Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Daughters

The Simplest of Lessons

Hard Days

It’s been a hard few days for one of my daughters in particular. For whatever reason, she has decided that now is an appropriate time to disregard her parents’ instructions. She is testing. Hard.

The consequences have grown increasingly severe for her and the tears have been many. The prayers by mom and dad have increased. We’ve asked lots of times, ‘How certain are we that we’re doing the right thing?’ as we try to shepherd her little heart.

We trust God to give grace through this season, as he always has when our kids have gone through stretches like this before. Each daughter is different and the disobedience of each one is different, but God’s grace has always carried us through and we believe it will this time too.

Simple Truth

But one thing has stuck out to me through these past few days. It’s astounding to me how simple the lesson is that our daughter needs to learn. It’s as easy of a concept as they come. She can repeat it after us: It goes well for you when you obey and it goes poorly for you when you don’t.

Or, as we ask our five-year old, ‘When you disobey are you trying to be happy? Do you end up happier when you obey or when you disobey? ‘

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Wise Words on Fathering

Proverbat_22_6My friend, Kevin Dibbley, wrote an excellent note a couple of weeks ago to a new father. Reflecting on his own experience raising his daughters, Kevin offers some sound advice that rebuked me, encouraged me, and moved me to tears of thankfulness.

If you’re a parent (or know one) you should read this post (or get them to read this post).

Here’s a snippet:

Don’t take yourself so seriously. That may sound like a strange thing to say, especially at a time in our culture when there is a great need for serious parenting, and in particular, diligent and faithful fathering. I am not saying that as a Dad you don’t need to give yourself fully to your calling to love and to lead. What I do mean is that you need to recognize that God is big enough for the road ahead. When Moses was in the midst of his journey leading the nation of Israel, he became overwhelmed by the task. Israel was a tough nation. Moses’ fear, however, was not the dread of seeing how messed up Israel was. He was afraid of seeing his own inadequacies and failures. In fact, at one point, he pleads with the Lord that if the Lord has favour upon him, that He should kill Moses, so that Moses wouldn’t have to look at his own “wretchedness” (Numbers 11:15). You are about to get a life long tour of your own inadequacies. Remember then that God did not put this child in your hands because He wanted you to show how competent you are. He put this child in your hands to show you how great His love and goodness are. Your goal is to point your child to Jesus. You don’t have to be the hero of your child’s story.

Read the full post here: “A Note for Josh at the Birth of Grace.”

Let’s Not Knock Beauty

The longer I live, the more I see that balance is hard to achieve. That’s one of the (many) reasons why I need to keep coming back to Scripture again and again, repeatedly challenging my own worldview. I need to be constantly challenged to prove that what I believe about something (whether conscious or sub-conscious) is being corrected and informed by the mind of God.

One example of how I’ve been challenged lately is by thinking about beauty. As a father of three daughters, I’m responsible for thinking hard about beauty and trying to help my girls learn to value what God values.

Pendulum to the Left

In our culture, beauty, body image, being physically attractive — this is everything! Girls grow up in our day learning the fine art of taking photos of themselves constantly, always trying to make themselves look attractive.

Joe Carter posted some interesting facts on ‘female body image‘ back in April that indicate some very serious concerns about the emphasis our culture places on physical beauty:

3. By age 6, girls start to express concerns about their own weight or shape. 40-60% of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat. This concern endures through life.

4. The best-known contributor to the development of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa is body dissatisfaction. The median ages for onset of an eating disorder in adolescents is 12- to 13-years-old. In the United States, 20 million women suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life.

5. Only four percent of women globally consider themselves beautiful.

Clearly, our culture swings the pendulum toward a view of external beauty that places far too much of a burden on girls and women in particular. Young women are being led to live and die — literally — for beauty.

Pendulum to the Right

Conservative Christians, like me, are able to discern the disproportionate value being placed on externals. We see that it doesn’t line up with God’s heart (1 Sam 16.7), so we call on each other to esteem hearts over clothes. We hear the words of the New Testament that call us to modesty of dress (1 Tim 2.9-10; 1 Pet 3.3-6; 1 Cor 12.22-24), so we call on each other to prioritize good works and good character over fashion.

And that’s all right and good.

But, there’s a tension present in Scripture that needs to pull us in from both the right and the left of the pendulum, back towards the centre.
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Good News / Bad News

The Numbers

Just recently someone linked to a news article in the Atlantic Wire reporting on a study of teen sexual activity (conducted by the US Department of Health and Human Services). Surprisingly, the report suggested that there has been a significant decline in the number of individual teens engaging in the act of sex in their teen years. That’s great news!

