Thursday, May 10, 2007

Article on wayward children, by one of them: forum invited

I know nothing of the backstory, but evidently John Piper's son Abraham was a wayward child of some sort. And now he has posted 12 Ways to Love Your Wayward Child.

If you've the time and inclination to read it through, tell me what you think.


4given said...

I was a very rebellious child and teen... and young adult for that matter. I caused my father much grief and many sleepless nights; thus, I found this very interesting.

I found several of his points to be excellent... but not all of them.

#3 stood out to me and I am probably one of the few that will agree with #5.
#6 is speak the truth in love in one of the hardest necessities to attain to. There is a fine line ... because rebuking is necessary, but how one is rebuked, such as being gentle in your disappointment, is so key. Where he wrote Your gentle forbearance and sorrowful hope will show her that you really do trust Jesus. reminds me of my husband when we were separated. I am not sure about Her conscience can condemn her by itself. because my conscience was quite seared.
In #7, he wrote people we trust are usually the only ones who can package a painful rebuke so that it is a gift to us. So true!!!

I do not agree at all with #8. Respect is earned.

# 9 should be "communicate with them" in any way you can find to do so. (letters, e-mail, phone messages)

I fully agree that we should Set up regular times to go out to eat with your kids. For us, that is planning 6 dates with each individual kid within ongoing 2 month intervals.

#11 is an iffy fine line. He wrote Jesus spent time with tax collectors and prostitutes, and he wasn’t even related to them. Imitate Christ by being the kind of parent who will put some earplugs in your pocket and head downtown to that dank little nightclub where your daughter’s CD release show is. But did Jesus go to the dank prostitute hang out to hang out with them...?

He said it well here, Only his grace can draw them from their perilous pursuits and bind them safely to himself—captive, but satisfied.

For the most part, I thought it was a pretty good article. But I think he went off the deep end on a few things.

philness said...

I say why have more than one child. The odds of them being saved are slim. Why bring a bunch of children in this cursed world? Yea, yea, yea we are to procreate, but let China do that. Have as many children as your heart will allow being broken. And for me that number is one. I begged God for a son that would be saved. I pleaded with God that He would not give my wife and I a child that would eventually spend eternity in Hell. My son is 12 now and he says he is born again and I really want to believe that, but I said the same thing when I was his age and ended up grieving God as a teenager and young adult. So although I agree with everything Piper Jr. says and will take heed in them (thank you Dan for the article) I am also preparing my son's heart for what the world has prepared for him. I am getting him ready for battle. For it is at 12 that I had no preparation for what was to come. I am teaching my son the importance of not grieving the Lord. For example just the other day I noticed he had some rap music playing off the computer. I told him, "dude, brother man, that does sound really good and I can get into that with you and all but my brother, the Lord doesn't really like that stuff you know, and the more you go there with it the more of it you want and therefore the further the Lord is from you. So, learn today to do the right things and I'm here to help you, my brother”. We talk like that cause I'm cool like that you know.

But you know Dan, this is a timely topic for me right now. I'm pretty close to a lot of my son's teammates and neighborhood friends and all. And some of our friends’ kids are starting to graduate from high school. I plan on giving them all a bible, but might you recommend a good read for a young person entering this dangerous world. Something along the lines of a help book for saying “no” to the world?

Thanks again for the article.

Rebecca Stark said...

I thought they were generally good, but like any list of suggestions like that, there are situations I can imagine where you might not want follow them exactly. And there are things I'd have worded differently, like the respect one, where I think I'd have said, be hospitable, be kind instead of "respect them."

But sometimes I think we tell ourselves that we're not doing something for or with our wayward child on principle, when really it's more that we'd rather not know how bad things are, or we'd rather our friends and relatives didn't see for themselves how bad things are. We are protecting ourselves from hurt in a rather selfish way instead of putting the son or daughter's best interests first. I think the list is useful for reminding us to carefully consider where we draw our lines.

Kim said...

But what if you're sure that your child is a believer, but is just being disobedient? Would you approach the situation differently?

Rebecca Stark said...

I'd take this list of suggestions to be geared toward situations in which the parent already has no control over the son or daughter. They're living away from home and the relationship is, to a great degree, already an estranged one. In other words, they're intended as a list of tactics of last resort, although several of them, like 1,2,3,6, are just good suggestions for almost any situation.

But if a child claims to be a believer, then I'd think you can expect them to act like one (Number 4.), call them on it when they don't, and ground your argument in their own claim to faith. As in, "You claim to be following Christ, why aren't you acting like it?"

Neil said...

The hard part is forgiving for the past when you know that they are continuing to _____ (lie, cheat, steal, etc.).

Yet that is exactly what Jesus did for me.

I will be printing and saving this list.

David said...

