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There is a phrase that I constantly heard, prior to becoming a parent, and which I now deploy, having children of my own: “Until you have kids, you can’t understand.”

And it’s true: non-parents simply cannot understand the crazy, unending stress of living with tiny humans 24/7.

baby jumping in swimming poolThey can’t understand the exhaustion, the getting-pooped-on, the messes. They can’t understand the new-found capacity for love, as though your heart has burst from your chest and is now running around the house in the form of a half-naked toddler.

“You can’t understand” isn’t a statement of judgment or condescension—it’s just a fact. Until you have kids, there’s no way to understand how children upend your life, completely and utterly.

Unfortunately, though, some folks make use of that upending as an excuse to check out on previous commitments. “I can’t make it because of the baby” is the go-to excuse of the new parent. The danger, though, is that Baby will become the one undeniable reality in your life.

In other words: Baby becomes your god.

The exhaustion, the getting-pooped-on, the messes. #parenting Click To Tweet

Idols in the Family

I recently read Jim Elliff’s wonderful piece When Ball Becomes Baal (from which the title of this article has been shamelessly pilfered), about the way that children’s sports can become an idol.

“How does ball become Baal?” Elliff asks. “Answer: When it controls you, and you give it devoted worship. It is around your god that you order your life—and you can almost never say ‘no’ to it.”

baby sleepingAccording to this definition of idolatry, if Baby controls us, if we order our lives around Baby, then truly, Baby has become Baal.

For those of us leading in the churches, it is a familiar story: young John and Jane come up in the youth group, growing by leaps and bounds; maybe they even take on student leadership positions.

When they graduate, they cruise into college with ease, taking their place among the adults of the church. They graduate, and marry, and quickly become trusted young leaders in your church.

And then along comes little Jimmy, and John and Jane check out, with little Jimmy their perennial excuse.

This tendency, which I have observed time and again, is dangerous to the life of the church, just as any other form of idolatry would be.

John and Jane, pressed for time, harried and exhausted, check out on their own development, stalling in their growth in the faith. They increasingly withdraw from the life of the church, skipping bible studies, small group meetings, Sunday evening church—often never to return.

And why wouldn’t they? They worship a new god now.

If every member of the #church has some service to perform, or gift to offer, then we cannot… Click To Tweet

Avoiding Baby Worship

A photo by Giu Vicente. readily acknowledge that this is provocative language, and that not all parents fall under the sway of this greedy new idol. Yet the deification of Baby is a deadly serious problem in the church.

To solve it, we must recognize that we are meant to worship God with all of our lives, for our entire lives. To be sure, this will take different forms as we move through our different life phases. But we cannot simply check out, and worship a new god, even one so helpless—and cute!—as Baby.

If every member of the church has some service to perform, or gift to offer, then we cannot afford to lose anyone—even our young parents.

The solution has to be a single-minded devotion to worshipping the God with all of who we are. If we take the perspective that we honor God with our whole lives, it means we cannot check out, even if Baby presents a powerful temptation to do so.

Rather, we see all our activities as worship. We worship him in our work, in our service to the church, in our care for the poor of our city, in our love for one another. We worship God as we raise our kids, no less than when we raise our hands as we sing.

Children require us to find a new balance of life before the Lord, but they must not take over our lives. The upending power of children means that we have a new opportunity to honor God with our whole lives but it does not—and cannot—mean that Baby becomes our life.


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