That's not a new goal, of course. In the little town of Strasburg, Virginia, there is a Bible on display, and in that Bible is an inscription dated 1773 that reads:
On the First of July 1759, I Simon Harr (born the 3rd of July 1734) married Elizabeth Schmitten. Two sons were born to us. The first one Frederic, by name, was born the 4th of April 1760 on good Friday evening at 10 o'clock. The second and last, John by name (Johannes) was born in 1761, on the 19th of Dec. at midnight. Thou, O Triune God, may it please thee to let them grow and develop as well in faith, wisdom and piety and all Christian virtues as in years. Oh vouchsafe to all of us thy Holy Spirit, that it guide us all in truth together and bring us along the strait path and even nearer to our heavenly inheritance and finally bring us hither. For Jesus sake, Amen.
When push comes to shove, my goal for my kids is to raise them to the best of my ability to be a certain kind of person, regardless of what profession they may choose. And I think I've communicated that well enough that they would all say that's what I want for them. But this morning in my mom's group I was struck by a question the speaker asked: Are we raising rulers or servants? Much as I want my kids to have hearts of compassion and serve others, I don't think ultimately that's the goal I usually work for. I think of it as sort of an afterthought: Find a profession with some meaning and purpose behind it, and then use it to serve others. I imagine them serving in positions of influence and leadership--teachers or artists or doctors or mothers or missionaries. I don't think I'm preparing them for careers as janitors or restaurant workers or lawnservice people or grocery store baggers.
Now, there's nothing wrong with striving to help our kids reach their potential or feel good about the gifts God has given them. In fact, I would say that it's good stewardship to prepare our kids to be whatever God has gifted and called them to do. But am I trying so hard to give my kids great experiences and prepare them to lead that I forget to prepare them to serve? Do I set them up to think they should be the best at something, that they should strive for a profession of influence and leadership? Will they struggle with feelings of failure if they end up in a profession the world sees as pretty lowly? Heaven forbid, will they think I'm disappointed in them if they don't live up to their potential?
For me, these lessons hit home because I often feel like my education was wasted. What have I done with my college degree from a prestigious Christian college? I'm working to raise five kids--usually not very well--and copy edit words that other people have written. It's not much, by the world's estimation. It's not even much by my own estimation!
Perhaps my parenting priorities need some tweaking. Forget success and potential and conquering the world: I want to teach my children to love. Not as an afterthought, but as the main purpose of their lives. And that means showing them how to serve. What does that look like? Well, I'm pretty sure it starts at home with serving each other. And it involves expanding their world so they develop compassion for people who are hurting. It includes service projects and missions trips and serving at church. And, perhaps most of all, it means setting an example of loving, humble service that doesn't look down on anyone or any task. It means being cheerful and content with my own profession of laundry and dishes and diaper-changing and nose-wiping.