Helping Our Children Feel Loved by God
Welcome to a new week on the Ask Pastor John podcast. We have a big week ahead as we come upon Easter. Today we are joined again by our friend Ray Ortlund, author, and senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee.
Ray, the Ortlund family has a long and wonderful history when it comes to fruitful gospel ministry, and marriage, and parenting. Those three categories come to mind when I think of the Ortlund family legacy — gospel ministry, marriage, parenting — which is an astounding legacy to watch from a distance. We talked about marriage earlier, in episode #559. We will talk gospel soon. Here I want to talk about parenting.
Some people will know your dad was a wonderfully gifted preacher and pastor, and his influence on a young John Piper was profound. Pastor John shared that story in episode #172 of this podcast series. In what ways did your father impact you as a child? In turn, what did you seek to instill in your three sons and daughter when they were young?
Let me just paint the picture of a moment with my dad that is very dear to me.
Parenting to the Heart
We were in the front yard, and I was ten or twelve years old — I forget. And we were, I guess, doing yard work. And whatever the context was, I can’t pull that up in my memory, but he turned to me and he looked me right in the eye in the middle of our conversation, and he said, “You know, bud, before time began, God chose you.”
I think my eyes got real big, you know. In my heart I thought, “Oh, come on. You mean God Almighty in heaven, way back then, sought a little tiny me?” And I felt so loved. I felt loved by God. It filled my heart with wonder so that years later when I heard about the doctrine of election, and some of my friends with whom I was dialoging about that had difficulty with it and resisted it, I had no problem at all. I thought it was wonderful. And it was obviously biblical. My dad had really helped me — years before in a moment of theological education that I didn’t realize was that — he helped me at the level of my heart to feel the love of God in the doctrine of election.
But when Janni and I raised our kids, we just decided to love it. Sometimes parents treat parenting as if it is some kind of death sentence. I mean, we loved it; we decided to love it. And, Tony, we just thought through: What kind of environment are we going to create for these precious children as their most formative experience to give them the best start in life?
And we just had a conviction that the glory of the Lord is ultimate reality. I thought of Exodus 33:18–19. Moses prayed, “Please show me your glory.” And the Lord said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you.” So ultimate reality is the glorious goodness of God. And we just wanted to create a home environment where our children would find that easy to believe.
So we tried to in-load joy and sincerity and tenderness and love and wisdom and gentleness and laughter — with discipline and boundaries too, because that is part of God’s goodness. And I don’t know how successful we were in that effort, but that is what we tried to do because we just believed that ultimate reality is not darkness and despair, but just the glorious goodness of God.