trade.
He was always busy. Most boys his age would be on every sports team they could find. Not Randy. His time was filled with working with his friend, helping, and being with his family.
I told him I really wanted to meet his father. He pointed with his chin and said he was sitting right behind me. Unfortunately, as soon as I was finished and ready to meet his dad, he had already moved on to some responsibilities. I was disappointed but hoped I might run into him before we had to leave.
God is so good. The next morning as I was on my way to check out of the hotel, I saw Randy’s dad having breakfast. I went over, introduced myself, and asked if I could visit for a short while. He smiled and welcomed me to sit down.
I told him about my conversation with Randy and how impressed I was with him. From my brief time of discussion, Randy really seemed to be a godly young man of character who enjoyed his family and working. Was this really the case, how long had Randy been like this, and what was this father doing to have such success with his son?
His dad then shocked me by what he said. Just four years ago, Randy was a very angry boy such that, those who knew him were well aware of his problem with anger. Over the last four years God had done a mighty work in Randy’s life. He isn’t perfect, but he is a young man who dearly loves his God and his family and enjoys working.
I asked Tom, Randy’s father, how the Lord had worked in Randy’s life. Tom said that one of the first things that changed was that he was shown that his (Tom) focus needed to be on his family and not himself. The principle that the family applied to how they spent their time had become (aside from Tom’s job), “If we can’t do it as a family, we won’t do it.”
Tom said his golf clubs have about four years’ worth of dust on them now. He loves to golf and did quite well in tournaments. Even now some have encouraged him that they could golf as a family, but he knows that the passion would be rekindled. It wasn’t worth pulling his heart away from his family again.
I expect their family would have been a very typical “religious” family. The children were in private school and in all the normal activities. Besides school activities, Randy was on basketball and baseball teams like all his friends.
However, God started working in Randy’s parents’ lives. They decided to homeschool the children and made other changes. They sought solutions to Randy’s anger and were willing to do whatever was necessary. The parents continued to be obedient to the Lord’s leading and over the past four years have seen God do a mighty work in their family.
I interrupted Tom a few times as we talked with an exclamation of praise for the Lord’s goodness and mercy. These parents responded to the Lord’s leading and what a marvelous work is in process. Tom is quick to say they aren’t perfect and still have some consequences from their earlier lifestyle, but the change is welcome and continuing.
This home is a wonderful example of Malachi 4:6: “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” How the futures of so many children could be positively changed if only the father’s heart would be turned toward his children. I believe that the parent usually thinks it is his child’s problem. “He just won’t listen to me,” or, “I’ve told him a hundred times, and he won’t obey me.”
It all begins with dad and mom’s hearts. Are they turned toward their children? I asked Tom what he would have said if someone had asked him years ago if his heart was turned toward his children. He said he wouldn’t have known what that meant. I then asked him if he had his own activities and the children had theirs. He said, “Yes, that was true.”
I wonder if many dads think their hearts are turned toward their children, when in fact they aren’t. If I were to ask you right now, “What has your heart?” what would you say? If you said, “my children,” do a reality check on that. Aside from Dad’s work time or Mom’s daily responsibilities, how do you spend your time?
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). Face it. There are a myriad of “important,” or fun, things that can take every minute we have. Then we toss our children the scraps of time that are left over, when it should be the opposite.
Even as I write this, I’m convicted of some things that need to be reworked in the way I allocate my time. I feel that I need to make better use of the way I’m spending my time after our evening family altar time and before the children go to bed. I can’t tell you what is going to change, but I know I need to pray about it and see how the Lord will direct me. I cherish these years of raising my children, and I desire to have no regrets when I look back on these years.
I delight in spending time with my children. Next to Teri, they are my best friends. The time I am with my children is a treasure that doesn’t rust and can’t be stolen. I have a passion for flying private planes, and yet I haven’t flown for over twenty years. I laid that use of time and money aside for something of far greater value—time with my children and a heart focused on them. So many things will creep in to steal away our time and attention.
A daddy’s heart focused on his children is an amazing thing. God used Tom’s change of heart direction in a mighty way in Randy’s life. The promise in Malachi is real. If we will turn our hearts toward our children, they will turn their hearts toward us. Families all around are experiencing awful consequences due to not having hearts turned toward each other. Are you? If so, are you willing to turn your heart toward your children?