Wednesday, 13 March 2013


It seems that we are beginning a new phase of Toby's life which is based on academic achievement and striving. I watch my teenage friends barely standing up under the pressure of school's demands and wonder how my boy is going to cope.

Toby is a bright boy, there's no denying it. Not only is he bright, but he's also driven by achievement. There is nothing wrong with this if it motivates him to succeed in school, and we want to encourage him to always do his best and not hold him back. But out job is not only to see that he achieves in school. Our job is to ensure that he is well rounded, has good character and knows where his identity lies.

All too often I see, particularly teenagers but adults too, placing their identity in the things they have achieved in life. If they will pass these exams then they will have an important status or job. If they work a bit harder they'll be moved to the top set and will become one of the elite. If they achieve, they can earn more money. If they get the right grades, they can accept themselves and love themselves. What if they fail? Self-harm amongst teenagers is on the increase and this, I believe, is partly to do with the pressure of never being good enough.

But our identity isn't in our achievements. Our identity is in who we were made to be. Our job as parents is to teach our children where their security is. We are loved, whatever we do or don't achieve. We were named and known about before the world was even made. (I know this won't be to everyone's taste, but I'm not going to apologise). We are secure in the arms of our Father in heaven, who has good plans for us. If our identity is wrapped up in academic or career achievements, we can easily lose sight of these truths.

And God has a habit of choosing those people whom nobody else would choose. Moses was a murderer. David was a murderer and an adulterer. Abraham was very, very old. Jeremiah was very, very young. Joshua was nervous and afraid. Ruth wasn't of the right nationality. Hosea married a prostitute. Paul killed christians. The list is endless. But what God saw in these people was a heart that loved him, despite their failures, and trusted him. They placed their identity and security in the One who said "I choose you".

I'm not anti-achievement. I can't be when I have a son who seems to fly through school. I want him to do his best. But that's not the be-all and end-all in life. What I want most for my boy is that he loves, serves and follows the One who has chosen him. I want him to understand how deeply he is loved and cherished. I want him to know that, even if he fails in the world's eyes, the truths that God says about him will never change. I want him to grow up to be a man of courage, full of fun and adventure but who unswervingly follows the call of his God.

Our job as parents of our children encompasses so much more than encouraging academic achievement, however important that is. Our role is to teach them who they are, and who they can be.

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