How are we to rear our children?
This is a question of great importance to many Christian parents, as is evident from the popularity of the various seminars on the family. It is an urgent question for us Reformed parents, because of the Lord's covenant with us. God is the God of our children, as well as of ourselves, and saves them by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ. God brings them to spiritual maturity, and prepares them for their places and work in His Kingdom, largely through our rearing. We have taken a vow at their Baptism to carry out the rearing of them in the Word of God, to the utmost of our power. Especially for us, therefore, it is a burning question, "How are we to do this?"
The single most important, most practical, and most fruitful way of rearing our children is that we consciously take God's Parenthood towards us as our model, and that we deliberately reflect the Fatherhood of God in all our rearing of our children. As you would expect, the answer to our question is found in the Bible. But it is not to be looked for only in the relatively few passages that directly address the subject of child-raising, passages such as Deuteronomy 6; the book of Proverbs; Ephesians 6:4; and the like. The answer to our question is given in the Bible at large - in the entire revelation of God as the Father of His people and of the manner in which He deals with His children. Just as the secret of marriage is the reflecting of the union of Christ and the church, so the secret of Reformed parenthood is the reflecting of the relationship between God and His family.
God is Father of His people; this is the basic relationship in which He stands towards us. Although this is more fully revealed in the New Testament, it was made known already in the Old Testament. When God was about to redeem Israel from Egypt, He told Moses to say to Pharaoh: "Thus saith Jehovah, Israel is my son, even my firstborn" (Ex. 4:22). Psalm 103 makes explicit comparison between our fatherly attitude towards our children and God's attitude towards His children: "Like as a father pitieth his children, so Jehovah pitieth them that fear him" (v. 13). The New Testament reveals this fully. Not only in the address of the Lord's Prayer, but also all the way through the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5 - 7, Jesus teaches us that God is our Father. Time and again, the New Testament compares the acts of the Heavenly Father and the acts of us earthly fathers. Luke's account of the Lord's Prayer does this regarding the answering of the petitions of children: "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" (Luke 11:13). Hebrews 12:1-13 compares God's Fatherhood and ours as regards the discipline, or chastisement, of children: "If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" (v. 7).
God's Fatherhood is the original Parenthood; ours is derived from His. He is the original Father in His own Being in that the First Person of the Blessed Trinity begets the Second, as eternal Son. He is the original Father in His relationship, in Christ, to His people, whom He adopts as children and begets in His own image. Our parenthood, derived from His, is called to reflect His.
If this is the basic answer to our question, it must be clear that there is no easy way to rear children. Some have the notion that there is a secret somewhere, which they may discover in the latest seminar or book and which they can then apply, quickly and easily, to their children and family-life. It does seem to me that a book on Reformed child-rearing, written from the point of view that I am proposing, would be helpful. The best that I have read are Abraham Kuyper's When Thou Sittest in Thine House, Jan Waterink's Leading Little Ones to Jesus (both of which are out of print), and Andrew Murray's The Children for Christ. In any case, there is no easy way. The right way is the difficult way of being like God in our parenthood.
Taking God's Fatherhood as the pattern, we will love our children. This is the heart of Reformed child-rearing - not authority, not discipline, but the love of our children. In love, we bring them forth and receive them from God; in love, we live with them; in love, we teach them; in love, we discipline them.
For this is the essence of Fatherhood in God. In love, God the Father eternally begets the Divine Son and lives with Him the blessed life of the Godhead, in the Spirit. The Son is in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18). The Father says of Him, "My beloved Son" (Matthew 3:17). In love, God chose, adopted, regenerated, cares for, and disciplines His people, even as it was love that chose Israel and made Israel God's son. When Moses accounts for Israel's being a special people unto the Lord, the ultimate cause is: "because Jehovah loved you" (Deut. 7:8). In Romans 8, the comfort of the New Testament children of God is that the beginning, the end, and the in-between of the ways of God towards them is love: we are persuaded, that nothing "shall be able to separate us from the love of God..." (v. 39).
