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Relationships

Kids are a gift.

Kids are a gift.

A Google search for “quotes about children” yields countless insights from writers, leaders, and thinkers praising children as a gift.

But when I did a similar search about marriage and kids, I found a growing body of research saying that couples without children are actually happier and more content.

As I considered both searches, I realized that they are reflective of a tension in our culture about children; namely, that while having kids is technically good for society, they can also mess with our careers, our romantic lives, and our personal plans.

In fact, as I talk with individuals and couples without kids, I find this very tension expressed in a variety of ways. Some say they would like to have kids, but after the next move in their career or after they have had a couple of years for each other first. Others say they never want to have kids because they would get in the way of living life the way they want.

In each case, the tension remains: kids are theoretically good, but practically problematic.

But what if kids are actually a gift, as the initial group of quotes claim? Personally I believe they are, and I want to highlight three ways I think children are blessings that help us experience life in ways we would otherwise miss.

A Mirror for Character

Robert Fulghum, the bestselling author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, once wrote, “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”

Anyone who has spent 5 minutes with a kid knows how true this is—they are always watching and mimicking. In so many ways, they are mirrors, reflecting back what they see on a daily basis. They often put on display, in both hilarious and embarrassing ways, the very best and worst of us.

But this is also a gift. For many of us—myself included—self-awareness does not come naturally. Furthermore, we live in a world of polite facade, in which we rarely hear from others about our faults before it is too late. We occasionally get a harsh glimpse of them when we’re dumped or fired. But rarely do we receive the lighthearted and daily feedback that we need in order to grow in character.

That’s where kids come in. In their ongoing attempts to “be a big kid” they often put our own behaviors front and center as they try to learn how to navigate this world by walking in our shoes (sometimes literally). And it naturally raises the question: “Is that the kind of person I want to be?”

Our children become a lesson in character development, as we not only teach them what it means to grow up, but as we learn to grow up ourselves.

Joyful Interruptions

Often my days are filled with projects, meetings, and deadlines. Life moves at a hectic pace, and I often fail to recognize the fatigue that creeps in.

And that is when my kids interrupt. They break the busy cycles of my life with requests to wrestle, play, build, read, and imagine. They interrupt with countless questions in their never ceasing drive to know “Why?” My first instinct is to get frustrated.

But increasingly I’m learning to view these interruptions as gifts that force me to slow down and realize that there is more to life than my to-do list. Were it not for my kids, I could easily get wrapped up in more projects, never really pausing to literally smell the roses with my daughters or taste the wind as I run after my son. I would never stop to ask the question “Why am I doing this?” were it not for the constant “whys” streaming from their lips.

Kids force us to slow down and enjoy life. To stand in wonder of the things that we, as adults, so often take for granted. To marvel at the beauty of the outdoors, to enjoy a lazy afternoon in imagination and play, to delight in a story well-told.

Kids are joyful interruptions in a life that can so quickly pass us by.

Insight Into God

I also see children revealing an important truth about God. Here’s what I mean.

Our society defines a person’s worth by their ability to produce something of value. We are paid based on hours worked. We are rewarded for excellence, pursued for our beauty, respected for our achievements.

As such, there is a constant pressure to perform. To borrow an increasingly common phrase, we have become human doings.

But not so with kids. One of the first things that new parents realize is that their children are pretty useless. Kids are born into this world unable to to anything for themselves. They need to be taught how to eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom; all things that we take for granted as self-sufficient adults.

Still, we love them. As parents, we get wrapped up in our kids as we care for their needs.

Which is why it’s so fascinating that Jesus uses the parent-child relationship to define what it means to have a relationship with God. He repeatedly says, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

His point is that just as parents love their children unconditionally, so God loves us. He doesn’t love us because we behave or work hard. He loves us because we are his kids.

In a world where both life and faith are viewed through the lens of our performance, Jesus turns the whole system on its head. He dares to show us that God loves us as a Father loves His little children, tantrums and all.

This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on parenting from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.

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Nick Price (M.Div, Concordia Seminary) currently serves as the Site Pastor of Trinity Kimberly Way in Lisle, IL. When they're not already chasing their three kids, he and his wife, Jenny, love to compete in races and triathlons.

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