My very long comment got eaten by the bloggermonster. It's probably just as well. I'll just repeat my summation:

I agreed with a lot of it, but disagreed strongly with some of it. I would not apply #5, 8, & 11 unconditionally.

I don't necessarily think having been a wayward child makes one an expert on raising them (as I am learning). Maybe, as time passes, Abraham will think differently as he gains the objectivity that comes with distance from the experience. I know my thoughts on "what my parents should have done with me" have changed considerably since I was young and knew everything (I am not implying that Abraham thinks he does).

DJP said...

If it comes back to you, please do revise and extend your remarks.

Most of the folks, so far, have a higher opinion of the article than I did.

Anonymous said...


I liked it, thought it was nice. Of course my own kids are still ankle-biters and I was never wayward. No, I was a deceptive little sinner who seemed obedient. I digress. . .

Anyway, it's a nice little article for what it is. What it isn't is a bible study or theological position on parenting apostate adult children. I took it as one man's opinions from his experience. Of course, he didn't sell it as that, and considering his father, maybe it carries more weight than it should.

I wasn't looking for steak and was very satisfied with the value meal.

Neil said...

April, I was the same kind of deceiver who seemed obedient. Even though it's talking about the openly rebellious kid, I find the list insightful for dealing with the deceiver and poser.

4given said...

I was really trying to be nice... but do anticipate your opinion of the article. I was actually disappointed in the article and would like to read YOUR rewritten version of it. Having been a wayward child and now able to look back after several years, perhaps I have become a little picky. I think that this article needs lots of work.

I re-read each point making notes and looking to put a star by ones that I thought were excellent because I initially said that several of them were. Okay... so there was only one (#3) that might hit that mark.

1. is okay but incomplete
2. sounds like a prayer for irresistible grace to be bestowed on the wayward child. I think this one needs expounding and is one of the most vital points.
3. almost excellent
4.has some good points. Needs work.
5. Agree with Thirsty David about not applying this unconditionally. I think it more so needs to apply to daughters. I actually have a hard time with the thought of releasing our children into the world as singles. Maybe I am ancient, but I think they need to stay home until they are married. It is a very American thing to kick them out any sooner than that.
6. Needs work, though the gentle forebearance comment is excellent. But as a whole, the explanation here is weak.
7.Has a couple of fair points, but mostly weak and needs work.
8. Like I said, respect is earned. This is the weakest point. I agree with Rebecca... but not unconditionally.
9. and 10. could be together. Essentially these points are about the same thing... communication. But they need to be more BIBLICALLY expounded on. (Actually the entire article needs that... so, DJP... you're the man).
11. weak
12. Has some almost excellent points. Still needs work.

See... I was trying to be nice when I first commented. And then when I re-read it, praying for discernment and that I would see through the lense of Biblical truth and not experiential opinion... I now feel kinda like a meanie.

Caleb Kolstad said...

Thanks for this

David said...

Sorry, I didn’t have time last night to rewrite my entire lost comment, but since you asked--

The more I consider it, the less I like the article. It’s not so much that I disagree, but that I think it’s incomplete.

1. Point them to Christ.

Certainly, do this, but before you can point them to Christ, they need to meet God the Father, the lawgiver, know his just demands, see how they fall short of his requirements. Abraham says, “The real problem is that they don’t see Jesus clearly. …the sins in their life that distress you and destroy them will only begin to fade away when they see Jesus more like he actually is.” True, but they also need to see themselves as they actually are. I would argue that their greater problem is their exalted view of themselves.

2. Pray.

Yes! Would it be picayune to say this should be #1? Yes, it would. But I am, and it should.

3. Acknowledge that something is wrong.

Absolutely. The common reaction (in my observation) is to put on a happy face avoid confrontation. Don’t do that.

4. Don’t expect them to be Christ-like.

True. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect them to live by the standards we raised them with. God does. His law applies to everyone, not believers only. I agree that we should “focus more on the heart’s sickness than its symptoms”; but the heart’s sickness is only seen in the light of God’s righteous demands.

5. Welcome them home.

This is a tough one, and, as a general rule, I agree. However, there are times when the best thing for them is to leave them out in the cold to suffer the consequences of their sin alone. Our goal is not to bring them home, but to bring them to repentance. Sometimes that will require getting hurt, and badly. It will require being alone and comfortless in their sin. The Prodigal did not come home primarily because his father loved him and had a wonderful plan for his life. He first had to hit bottom and become desperate. We can’t simply be providing a pit-stop between laps of sinful reveling.

6. Plead with them more than you rebuke them.


7. Connect them to believers who have better access to them.

Another good suggestion. Too often, parents of sinning children keep quiet about it and don’t let anyone know. Don’t forget that the church is a family, a body, that God intended to work as one. Use it.