Loving our children consists of regarding them, yearning towards them, and setting our affections upon them as delightful and precious; of resolving to do them good, and not evil; of carrying out this resolve in words and deeds of blessing; and of establishing a uniquely close bond of friendship with them.
Our love for them is by no means merely a natural feeling. It is much more than this; it is a spiritual grace, sought and received of the Holy Spirit. As regards our natural feelings, we may be, and often are, tempted not to love our children. We resent them when they come. We feel quite hateful at times, especially when they are bad or demanding. There may even be a strong inclination to dislike one of our children. These things grieve the believer deeply. "What is the matter with me?" he asks himself. "Do I lack the basic requirement of a Christian father, or mother?" It is important, then, to remember that love for our children is not merely a natural feeling, which we either have or do not have, but a spiritual grace to be asked of God in the Name of Jesus, who will give us all that we request in that worthy Name.
Significantly, in Titus 2:4 Paul instructs Pastor Titus to have the older women teach the young women to love their children. The love of mothers for their children in the church is not merely the admittedly powerful feeling that is natural to women, but a far more powerful grace that they receive through the teaching of the Word of God. Related to this is that we delight in our children, not merely as our own flesh and image, but as covenant children - God's children, children of the church. This guards against an essentially selfish upbringing of our children, which can go wrong in many ways, all ruinous. It also grounds our love, empowering our love for the long, difficult haul.
We are to love our children in such a way that we show them our love, tell them our love for them, and surround them with the unmistakable proof of it. It is exceeding strange that there should be any hesitancy here, in view of the fact that the gospel is nothing other than the message and assurance to us from God Himself that He loves us. God makes us to know His love for us; He tells us, again and again, "I love you"; He has given us the proof of it in the cross of Jesus. Strange though it may seem, there is a hesitancy of some parents to express their love to their children, whether because they think that this compromises their authority or because of the still more serious weakness, that they fear to commit themselves, and expose themselves, in the (always dangerous) relationship of love, even with their own children.
Once, after he had preached on the address of the Lord's Prayer, "Our Father who art in heaven," stressing God's love for us, so that, as the Heidelberg Catechism assures believers, He will not "deny us what we ask of Him in true faith" (Q. 120), the pastor was approached by an older woman of the congregation, herself the mother of children. In tears, she told him that she had never thought of the Fatherhood of God as love, but only as awesome majesty. It came out that her own father had never told her that he loved her, had never held her on his lap and thrown his arms around her, had never showed himself to her to be anything other than a severe, frightening authority. Naturally enough, her conception of the Heavenly Father was similar: an awful Sovereign, hardly to be trusted, certainly not to be embraced, but rather to be feared with a kind of terror.
On another occasion, at a pastoral visit, an old father in the church expressed, with obvious sincerity, how much he loved his children. Knowing something of the family relationship, the pastor asked, "Have you told them of your love?" The old man admitted that he had not done this. Told that he should do this, because God does this to His children, he readily agreed, with happy results.
These, I fear, are not rare exceptions.
Of one thing, our children must never be in any doubt; of one thing, they must be sure, absolutely sure - our love for them. This is a crucial factor in the child's spiritual and psychological development. Assurance of the parents' love for them as covenant children of God gives a sturdy security; a healthy self-love and sense of worth, in Christ; and a right knowledge of the Father in heaven. Imagine that God would withhold from us grown-ups the assurance of His love. Imagine that He would leave the impression with us that He really hated us on account of our sinfulness. How miserable, how anxious, we would be! How destructive this would be for our whole life!
This is no small part of the wickedness of the man, or woman, who divorces his wife, or her husband, and forsakes the children. It is an act of hatred and rejection, not only of the mate, but also of the children - hatred and rejection that they keenly feel and that will destroy them, unless God graciously prevents it.
It is especially necessary that we assure, and reassure, our children of our love, when we discipline them. It is when He disciplines His children that God must assure us of His love, as Hebrews 12 makes plain. We are tempted to respond to discipline, even though rightly administered, with weariness and fainting (v. 3), with hands which hang down and feeble knees (v. 12). In the midst of our disciplining, God must say to us, "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth" (v. 6). The holy anger and the pain do not indicate any break in the Divine love. If we need this assurance, why should we suppose that it is any different with our children?
