Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. (Proverbs 1:8–9)
Directions have existed since creation. Why? Because contrary to what modern culture attempts to assert, everything has a unique design and purpose and can only truly function if it does what it’s designed to do. When God created sea creatures, he established directions: fill the sea and reproduce. Fish must function in this design, or they would fail to exist. If all the fish relocated to trees or stopped laying eggs, guess what? There would be no fish! God’s design, purpose, and direction for sexuality, too, has existed since creation. Sex matters to God, so it understandably matters to parents who fear the Lord. But what do you do with God’s directions for sex when, on your daughter’s 18th birthday, she leaves home to live with her boyfriend? Or when your married son, the father of three of your grandchildren, feels compelled that his only hope for happiness is to begin hormone treatment to transition and become a female?
Life Comes with Directions
Just as fish need directions, so too do children, parents, and all people to live godly lives (2 Tim. 3:16). Parents, even if your adult child is rejecting biblical direction, that direction is still good and necessary. Compromising your conviction to biblical truth is not the answer; the goal must be to learn to steward biblical teaching as if it is a champion’s graceful garland and pendant. A trophy’s value is rooted in the fact that it must be earned. To receive the trophy, an athlete must meet an unwavering standard; otherwise, the prize would mean nothing. Let the same be said of your teaching. Don’t compromise the truth. Don’t waver for the sake of presenting teaching your child will accept; to do so is to strip its value. Instead, pray that God would bring victory in your child’s heart, that he or she would come and receive your direction as only a Spirit-changed and empowered champion can: one who is willing to run to achieve the goal and, in doing so, reap the reward.
There’s Still Hope When Your Child Ignores Direction
We all know the stereotypical story where the dad on the road trip refuses to use the map or ask for directions. Normally, those stories end with him getting so lost he finally caves in and pulls out the map or asks a local for help. Now apply this story to your wayward child. The profoundly hopeful lesson parents need to cling to is that getting lost can be a great way to realize you need directions! It could be that your child’s very lost-ness is what the Lord will use to show him how much he needs help.
I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. (2 Corinthians 7:9)
Praise God for this verse! Parents, I cannot imagine what it’s like to watch the child you conceived and raised dig their own grave of sin. But I can, with confidence, urge you to look to the light even from that dark place. Joy and sorrow can co-exist. You can endure by clinging to the fact that as deep, ongoing, or lasting as sin may be, the hope of repentance is still possible. The darker the night, the more clearly light shines.
Don’t Become the Missing Directions
My mom is the definition of frugal, and I say that with the greatest admiration. Her ability to use Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist to make every Christmas better than the last is astounding to me. However, one occasional problem with a pre-owned gift is the missing directions. We can figure out how to use most every directionless gift, but there’s always that one we can’t figure out that forces us to resort to YouTube tutorials.
The profoundly hopeful lesson parents need to cling to is that getting lost can be a great way to realize you need directions.
The reality is that everyone, at one point or another, is looking for directions to life. Like my family at Christmas, everyone who cannot find direction from one source goes to another. Sometimes we look to ourselves, and at other times we look to peers, politics, bosses, or our favorite social influencers. Parents, if you allow bitterness, resentment, or anger to drive you to remove yourselves from your sexually struggling child’s life, your child will still spend the rest of her life searching for direction—she just won’t come to you for it.
But what if you’re already the one your child won’t come to? There are many things that could be said, but find hope in Paul’s vision of discipleship:
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Cor. 3:6–9)
Remember that God is, ultimately, the one who pursues your child, and you are not his only means of that pursuit. Trust in the glorious truth that God saves a people—a body—a church. God’s pursuit of your child is not bound to a specific bubble of influence. God is using the full interwoven tapestry of his chosen people, spread throughout the world, as a part of his outreach to the lost, including your lost child.
Is It Easy to Get Direction from You?
Maybe you know a guy like my dad—he likes to be the one to get the mail out of the mailbox. I guess he finds joy in the habit of it. As a family, we try to respect that, but the problem with this habit is where the mail ends up. The family calls it “dad’s basket.” It should just be called a mess. For any chance of easily receiving a letter without having to wrestle through “dad’s basket,” you must greet him at the door to look through the mail before it lands in the dreaded basket.
God is using the full interwoven tapestry of his chosen people, spread throughout the world, as a part of his outreach to the lost, including your lost child.
Parents, where does your child have to go to find direction from you? Will they have to wrestle through a mess, or will they know that all they need to do is greet you at the door to receive what they need with love and joy?
[B]ut in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)
As parents who love the Lord, your adult children are blessed to have your influence in their lives. Continue loving them. Pray for patience to entrust them to the Lord in their wandering, even as you prepare to offer godly direction with gentleness and respect. Remember where your hope rests—in this uncertainty, there is certainty that your Savior, who shared in your suffering, promises to sustain you into shared glory forever with him. Therefore, there is always a place for hope in your struggling heart.