Declining Numbers

Here’s something remarkable: In 1988 it is reported that 60% of males in their teens had had sex at least once; as of 2010, that number had dropped to 42%. That’s quite a drop!

A Reflection

My first response was to be quite encouraged by this report. I was also encouraged by the fact that many of the teens who had not had sex cited ‘religion or morals’ as the reason. There is much to be happy about here.

But as I looked at the chart longer, something else jumped out at me. The significant drop in numbers of males having sex in their teen years is not matched by the girls. While there is decline, it’s not nearly keeping up. For the first time now, as of 2010, there are more teenage girls having sex than there are teenage boys. As a father of three girls, that absolutely crushed me to consider.

I suppose this is somewhat to be expected as feminism has become less of a movement and more mainstream culture. After all, movies like Black Swan and Sex and the City seem to be all the rage. As our culture continues to tell our girls that it’s good and helpful and healthy to pursue sexuality ‘without consequences,’ I guess it’s only natural that eventually girls will listen.

The sad truth, however, is that these numbers aren’t movies. They’re not characters who cease to exist after the 1.5 hour romp of fun and exploration. They are people who are being wounded & scarred by these inappropriate sexual experiences that will change their lives (and the lives of their future spouses) forever. It is simply tragic.

Where Are the Fathers?

As I think about the fact that more teenage girls than boys are having sex, one question comes to my mind that I cannot shake: Where are the fathers?

Where are the fathers of these girls who are willing to tell them the truth about the love and intimacy and the intertwining of souls that God intended sex to be for? Where are the fathers who are involved in their daugthers’ lives enough to know who they’re dating and where they are when they are out at night? Where are the fathers who are willing to tell their girls the truth about boys and hormones and selfishness and sin? Where are the men who will protect the daughters God has given them?

I pray that God would give me grace to be the kind of father that my girls need me to be so that they don’t fall prey to the seduction of the world and the lies of consequence-free living and meaning-in-relationships. All of this is a good reminder to me to pray for my girls, beginning now.

Letting My Love Serve Me

This week I’m taking something of a ‘working vacation’ at the family cottage. Last night as I was doing the dishes I was thinking back over the day that was. I got thinking about each of my children and how much I love them. Each of them owns my heart in a very unique way. Each of them has a smile, a laugh, a facial expression, some moment of pure joy on their face that is forever etched on my memory.

There is simply no love quite like a father for his children. There is nothing that makes me feel better than knowing my children are safe, protected, and provided for. And there is nothing that strikes terror into the core of my being like the thought of my children suffering. The thought of any one of my precious girls in pain or sadness makes me instantly recoil emotionally. I get a sick feeling in my gut and I’m instantly overcome with the awareness that I would do anything—anything—to end their suffering and to make them happy again.

I thought about that and I was overwhelmed by awareness of this love that owns me and moves me without me even being consciously aware of it most days.

And then I thought about the heavenly Father and his love. Filled with infinitely more love for his Son—a perfect love for a perfect Son—he willingly chose to ‘give’ him for a world of sinners. He gave him, knowing that he would be mocked, belittled, shamed, abused, scorned, rejected, beaten, stripped naked, and killed: publicly displayed as one bearing the curse of God. That’s a love I know nothing of.

But the love is greater still. Ponder these words, of the Son to the Father:

“Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me.” (Mark 14.36)

My love for my children, being nothing like the heavenly Father’s love, would have been moved to give in, to compromise. But the Father of Jesus has bigger, greater love; his love for Jesus’s glory and for my good is too great to be moved. He was willing to deny his True Son’s request for the good of his soon-to-be adopted sons & daughters. The love of the Father was planned and determined.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief…. (Isaiah 53.10)

“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,” declares the Lord of hosts. [I will] strike the shepherd….” (Zechariah 13.7; [cf. Mark 14.27])

His love is not just a love that would allow his Son to be sacrificed; his love is a love that would willingly crush his Son. He gave his Son, knowing that he himself would have to give full vent to his holy wrath against his Son on the cross. The Father who loves the Son, crushed the son… for me.

No matter how overwhelming my love for my children may be, it doesn’t hold a candle to my heavenly Father’s love, in scope, in purpose, in depth, in power, or in steadfastness.

I want to make it my prayer that whenever I think of my love for my children, I would let that love serve me by pointing me to the true love of the true Father who, in the gospel, has loved and who continues to love with a greater love than eternity will allow me to explore. Human love serves its best and noblest purpose when it doesn’t end with us, but points us to the one who is love, and who has shown us love in his Son, Jesus.