The father must show love to the children, as well as the mother. There is a notion that mothers show love and sympathy, but that fathers are all sternness and authority. This notion is not derived from Scripture. Psalm 103 ascribes pity for his children to the father: "as a father pitieth his children" (v. 13). Pity is love; but it is love in the form of tender compassion for the weak and suffering. If our idea of fatherhood does not include such tenderness, it is high time to change our idea of fatherhood. As Father, God pities us.
Our love for our children must establish friendship between us and them. This is what we must aim at and work for. This is the effect of the godly love of believing parents, by the grace of the Holy Spirit. We are, and must be, our children's friends. Life in a Reformed home must be friendship.
Within this friendship, all of the rearing must take place - the teaching, the discipline, even the exercise of parental authority. If there is no friendship, the teaching, the discipline, and the exercise of authority lose their Christian character and their power for effective rearing. Only as my child's friend can I be his teacher, his disciplinarian, and his lord.
This basic truth for child-rearing is learned from God's Fatherhood towards us. God's love for us establishes the bond of friendship with us - the covenant. God is our Friend; and He gives us the privilege of being His friends. This is not incidental; but it is the very essence of our life with God. Within the covenant, He teaches, disciplines, and is our Sovereign. His teaching, discipline, and sovereignty are covenantal teaching, discipline, and sovereignty. Take away the Divine friendship; and the teaching, discipline, and sovereignty are radically changed. Indeed, they become fruitless.
Just as the covenant of grace with us is established and maintained by God alone, so the friendship in the home is the responsibility of the parents. God calls us to see to it that the relationship between us and our children reflects that between Him and His children. He calls us to guard against a family-life that is nothing but casual contact, or that is merely a cold, formal arrangement, or (worst of all) that is an oppressive subjection of cowering underlings by harsh overlords.
This is the truth portrayed in Psalm 128:3: "Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table." It is not an idyllic picture of family-life among the farmer-folk of old Israel; but it is the teaching that the family-life of the people of God is to be friendship. This is the "atmosphere" of the home; and the "atmosphere" of the home is vitally important. Jan Waterink writes:
As a rule, the manner in which the family lives in relation to God finds expression in the behavior of the child. The family atmosphere is often a more powerful means to bring lasting impressions to the child's mind than many talks and nice stories. (Leading Little Ones to Jesus, p. 20)
Waterink refers particularly to the threat to the friendship of parents and children:
If there is one danger that threatens the very foundations of our spiritual existence, it is the estrangement between parents and children. It is really a tragic situation that the older children are more frequently referred to with complaint than with commendation (p. 96).
The power that creates this friendship is the Word of God. It is the gospel that creates the covenant between God and us; and it is the gospel that creates the covenant between believers and their children. Therefore, it is essential for Reformed child-rearing that the parents raise their children in a true church that faithfully preaches the pure Word of God. This is essential for creating the friendship that is the sine qua non of all rearing. Family-life flourishes in the church, as Psalm 128 indicates, when it goes on to say to the believing husband and father, concerning the promise of family happiness, "The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion..." (v. 5).
The friendship between parents and children, thus established, will have certain characteristics, patterned after the covenant of God. We parents will give ourselves to our children and will be receptive to them: we will speak with them, listen to them, and share our life with them. For this, we will see to it that we have time for them and actually live with them. Certain evils need to be purged from our lives: mothers holding jobs outside the home, or jobs in the home that harm the friendship; fathers not being home when they could and should, on account of a desire for wealth, or recreation, or even too many church-duties; permitting teenage children to live their entire, non-sleeping life outside the home; the takeover of the few, precious hours that the family has by television; putting the little children outside the home at younger and younger ages. Fundamental to the life of friendship is that we all be together - the wife as a fruitful vine on the inside (such is the meaning of Psalm 128:3) of the house (where the husband dwells), and the children round about the table (where the father is sitting).