Caitlin McCaffrey’s post, “Women Are Struggling Too: The Sobering Statistics and How to Respond,” is challenging. After citing various statistics, Caitlin writes, “Single evangelical women are potentially the demographic most rapidly abandoning a biblical sexual ethic in churches today.” That sentence put a pit in my stomach for two main reasons:
1. The beauty of womanhood. My mom and grandmothers, the wives who’ve brought joy and edification to close friends, the women I serve with at Harvest USA, my girlfriend—I hold these women in high esteem. That deep affection largely hinges on their femininity. Our culture has distorted this word, but God defines it: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised” (Prov. 31:30). Biblical femininity is not bound by culturally established “girly-girl” charm, beauty, or behavior. It is about female image-bearers courageously fearing the Lord in whatever role, place, or season he has placed them. Such virtue deserves praise.
2. Men are partly to blame for our sisters’ struggles regarding sexuality and gender. Harvest USA’s Sexual Sanity for Men warns that “Sexual sin not only emasculates us through robbing us of strength and enslaving our souls, it places us outside God’s design and calling” (32). I asked Caitlin why she thought these single evangelical sisters are likewise “de-feminizing” themselves through sexual sin. Men, we hold a piece of the blame. In our apathy as potential servant leaders, in our captivity to habitual sexual sin, we are a stumbling block to our sisters.
Sisters, I want to give you hope and motivation for remaining steadfast to the Lord. And to my brothers in Christ, how can we better serve the women God has placed in our lives? We can begin by remembering some key truths.
We Are God’s Image-Bearers
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
We have human value because the Creator made us in his image. To be human is to reflect God’s image and therefore proclaim his worship. God establishes male and female. Sister, you are, at your core, human—made to worship God. But God has also chosen you to be a woman. As a woman, you uniquely radiate worship to your Creator. Male and female humanity echo distinct praise to our beautiful Lord.
Brothers, how do you value your sisters in Christ? Do you see women as a commodity whose value is rooted in your sexual or relational self-centered desires? God forbid! These are your co-image bearers. Their value is rooted in the same reality as yours—created in the image of God, established by our Creator to worship him.
We Are Seen and Received
And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that (Jesus) was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. (Luke 7:37–38)
Bask in the unique, tender beauty of this woman’s worship—her devoted courage to go into the lion’s den of judgmental pharisees. What honoring consideration of beauty and value to bring exquisitely expensive perfume to pour upon her glorious God. What a humble, tender, and personal act to lay on Christ her own tears, worshiping him with her emotions and serving her Master with her lips and hair. Look at Christ’s response: “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much” (Luke 7:47). This woman was truly seen by Christ. He received her loving act of faith as excellent worship.
Brothers, we live in a culture of double standards. Has hypocrisy invaded our hearts? Do we view our sexual sin as soberly as the sexual sins of women? We all need to go to our Savior with a broken and contrite heart as this woman did, knowing that Christ receives it as a loving act of faith. He is abundantly forgiving. If we have received his forgiveness, how dare we see sister believers as anything other than his beloved children?
We Are Co-Laborers
Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women . . . who provided for them out of their means. (Luke 8:1–3)
Who accompanied Jesus on his mission? The twelve male disciples and some women, who uniquely helped Jesus and the twelve. The worship of the woman washing Jesus’s feet was not a one-off incident or fluke. Women participated throughout the entire unfolding of Christ’s ministry as a vital part of it.
Brothers, are you co-laboring with your sisters in Christ? Are you recognizing your sisters for what they bring to the table as you work in unity to serve the Lord? This passage is meaningful to my heart because dear sisters are the foundation of my financial support here at Harvest USA. I’m a living testament to the necessary value women bring into Kingdom-building efforts.
We Are Called to Serve
(Older women) are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. (Titus 2:3b–5)
Women were a vital part of Jesus’s ministry and they’re vital to every generation of the church. God is glorified by continual generations of godly women serving as part of his body—part of his bride.
Brothers, when you consider the future of Christianity, do you wonder who will be your church’s pastor or the next generation’s Billy Graham, R. C. Sproul, or John Piper? I encourage you to expand your vision, so it matches Paul’s. Who will be the next generation of godly women? Encourage your sisters with the fact that they are needed, called, and can rise to the occasion by the power of God’s Spirit and the church’s support.
When men and women fear the Lord, it impacts the whole body of Christ. Brothers, let’s open our eyes to our sisters’ struggles with sexual sin and come alongside them as fellow image-bearers, equally forgiven by Christ’s lavish mercy, and co-laborers for his glory.