Denying Yourself – As a Parent

It was a lazy Saturday morning and I had just finished making waffles for me and my wife. Our son had already left to hang out with some friends for the day and our daughter was relaxing while watching one of her favorite TV shows. There was nothing on the agenda for the day, so I was going to be free to do what I wanted. I have a big project I’ve been working on in our backyard for the last few months and I was looking forward to heading outside for a few hours to get a part of it done. After cleaning up the kitchen, I started to get dressed to head out to my happy place. 

Just as I had changed and was literally heading towards the back door, our daughter stopped me. You see, over the past several months she has gotten into baking and creating sweets in the kitchen. Our family loves making (and eating) white chocolate covered pretzels. We do it every Christmas season. We add sprinkles and have a great time in the kitchen together. Christmas season was long gone, so I was surprised when she asked me to join her in the kitchen to make a batch of pretzels. 

In that moment, it was decision time for me. I had already had my daily dose of “kitchen time” with the pancakes. I had a plan, and I was excited about my day ahead. I had to make a split-second decision about whether or not I was going to stay with my agenda and go outside or deny myself and spend time with (and serve) my daughter. In some ways, I wanted to head outside and tell her I already had plans. Thankfully, I was prompted (I believe by God) to say “no” to my plans and to say “yes” to time with my daughter, which I believe is a form of following Jesus. Honestly, I had a great time and I wouldn’t trade that experience with my daughter for any amount of time in the back yard.

As I thought about this Saturday morning decision, I remembered the words Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 16:24: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” I know that this verse points us to sacrifice in order to follow Jesus, but I believe that following Jesus often practically plays itself out in how we deny ourselves in the context of our relationships with others. Our faith gets worked out and displayed when we pay attention to and serve others. Philippians 2:3-4 says, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

I believe that the most important place in life for me to deny myself, be humble, and look after the interests of others is in my home with my family – and that’s HARD!  I often want to go work in the yard or go play golf or get lost in the things that I like to do, but God is calling me to put my agenda aside, deny myself, and serve those around me – starting with my family. I need to model to my kids what it looks like to serve others and stay in the moments God gives me to share his love through how I love those around me. I need to say “yes” to more things like making pretzels and show those I love how valuable they are to me. In the long run, learning this discipline will pay off for both me and those around me. I will hopefully become more and more like Jesus and my family will feel the love of Christ in a tangible way. Understanding this bigger picture helps me embrace the idea that my agenda can wait.