Only if we have time for them and live with them can we know them, personally, individually, and thoroughly, so as to be able to teach them. Parents must teach their children the Word of God. God rears His children to spiritual maturity by teaching them His Word; accordingly, earthly parents are called to bring up their children "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4). It is not enough that we see to it that pastors teach them the Bible in the church and that school teachers teach them in the light of the Bible in good Christian schools; but it is also necessary that we ourselves teach them. Parents must teach their children the stories of the Bible; they must read and explain the Bible to the children; they must go over the catechism with them. But they can, and must, teach their children the Word in less formal ways, when the opportunities arise in the natural life of the family. Their duty is nothing less than to teach the children to live wisely in the world, in all of life - to fear the Lord; not to love money; not to envy; to honor the teacher, even though the child may not like him; to live chastely as regards sex.
The main truth that parents must teach their children is God's redemption of them from their sins by the cross of Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins in Jesus' blood, received and enjoyed through believing on Him. Every father and mother must be able and ready, having perceived the distress of the child and having carefully drawn out the confession of the sin that burdens the child, to speak the gospel of grace to the child's troubled heart.
A third characteristic of the friendship between godly parents and their children is that it is a life of peace. The family-life of God, both within the Trinity and within the church, is characterized by peace. This is an outstanding feature of the family-life sketched in Psalm 128. Father, mother, and children live together peacefully. Peace is demanded, when the children are called "olive plants," for olive plants, we are told, required a peaceful environment for growth. Parents must promote peace. They must see to it that there is peace between husband and wife. The spiritual unity of husband and wife is necessary. Then, they must live together without fighting. Bickering and tension between husband and wife destroy the children. Parents must maintain peace between themselves and their children, as much as possible. Where there is love for, and friendship with, the children, peace may be expected. It is kept by good teaching, proper discipline, and mutual forgiveness. Parents must work for peace in the church. Parents always at war with the church - with the pastor, with the elders, with the rest of the congregation - will reap a bitter harvest in their children. Unnecessary conflicts in the congregation will take their toll in our young people. Parents must make every effort to cultivate peace among their children themselves. They do this by teaching them mutual love; by disciplining them for hatred and fighting; by warning them against envying each other; by showing them how to forgive and reconcile; and the like.
If there is to be peace, there must be order. God is a God of decency and order in His life with His people, as I Corinthians 14:40 teaches. Therefore, a household of disorder and uproar is "e;her huis van Jan Steen," to use a proverbial Dutch description of a chaotic household, not a house of God.
There must be order in the family-structure itself. Father is head of the home; mother is in subjection, for God's sake. Disorder here is ruinous to child-rearing. The danger is not only that mother is a barely disguised rebel, but also that father neglects to exercise headship. Both father and mother are the authority in the home, to be honored by the children; and the children are the subjects, to give honor and obedience. Friendship does not rule out, or undercut, the authority of the parents. In the eternal covenant of grace, God is Friend-Sovereign; and we are friend-servants. In the covenant of the family, parents are the friends in authority; and the children are the friends under authority.
There must be order in all the life of the home: rising and going to bed; time of meals; working six days and resting on the Sabbath; doing school-work; practicing music lessons; learning the catechism; brushing teeth. What saves this from a harsh, rigid, burdensome, militaristic order is the friendship which this order serves. Obviously, bringing about this order demands the time, the energy, and the presence of the parents.
When this order is the Law of God ordering the life of the family (and it must be), the friendship and atmosphere of the home are holy. The covenant-life of the Heavenly Father with His children is a holy life. "Holiness becometh thine house, 0 LORD, for ever" (Ps. 93:5). God calls His children to be holy. But He calls them to be holy, "for I am holy" (Lev. 11:44, 45). So it must be with us earthly parents. We are to train our children in holiness, as we ourselves are holy.
Parents must teach their children to be holy. Holiness, not earthly success, is the great goal we have for them. We strive to reach this end by teaching them the Law of God. These commandments are the "words" that Jehovah exhorted Israelite parents to teach diligently to their children, in Deuteronomy 6:6ff., talking of them when they sat in their house, when they walked by the way, when they lay down, and when they arose. Well may Reformed parents ask themselves, "How often do we talk with our children about the Law of God?" But let us be sure that we teach the Law as the expression of the fear of the LORD and that we teach obedience to the Law as thankful love to the children's Redeemer. Obedience does not serve only to keep them out of earthly trouble; nor is it mere conformity to the rules of the church.
