Today my parents and brothers and sisters and brothers-in-law and nieces and nephews are gathering in a little house in Chattanooga. Forty years ago today, the third of June of 1972, was a double celebration for my parents: my father marked his twenty-third birthday and he married my mother. Both had been born and raised in Quebec, one of the most unchurched areas in all of North America, yet against all odds both had recently encountered the gospel and been saved. Fresh out of university, they began life together. Andrew, my older brother, came into the world almost a year after they were married, and he was soon followed by me and then by three girls. By the time my parents celebrated their fifteenth anniversary, they had five children.
Today four of those children have settled in Atlanta or Chattanooga or somewhere between, while one, this one, remains in Canada. Four children are married and between us we have been blessed with children of our own—twelve grandchildren for my parents (with one of my sisters having recently announced that number thirteen is on the way). The Lord has been so kind to my family.
As I ponder forty years of marriage, more than thirty-six of which I witnessed either up-close or from some distance, I find myself wondering this: How do you measure success as parents? What is a fair and realistic measure? Is it subjective, based on thoughts and feelings and impressions? Is it objective, based on numbers and statistics and dollar figures? I don’t know. What I do know is that the Bible provides a simple and overarching command to every parent: raise your children in the discipline and the instruction of the Lord. According to that measure my parents experienced an abundance of the Lord’s grace and were successful. Today each one of the five children professes faith in Christ and each one is living as if that profession is genuine.
Yesterday I sat for some time and pondered their success. I looked to my own life and my own parenting to see what lessons I’ve drawn from my parents and applied to my own family. There are four that stood out.