8. Respect their friends.

“…even if the relationship is founded on sin”? I don’t think so! “When your son shows up … with another girlfriend…” What if it’s a boyfriend? Yes, there is a considerable difference in the nature of the sin or potential sin, but I’m just illustrating that there are limits to the grace we can offer. Consider another aspect of this, which also applies to #5: what kind of example is being set for their younger siblings? Children naturally look up to their older siblings, especially those of the same sex. Don’t let your attempts to rescue one send another down the same path.

9 & 10. These are good.

11. Take an interest in their pursuits.

Except when their interests are sinful. Yes, “Jesus spent time with tax collectors and prostitutes,” but he didn’t go to the brothel and encourage the prostitutes to use their talents for his glory.

12. Point them to Christ.

See #1. I do agree with the main thrust of this point:

“It’s not so that they will be good kids again; it’s not so that they’ll get their hair cut and start taking showers; it’s not so that they’ll like classical music instead of deathcore; it’s not so that you can stop being embarrassed at your weekly Bible study; it’s not so that they’ll vote conservative again by the next election; it’s not even so that you can sleep at night, knowing they’re not going to hell.

“The only ultimate reason to pray for them, welcome them, plead with them, email them, eat with them, or take an interest in their interests is so that their eyes will be opened to Christ.”

In conclusion, I don’t think this was a bad article. There is good counsel in each point. I do think it was simplistic and overlooked many serious issues that many parents will face.

David said...

So, Mr. Phillips, what did you think?

DJP said...

Well, TD, I'll tellya....

I'm really reluctant to criticize it now that my friend Frank Turk has expressed great enthusiasm for it, twice, over at his blog. First, I have a lot of respect for Frank, and if he sees something differently than I see it, I've probably missed something.

Second, he'll make fun of me.

Having said that, I thought that the parts that weren't obvious were wrong or problematic. Okay, pray for them, point them to Christ, plead rather than scold. Good advice.

But a lot of the rest (N.B.) struck me as being intended to make sure he isn't too inconvenienced by his own sin, in any way. It seems focused on staying friends, making sure he doesn't get mad at me.

I've known a lot of Christian parents to enable, mollycoddle, and otherwise wink at a lot of sin, in the name of "keeping communications open." But doesn't Proverbs warn of serious consequences for despising and mocking parents? Should we do our best to make sure our kids know we were "just kidding" when we warned them that actions and choices have consequences?

If he spends the money I loaned him on drink and/or drugs, I'm to "forgive his debt as you’ve been forgiven"? That's fine. I was UN-forgiven, UNTIL I repented and trusted Christ alone. So the debt stands, as long as the child is impenitent. That makes Biblical sense.

But I don't think it's what Abraham was saying.

So do I aid the process of conviction by shielding him/her from the consequences of his/her sin? Isn't that part of how God built the universe, so that we should tie together sin and judgment? If I ignore and overlook and pretend and bail-out, am I not communicating that he'll get away with everything he does, consequence-free?

And what of the rest of the family? What of his influence on my younger children, as I house him and enable his lifestyle of rebellion?

Plus there's what Kim asked about: what about an older child who professes Christian faith, but lives (or too freely indulges/engages) in rebellion?

Truly, it could just be me, but the article left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Stefan Ewing said...

I was a wayward child par excellence, but neither of my parents has ever known Christ (maybe that's why I was wayward!), so while I really wish I could comment constructively on Abraham's list—either critically or in defense of it—but I can't. Praise the Lord that Abraham has found his way back home.

4given said...

Ah... see... your gracious and I'm a big meanie.

David said...

Yep, Dan, that's pretty much what I thought.

However, I wouldn't want this to go the way of that Patrick Chan video (I hope I'm remembering the name right. You know, the surfer dude who parked way too far from the beach.). I don't think Abraham deserves too severe criticism.

White Badger said...

Wow. Piper is right on, as usual.
Great piece.

A Woman that Fears the Lord said...

I love Pastor Piper and so I enjoyed reading his sons perspective. But, honestly, I gained more from the comments than the actual article. I do agree that there were a lot of 'what ifs' left out in the list.

I believe the greatest help for my husband and I in facing a similar situation is to not allow ourselves to help our adult child in any way that will encourage a lifestyle of sin. Basically, the money has to stop flowing when you are dealing with an adult.

I am only responsible for my actions towards my adult child.. not his actions towards me. I have to do what is right no matter how he responds. Mother's have a tendency to want to control. I have to continually remind myself that I cannot control any adult's actions except my own. That helps take the obsession out of the relationship. It also helps to keep my eyes on Christ since my need is so great for His grace to respond in a godly manner.

It is a difficult road to walk but I am learning much about Christ in the process.

RYC: However, I wouldn't want this to go the way of that Patrick Chan video (I hope I'm remembering the name right. You know, the surfer dude who parked way too far from the beach.). I don't think Abraham deserves too severe criticism.

Did you mean Pastor Frances Chan? :-)