This week I shared with our local Mothers of Preschoolers Group on the topic of How to Raise Brave Kids. I didn’t have bravery in mind as I was shaping the lives of my children, but I did have Christlikeness in mind. Jesus, after all, was the most courageous person to ever live. He gave up his heavenly throne, came to earth, and died for sinners. He embodied selflessness, love, and sacrifice. These are traits I wanted to build in my kids. I wanted them to grow up as selfless servants.
In practical terms, it began with me. I needed to be courageous enough to have expectations of my children and hold them accountable. I expected them to obey me and do chores. I expected them to develop patience, kindness, and service towards each other, relatives and friends. I corrected and disciplined my children when they failed to meet my expectations, and while this may not seem like a path to courage, we have to remember this: it was obedience to His Father and love for others that moved Christ to die.
That’s why obedience and love build courage in children. It takes courage for a child to say no to his impulses and do what his mother tells him to do. It takes courage for a teen to say no to his wayward peers. It takes courage for a young person to look adults in the eye, shake hands and engage in conversation. A courageous toddler lets his friend have the toy. A courageous teen serves at church when he could sleep in on Sundays instead.
When I think of my son, Michael, I think of courage. This is a guy for whom potty training was a screaming affair. He was terrified by bugs and loud noises. In fact, one time he was so upset by the animated preaching at my in-laws’ Baptist church, that he had to be taken out of the service.
Courageous enough to play the drums at church. Age 8
Courageous enough to endure injustice at boarding school. Age 14
Courageous enough to shepherd the drunk and the violent as an RA in college. Age 20
Courageous enough to lead the university gospel choir. Age 21
Courageous enough to perform at a downtown pavilion in front of thousands. Age 26
I reluctantly supported Michael’s courageous move to Atlanta to pursue his music career. When other friends forged a trail of grad school and traditional jobs, Michael’s leap of faith landed him broke and lonely. But he knew deep down what his mother is just beginning to understand about courage. So much of it is about destiny, about being who God made us to be and using the gifts God has given us. Michael does that courageously.
And God is using him to bless the world through music. After all, it takes courage for a Christian to sing something other than “Christian” music. It takes courage to strive for a fan base while rejecting offensive lyrics and an edgy persona that might get more views on Youtube. And it takes courage to have patience as God’s plan unfolds, to hold down a day job and bravely keep the faith.
So while I was annoyed by Michael’s cowardice while confronting centipedes as a kid, I now know it was okay. It was not God’s will for him to be a pest controller. He is a psalmist and a sage. And a brave one at that.