Parents can teach holiness to the children only if their own lives are holy. I am pleading now, not for perfection, but for integrity. How can we exhort the children to be holy, or expect them to be holy if we do exhort them, when our own lives are worldly - this world always comes first and God's world, second; when our own lives are covetous - our hearts are set on fame, money, and things; when our own lives are full of the pleasures of the world - night after night we amuse ourselves with "the unfruitful works of darkness" on television; when our own lives are drunken - we drink too much in order to quiet our fears, to drown our sorrows, or to live it up at indecent parties; when our own lives are lives of hatred - envy, fault-finding, backbiting; when our own lives profane the Sabbath - our outward keeping of the Lord's Day is a cold, dead custom, or we easily neglect worship for our own convenience, or we devote the hours between the services of worship to worldly pleasures?
Before He told the parents of Israel, "teach them diligently unto thy children," Jehovah said to the parents themselves, "And these words ... shall be in thine heart" (Deut. 6:6). There is no cheap way to teach holiness. Jesus flayed the Pharisees, who "bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers" (Matt. 23:4). Even the worldly poet saw the fatal weakness of a call to holiness by the unholy, for in his Hamlet Shakespeare has Ophelia say to Laertes:
Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven:
Whilst like a puff'd and reckless libertine
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
And recks not his own rede
(And heeds not his own counsel).
The warning of Andrew Murray should be heard:
The greatest danger to Christ's Church is not infidelity or superstition. It is the spirit of worldliness in the homes of our Christian people, sacrificing the children to ambition or society, to the riches or the friendships of the world. (The Children for Christ, p. 40)
In the interests of the holiness of our children, discipline is necessary, a firm discipline.
Discipline is no enemy of parental love for their children. Rather, love demands discipline, if this love for children reflects God's love for His children. The experience of every believer convinces him of the truth of this, for the Heavenly Father disciplines every one of His children. Scripture teaches this emphatically. It is the powerful doctrine of Hebrews 12, not only that the God who loves us also chastises us, but also that it is exactly His Fatherly love that chastises: "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons..." (vv. 6, 7). God's discipline is severe: rebuking, chastising, whipping. This is the figure; the reality is sickness, poverty, persecution, and death. It was not yet unto blood among the Hebrew Christians, but it might come to this. Because of the severity of the discipline, the chastised were discouraged, wearied, fainting, ready to throw in the towel and quit - their hands hung down and their knees were feeble.
The purpose of God with this discipline is our profit, "that we might be partakers of his holiness" (v. 10). For the rearing of us, instruction alone is not enough, not even when the Teacher is God and the teaching, His Word. Our depravity is so great, that chastisement is needed, in addition.
Earthly parents must learn from this aspect of Divine Fatherhood. A love for our children that is lax, that withholds discipline, is not the love of God for them; in fact, the wisdom of Proverbs says that it is not love at all: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" (13:24). It is not an imaginary danger in our permissive age, that there are, in the church, children and young people who have everything they desire; who may do as they please; and who are unrestrained, except by some Eli-like pleading that has no teeth in it.
Parents must start early, showing that disobedience to God's Law, including disrespect for parental authority, is sin and chastising willful disobedience to that Law in appropriate ways - a rebuke, a slap on the hand of the very young, a spanking on the rear of the older child with a stick. If nothing else motivates parents, let this move them, that without the holiness produced by discipline also the covenant children shall not see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).
It is necessary that our love discipline; it is equally necessary that our discipline be administered out of love. In the very passage in which He stresses the urgency of discipline, the Lord points out, and warns against, an all too common failure of us parents in the discipline of our children. Referring to the earthly fathers who corrected us and to whom we gave reverence, the apostle says, "For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure ..." (Heb. 12:10). This is contrasted with God's chastising us for our profit. This rings painfully true to the experience of us parents. How often are not our screams of rebuke and our blows of chastisement, personal rage and displeasure, with no purpose in the child's welfare whatever.