… but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5.8)

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (1 John 3.1)

My Kids

** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

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I love my children. I absolutely delight in them. There are so many reasons why; I thought I’d list just a few.

1. They Reflect Me

Okay, this sounds really bad. But I see myself in my kids, and that makes me love them. That’s natural. That’s what all parents love to see. To be honest, I think that’s why parents often think their own kids are the cutest… because they look like the parents! I’ve always thought to myself, ‘How narcissistic is that!

But then I got to thinking about that. Why do parents take so much delight in having children who look like them? Because our heavenly Father delights in having children who look like him. And because we bear his image (even now in a distorted way) we have his heart-impulses. When I see myself in my kids or my wife in my kids and my heart warms toward them, now it doesn’t make me think I’m narcissistic so much as it turns my mind to my God who created me in his image and who finds delight in me resembling him (really, this is at the heart of the gospel!). And it makes me hope I can train my kids to reflect their heavenly Father… not just their earthly one.

2. They Don’t Reflect Me

Here’s the funny thing about kids. Even though they’re fallen and depraved, there is still a sense of innocence and purity about them; they are willing to receive and believe what they hear with all their hearts. They trust. They forgive. They are willing to be comforted by words of truth. They believe the best about people and love with all their unbroken hearts. That doesn’t reflect me. I’m stubborn and heart-hearted, slow to forgive, slow to believe, slow to respond to truth. I’m jaded when it comes to people; it is easier to look at other people as ‘sinners’ than it is ‘image-bearers.’ Jesus commended children as those to whom we should look to know how to receive his kingdom. It’s not hard to see why. My kids are not perfect — far from it. But they do show me how I should love and trust my God and love and trust others.

3. They Give Me An Excuse to Be a Kid

I often ‘joke’ about this, but it’s true. I love being a kid. Playing, running, climbing trees, telling crazy imaginary stories… I love it! But if I did that on my own, people would think I’m weird — even more so than they already do! So I’m glad my kids give me an excuse to still be a kid. I love playing with them.

4. They Show Me My Weaknesses

Inasmuch as God calls me to father like he is a father to me, my children provide me with ample opportunities to show the world that I am not my heavenly Father. I fall so far short. He is so patient with me; my impulse is to chastise right away. He is so loving with me; my impulse is to be harsh with them. He is so wise in the dispensations of his providence, leading me in ways that I will grow; I give so little foresight to the ways I lead my children. He sacrificed his most treasured possession for me; I ask my four year-old when she’ll get a job and start helping to pay some bills. He is endlessly kind; I get grouchy at the drop of a hat when my kids won’t eat, sleep, or jump right when I say. He is always available; I’m so often distracted. There is no doubt about it: my kids show me my need for grace every single day.

5. They Are Ever-Present Accountability

And not just because they’ll point out every single thing you do that they’re not allowed to do (‘Daddy, “stupid” is a bad word!’; ‘Daddy, how come you are having two bowls of ice cream?’ ‘Daddy, we’re not allowed to climb up there like that!’). They’re also a source of accountability because everything I do and say now is filtered through the grid of, ‘What example am I setting for them?’ and ‘Is this the kind of husband I want my girls to look for?’ That little check keeps me on the straight-and-narrow many times.

6. They Make Me Laugh Like Crazy

People have actually commented to me that being in my house is like living in a sitcom. A lot of days I can’t disagree. I laugh pretty hard in my home. It is full of joy and I have my children to thank for that.

7. They Help Me Understand Women

I had no sisters growing up. As a young man I clearly had no idea how to understand the first thing about women. So God made me live with four of them. One of the things I’ve learned about girls is that they’re definitely female from the time they’re born on up. I’ve had to grow in my understanding of how the fairer sex thinks, learns, interacts, expresses love, receives love, hears correction, processes reality, experiences the world… the list goes on and on. My girls have (I think) helped me to understand women better. I love them for that.

8. They Bring Me to My Knees

They make me pray. My heart is immediately broken before my God when I think of those three tender little souls. I am quickly moved to pray, casting all my cares on my Father, casting all my hope for their protection, for their future, for their little hearts on him. They make me desperate, which makes me pray, which makes me love them more.

9. They Make Me Love More

I could go on all day, but I’ll end here. They make me love my them: their smiles, their joys, the way they look to me for care and guidance, their little quirks. They make me love my wife: as I watch her care for them and treasure them and bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, I grow in my love for her. They make me love my God: Who am I that I should be blessed with such wonderful little blessings as them? I am a man too blessed for words. They increase my love a hundredfold.

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