Many parents make idols of their children. They skip Sunday worship services and neglect ministries to support their children’s extracurricular activities. What they don’t realize is that their children’s success or happiness doesn’t depend on how much energy they put into their children. It depends on God.
When I decided to go to seminary, my son Danny was 9 years old and my daughter Christine was 8. My wife took my decision hard. Like a lot of Koreans from my generation who went through many hardships including the Korean War, neither my wife nor I were well to do financially when we were growing up. We couldn’t do many things we wanted to because we lacked financial resources. So my wife’s dream was to support our children to develop their full potential. She felt that I was destroying our children’s futures by quitting my job and going to seminary.
I still remember what I said to persuade her. I held her hands and said, “If I had decided to go to seminary for my own pleasure, yes, you’re right: I’m hurting our children’s futures. But if I made the decision because God called me to pastoral ministry, I’m not ruining our children’s futures but guaranteeing them the best future, because God will help them.”
I attended Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, located 90 miles from where I lived. During the week, I stayed in the seminary’s dormitory while taking classes. My wife had to go to all my children’s school events alone; some thought she was a single mother. I couldn’t find much time to spend with my children on weekends either because I was working as church staff.
My greatest fear during that time was that my children might fall away from the faith. I had seen many pastors’ children fall from faith; some even stopped attending church. My guess was that they had been hurt by church members or disappointed by their parents. But there was nothing I could do for my own children except pray.
After I graduated from seminary, my busy schedule continued. I still couldn’t find much time to spend with my children. Before I knew it, I was a 60-year-old pastor.
For my 60th birthday, my daughter-in-law Jieun made a 4-page newsletter entitled “The Chai Chronicles”. She collected anecdotes about me from my family and relatives. Danny wrote an article: “What I remember about my dad.” He ended it by saying, “I’ve never met anyone who tried harder than my father to follow God’s will. If I live a life half good as his, I’d consider it a success.”
When I read this sentence, my eyes filled up with tears. The highest honor a father can receive is respect from his children. Instead of resentment, I received respect. That was the moment that confirmed to me the truthfulness of God’s promise and His faithfulness: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matt 6:33)”
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