The choices we make

May 2, 2018

According to the National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools, 71 percent of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes.

The person who informed me of this percentage asked, “Since your boys have been raised without the influence of a father in the home, how have you prepared them to not be a statistic?”
For a few minutes I was speechless – which is huge for me. The realization that my two sons could have fallen through the cracks and given in to feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, despair and low self-esteem to the point that dropping out would be the best solution, caused me to reply, “For by the grace of God they didn’t.”

For any type of failure, as a Christ-follower, I know that God’s grace covers me, protects me and, at the same time, is a mystery to me. Why things happen to certain people or why things don’t happen to certain people is not adequately answered for me on this side of heaven. However, I do know that there are Scripture passages that provide answers in how we should live.

Following His teachings
For our single-family home, I chose to raise my boys on God’s Word. According to 2 Timothy 3:14-17, God’s Word is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and for training. Why would I look to the current self-help books over God’s Word?

We had family devotions starting from when my boys were young. They knew our morals and values were based on the principles set in the Bible. But these principles couldn’t be mentioned just a few times while they grew. They had to be said as often as possible during every teachable moment. Looking for ways to provide the “why” to how they acted was due to our faith system.

One way we put these principles into practice was by reaching out to others because that’s what Jesus did. He called us to love our neighbors even when their lifestyle was opposite of how we lived.

I practiced instilling into my boys that I expected them to be the change-maker in their friendships – to be the one that stood up for what they believed even when their friends wanted to throw it all away. I constantly repeated to them that we weren’t meant for this world and that God had bigger plans for us than we could imagine. The temptations may look enjoyable, but they bring pain and guilt over time. We were made for so much more!

With each choice we make, we are either drawn closer to God or further away.

Following His voice
As my boys grew older and spent more time with media, I had to make sure the things of God were discussed even more than during their younger years. There were so many voices being poured into their lives that if I was not consistent, my voice would be drowned out over time. 

This meant spending time with them by talking and discussing issues going on in their world. I explained to them the how and why behind what I did with my life. For me, it boils down to a choice – to choose things that lead me closer to the Lord or further away. I explained to them that the two words in responsibility are response  and ability. That means I have the ability to respond to the things I’m responsible for in one of two ways – positively or negatively. I’m responsible for all the choices I make in life. No one can make me do anything. 

Following His image
I raised my boys based on Jeremiah 29:11. I knew that God had and has a plan for them, to prosper them, not to harm them. NASA set rockets on a trajectory to reach the moon, however if that rocket was off just a small amount, time and distance would place them on a different course that may miss the moon.

With each choice we make, we are either drawn closer to God or further away. A lifetime of poor choices could end on a different course that may miss God’s plan for us, or at least would have us carry burdens and circumstances that may have been avoided if we had stayed closer to God’s Word. 

When I asked both of my boys how they had remained walking with the Lord during high school and college, they said that image was so deeply woven in their minds that they wanted to see what God had for them instead of giving into temptations that might change that course. 

My boys and I have a great relationship that involves open, honest conversations, digging into Scripture for truths to live by, as well as supporting each other through prayer. It hasn’t always been easy, but we keep the communication open, we don’t play the blame game and we give  forgiveness when hurts arise.

I model for my boys not only my shortcomings, but how to love and serve others. We took our first mission trip as a family to Haiti, which led to my boys both serving overseas. Both of them have discovered their talents and gifts from the Lord and are using it to spread the gospel. My oldest son coached basketball as a way to witness. My youngest son played drums in a worship band while teaching others in four countries how to lead worship. Their heart’s desire is for all to hear of the saving grace given through Jesus Christ by using their unique talents God gave them.

They caught this vision in the day-to-day hustle of a single-parent home that relied on a great big God who is able to take our hurts, failures, struggles and doubts and bring healing. We aren’t promised more than the day we live right now. Each morning brings a brand new day and new possibilities to live for Christ, using whatever we have to make Jesus famous, and giving thanks for the things we do have.

by Merrie Johnson  
/  Youth Evangelism and Discipleship /  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

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