We are inclined to overlook that, in those places where the New Testament expressly addresses the duty of parents in child-raising, e.g., Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21. Scripture warns fathers against provoking their children to wrath. Colossians 3:21 adds, "lest they become discouraged," i.e., broken in spirit. This evil is the abuse of parental authority - the exercise of authority cut loose from love; a harsh, selfish exercise of discipline. Many children are ruined by laxity; I wonder whether as many are not ruined by this tyrannical, love-less rule. Every disciplinary act must be done by us parents (and by the Christian school teacher!), consciously, out of love for the child as covenant child of God. Every disciplinary act must be done, consciously, with the purpose that the child be turned from sin unto holiness. Every time the parent raises his hand in discipline, he must remember that his hand is the hand of God (cf. the Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 104).
Concerning this discipline, parents must be patient. Patience is a marvelous perfection of God in His dealing with us sinners; and it must characterize us. Our children are sinners; they are bad sinners - no one knows this like a Reformed believer; we also know whence they came by their sinfulness. Without becoming tolerant of sin, we must be patient with our sinful children. Thus, also, we will have hope, when, at times, we do not see the fruit that we desire in them.
Parents ought never to lose control of themselves in discipline, not even when the children have sinned grossly. It is possible for us virtually to destroy our children with rage, with condemnation, with ridicule, and with beating. We should call to mind our own plea of the Heavenly Father, in Psalm 38:1: "O LORD, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure."
Rebuke must be wisely mixed with praise of the children when they do well. Some parents refuse to praise, or reward, their children, as a matter of principle. This is a mistake. Let God, once again, be our example: He praises and rewards His children, for doing that which is their duty and for doing that which He Himself works in them. We all know that this is a strong incentive to obedience, glad obedience. So it is with our children. Praise encourages them. How discouraging, if all they ever hear from us is criticism. God is the best Pedagogue: not for nothing is the Fifth Commandment the first commandment with promise (cf. Eph. 6:2).
If we are willing to discipline, we are ready and eager to forgive, when, by the discipline, the Holy Spirit has worked repentance in the child. We must express forgiveness to the child, "God forgives you; and I forgive you." Then, we must forget about the fault.
Finally, if one of our children, when he grows up, shows himself an ungodly young man, or herself, an ungodly young woman, who despises and rebels against our admonition, we must follow the "way of Deuteronomy 21:18-21" with him, or her: "...Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the eiders...and they shall say unto the eiders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear." The Israelite parent brought his wicked child to the elders, to be stoned to death. Today, in the church, parents are to bring their unruly child to the elders, to be excommunicated out of the church and to be cut off from the fellowship of the saints, if he does not repent. Never are Reformed parents in the position that they wring their hands helplessly; never may they allow the church to be corrupted by unbelieving, lawless young people.
We love our children as covenant children, for God's sake, not at the expense of God's glory. Our friendship with them is in the Lord Jesus, not regardless of Him. Not every one of the children of believers is a covenant child of promise (Rom. 9:8). When one's own child, by unbelief and unrighteousness, denies Christ, the parent faces the choice: my Christ or my child; and he chooses Christ. Then Christ sends the sword into our very family "to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother...and a man's foes shall be they of his own household." Whoever, then, "loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matt. 10: 34-39). Of course, the resort to church discipline may have as its happy outcome the child's repentance and salvation; and for this the parent never ceases to hope and to pray.
This is Reformed, biblical child-rearing: love them; live with them in friendship; and discipline them, taking the Fatherhood of God as pattern.
If God's Fatherhood of us cost Him His own Son, we cannot expect our child-rearing to be easy, painless, and cheap.
But it is possible. Good rearing and a good family-life are possible, still today. It is required of all parents who name the Name of Christ. The possibility is not ourselves, not at all. The possibility is the blessing of God - sovereign, covenant grace - besought fervently in prayer, for "except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it" (Ps. 127:1).