If you’ve ever pursued the goal of graduation, started a full-scale home remodel, or sat down at an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, then you’re probably familiar with this phrase:
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Back in December, I experienced first hand the origin of that phrase as I coughed, wheezed, and pounded my way through the 26.2 miles of the Dallas Marathon. While I’ve tried to repress the image of men and women probably twice my age passing me as I crossed the finish line (some may have had prosthetics), the race did cause to me reflect on the numerous undertakings in life that require the mentality captured in that familiar phrase.
The marathon is a race that demands perseverance, determination, and endurance. Even when the miles seem to be getting longer and the finish line feels like an eternity away, you continue to put one foot in front of the other. Even when you hit the dreaded “wall” at mile 21 (the point where many marathoners run low on energy and hope), you keep pressing on, knowing that the payoffs far outweigh the pain.
And then there’s the task of parenting.
There are times when you feel like you could run forever, and other times when you feel like you’ve hit “the wall” – usually about the time your sweet, innocent child becomes a teenager with hormones and an attitude.
So how do you stay in the race? How do you keep motivated to press on in the journey of raising students in such a way as to show them the light and love of Christ everyday?
Being the father of a 14-month old daughter (with another girl arriving in June), I’m barely a mile into this race – my shoes aren’t even dirty yet! So, I’ve enlisted the wisdom and insight of two seasoned runners – Doug and Jamie Smith from Abilene, Texas – to shed some light on the marathon that is parenting. By God’s grace and guidance, Doug and Jamie have raised two boys who are now men that love Jesus with their whole hearts (in other words, they’ve run the race…and won BIG!)
Here’s some advice they gave on running the marathon of parenting:
Jamie said, “Examine your ‘rules’. Our parenting standard has always been the Bible. If we can show how and why we set up our boundaries based on the Word, then they have more validity. If we believe and teach them that God sets up boundaries for our good and not to deny us, then they are easier to accept.”
Doug added, “Tie consequences to their decisions. Most of the time, natural consequences are the best teacher – unless, of course, it endangers themselves or others.”
Jamie emphasized keeping channels of communication open, saying, “Communication is paramount! Don’t overreact when your teenager does share with you, or they may not be willing to tell you things in the future. Be honest with them about your own mistakes and sins, and the consequences that you have suffered. I think my kids did better than I did because I shared these things with them, and that I wanted more for them.”
Conflict is almost inevitable when parenting teenagers, and Doug brought this advice, “Choose your battles. For example, even though the boys chose hairstyles I didn’t particularly care for, I didn’t want to spend my energy fighting them over it. Jamie and I always tried to reserve our energy for more important issues.” Jamie added, “We told our kids we trusted them until they gave us reason not to. We told them up front that if they broke our trust, it would be difficult to gain it back.”
Some of the most refreshing wisdom Doug and Jamie had to offer was calling they felt to demonstrate Christ’s love to their children. “We tried to serve them,” Doug explained. “It took me quite a while to realize that my responsibility as a husband and father was to serve my family – to selflessly put their interests above my own. I’m not saying I was always successful in doing so, but that mindset assisted greatly in their teenage years.”
Doug went on to say, “Teach by example, even when it’s hard. The truth is, you will teach by example, whether you intend to or not.”
That’s some sage advice from parents who have some miles on their shoes, and the mud stains to prove it. In Hebrews 12:1-2, we’re reminded to “…run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…”
When it comes to raising our kids in Christ, remember: it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Grab some Gatorade.