Over the past couple of days, I was able to spend some time alone with my son on a short “get-away” trip. As we were having a major water-gun war, I realized something: My son is growing up.
Don’t get my wrong, he’s not going to college next year –he’s only four. Okay, four-and-a-half (the half is very important).
But in the midst of chasing each other with water guns, I saw him turn around and give me a grin that I hadn’t seen before. It seemed that in this grin, new facial features had suddenly been chiseled on his face. It was a glimpse of a man soon-to-be.
It took me aback for a minute. I didn’t know whether to be scared or thrilled. Maybe I should be both.
As our “get-away” trip went on, I began to notice other glimpses of manliness in my son. When we got ready to unload the car, he was eager to help –even carrying things that were a little too heavy. And as I was carrying bags into the cabin, guess who held the door open for me?
There’s nothing more gratifying than seeing your child develop into the person God created them to be. I think that’s what the apostle John was feeling when he wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).
Here, John is writing –not to his physical children- but to his spiritual children! Just as a parent takes joy in watching their child grow into maturity, disciple-makers rejoice to see their disciples become more like Christ.
The parallels between parenting and discipleship are infinite. Both require a large investment of time into the life of another person. Both involve a relationship built upon deep love and care. Both are a difficult, but rewarding task.
Most importantly, both parenting and discipleship are completely dependent upon the power of Christ in order to be honoring to Christ. Let’s be honest, no parent has all of the answers for all of the scenarios they will face with their child. Every step of the way, a parent must “lean not on [his or her] own understanding, but instead “trust the Lord with all of [his or her] heart” (Proverbs 3:5). Just recently, as I was sharing my own struggles with parenting, my mom explained that she and my dad faced many situations in parenting me where they simply didn’t know what to do –they had to spend time seeking God’s wisdom.
It’s the same with disciple making. We will never know all of the answers or have all of the solutions to our disciples’ problems. Instead, we must constantly be in prayer for and with our disciples.
The interesting thing is that, as I contemplate the difficult issues of raising my son, I find my Heavenly Father continuing to “raise” me. Whereas I once thought parenting was all about teaching my son, I’ve come to learn that it is just as much –if not more- about God teaching me.
That’s why the disciple-maker is so joyful when his or her disciple shows signs of growth. It’s a sign that God is working through us in the lives of the ones we love most –and it’s a reminder that He hasn’t stopped maturing us as well!
If it’s been a while since you’ve noticed growth in your disciple, maybe its time for you to plan some “get away” time. Schedule an afternoon of golf, hiking, shopping, (or whatever you do for fun) with your disciple. Ask God to show you –in the escape from the daily grind- how he is working in both of your lives to conform you into the image of Christ. Then, rejoice along with the apostle John knowing that you “have no greater joy than to hear that [your] children are walking in the truth” (I John 1:4).