This is something I wrote last November for a personal blog…
As I sat at Starbucks this morning, trying out the new Thanksgiving brew from the new Christmas cups, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between two couples about their sons and baseball. Essentially, they were conversing about their sons’ involvement with travel baseball teams and their hopes for their sons’ futures. They were there before I sat down and continued to talk about this for the next hour and a half…the philosophy of coaching, the age when you should get your son involved in travel ball (8 years old!), training techniques, their most recent trip to Coopertown, and more. Without knowing these people and their thinking (a huge disclaimer), it appears that they have wrapped their lives around the baseball careers of their 12 year old sons…practices 5-6 days a week, year-round training, multiple trips across the country, and a lot of money.
Unfortunately, this conversation is all too common in Southern California (and probably across the US). I’m not against travel sports (I played club soccer…therefore it can’t be wrong) and I’m all for using God-given ability, but some families in my city have turned the athletic success of their kids into an idol. Some may do it for the guaranteed college scholarship, some to live through their kid’s achievement, and some for the recognition it will bring among their peers…who doesn’t want to say at your next Christmas party, “Johnny’s bowling team won the World Amateur Bowling Championship again this year!”. The hope of gaining these idols of success, achievement, security from a scholarship, or recognition control people…these idols control their time and their money. As parents, it’s easy to write it off as, “I just want what’s best for little Jerry.” However, so often our identity and happiness is wrapped up in seeing our kids succeed.
While it’s easy to point the finger at the moms and dads yelling at the refs on the sidelines, we all do this same thing. We make our kids’ academic success into an idol, their social success, and even their spiritual health. We make our joy and meaning dependent on whether or not they get into that college, they have friends who like them, or they end up being a godly young man or woman.
Is it wrong to desire success for our kids and help them achieve it? Absolutely not…the problem comes when our life, meaning, and joy becomes contingent upon their success. Often without realizing it, we have made their success into our god…responsible to give our lives meaning, purpose, and joy.
The problem is that when we do this, instead of helping our kids…we crush them. When the expectation is placed upon them, often unsaid, to bring you ultimate joy and meaning in life, you are placing a weight of expectation on them that they cannot handle. They cannot give you the ultimate joy and meaning you seek. All the sacrifice you make for them to succeed may look good on the outside. But without knowing it, you may be crushing them instead of helping them live. Even though its somewhat cliche, there is a lot of truth to the overplayed theme in movies of sons who are driven away by their father’s unrealistic expectation. Father’s turn their sons into gods…looking to them for meaning in life…and in effect crush their sons by the weight of expectation.
This same crushing expectation will ruin careers (when your joy and meaning is dependent on your own career success), will ruin relationships and marriages (joy is dependent on your spouse), and ultimately yourself (when joy is dependent on your own personal success).
There is, however, One who wants to take the weight of your expectation and can actually bear it. He calls us to come and cast our cares upon Him. He will give rest to the weary soul that has been trying to carry this weight. Our loving Father is the One who is actually able to offer ultimate joy, meaning, significance, and life. He calls to us,
“Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, according to the faithful mercies shown to David.” (Isaiah 55:1-3)
How does our Father offer this ultimate joy, life, and meaning so that we can truly enjoy our sons and not crush them by expectation? He offers it by crushing His own Son so that we would not need to crush ours. Rather than placing our need for joy and meaning on our own sons, God the Father placed our need for joy and meaning on His own Son, Jesus. And Jesus delivers. Rather than being ultimately destroyed, Jesus rose three days later in victory and is able to carry the extreme weight of our expectation and need for joy and life. Therefore God tells us, “Cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
When we look to our heavenly Father for ultimate joy and meaning, then we will be able to truly enjoy our careers, our marriages, and our kids. Instead of crushing them, we will give life to them and enjoy them as they were designed to be enjoyed.
Only when God is your ultimate joy and hope will you be able to truly celebrate your son’s next home-run.