Life Lessons

 

Author Crawford Lorritts shares parenting tips to fathers from his book Lessons from a Life Coach. The book's unique devotional format keeps readers interested through its story-telling technique, and it's easy to read in small pockets of time. In a recent interview with In Touch, Lorritts invites readers to peer into his personal habits, which help him be a better father and family man.

"The Greatest Love of All" just reminds believers that the foundation of our faith–John 3:16–is also the motivation for how we live out our faith. What are some practical ways that you would give a father to really daily be driven by that motivation to give it all?

Well, I think there are some very practical things. Number one is really prioritizing your life and time and your decisions around your family, understanding that there's only three things that every man does that nobody else can do for him. No one can walk with God for him, but him; he owns that. Number two, nobody can be the husband of his wife for him, but him; he owns that. And number three, nobody can be the daddy of his children; he owns that.

So everything else in life is negotiable and somebody else can do for him. When he begins each day by realizing that that's the rock solid stuff, [that] those are the pillars of his life, then it helps him to keep in perspective all of the other issues. And it helps him to keep his priorities where they really need to be.

So I think a mindset is [the] first thing.

I think another practical way in which [a father] can demonstrate [God's] love is by keeping his promises with his kids. The truth of the matter is all we have and all we are really is based on what we say and our ability to keep our word and follow through on what we promise. Don't use promises as little kind of procrastination handles where you just promise somebody something or your kids something or your wife something to get them off your back. Promises are very, very sacred. Promises really are a window into your character. Will you do what you say you're going to do? So I think it's so very, very important to keep your promises.

That's another very practical way, and then another way is to practically write your kids into your palm pilot, Daytimer or whatever tool you use to keep your appointments and schedules. Let them know that they've got access to your heart, to your life. And spend time with them cultivating the relationship.

In "He's Been There" you tell the story of how someone related to you while you experienced the death of your child. To someone who's lost a child, how would you kind of coach a parent through that grieving process?

Well, you know I think sometimes you have to understand that God is greater than any given set of our circumstances, and grieve appropriately. It's right.

The first thing I would say is don't suppress it. Don't walk away from it, especially men. Sometimes the way we handle crises is by diversion or getting involved in our work or recreation or that kind of thing. The very first thing I would say is stop and embrace the pain. Don't run from it; embrace it.

Number two, however, don't empower the pain; don't let the pain become greater than the God of all comfort. God is not up in heaven wringing His hands wondering what to do over our incredible losses and tragedies. Keep your sight on God.

The third one is if you're married, as a couple, make sure you turn to each other and not from each other or on each other in a time of crises. It is amazing to me how the loss of life, after the loss of a child, the divorce rate skyrockets.

We don't tend to handle tragedy well. We tend to turn on the people that [are] closest to us in frustration. And make sure that we don't reject one another. Stay close to friends. Don't withdraw from people. Let others comfort you; let God speak through others.

Some of us have personalities that want to shut down when pressure, pain, or tragedy strikes us. That's not time to shut down. You know, David said in Psalm 23, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil," and certainly there are times in which we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but lift your eyes. There might be some brothers and sisters who are walking along the ridge with you, praying for you, wanting to comfort you, and [you need to] receive that comfort.

Another excerpt from the book that I enjoyed reading was your experience with your father at the Yankees game. It makes me think of parents of children who have strayed from their faith or who have never accepted the Lord personally. It can really cause its own kind of state of mourning for those parents. What do you think helps these parents the most as they try to learn to relate to those children?

Well, you know that's a difficult one. And anybody, we've got four kids, and any parent can either personally identify or if they've got any sense at all, they realize that their kids are only a quarter of an inch away from becoming a prodigal themselves. I think what we have to do as parents is stop controlling our children's lives or forcing our expectations, even right expectations, on them.

The hardest thing to do is to place your child in God's hands and trust God even when you see the child not only going the wrong way, but [also] getting worse. You know it is a supreme trust of our confidence in God and that as long as there's breath, as long as there's life, there's hope.

You know God doesn't give up on anybody. He's the God of resurrections; He's the God of the impossible; He can turn lives around. I've seen Him do it; our children have not been prodigals; they've gone through their little what I call "spiritual parentheses" times as kids do. But they're walking with God. But I've got great, great friends of mine whose children just made some wrong choices. And I have seen some marvelous things take place. Sometimes it's years before they internalize lessons or before they find the way back home.

The story of the prodigal son is a story that every parent who has a child that is wandering ought to spend time reading. Let God bring them to the end of themselves; pray a prayer like "God, spare their lives, but do whatever it takes to get their attention." Sometimes we turn to God when our foundations are shaking only to discover it's God whose shaking them. I don't just want to give empty words here . . .

There is enormous pain when you've done the very best you can as a parent to see your child for whatever reason yield to the influence of the enemy. But God, who raised the dead Jesus, can also raise up the spiritual input and lessons that that child has learned and bring them rushing back to the surface, and that's what you have to trust in. And I also would say sometimes as parents when we feel a sense of, we see our kids doing things that we've not trained them to do, they know better, there's this enormous sense of failure and this sense of comparison, you know. And so we withdraw, we're ashamed; we don't want other people to know. That's from the devil.

The thing that you have to do is engage the body of Christ to pray for your child, and humble yourself. And it's not a reflection on your parenting. God is the greatest Father of the world, yet you know He created Adam who screwed up. And it cost God His very Son. And so God understands. We need to humble ourselves and go to other people and get them involved in praying for us and open ourselves up for comfort, and don't let shame drive us into a shell and cause us to give into pride.

How do you think the excerpt titled "Religion or Relationship" speaks to those who want to raise their children with Christian values yet don't really have very intimate relationships with the Lord themselves?

Well again, pride is the homepage of all sin. And I think sometimes when we have been successful, and this is particularly the problem with second-generation Christians, when God has covered us and protected us not so much because of our prayers but the prayers of our parents, and we've made a decision for Christ at an early age, we've kind of ridden in the backseat of the limousine in terms of our walk with the Lord.

We haven't been out there dealing with stuff and so there is this false sense of security, which feeds pride. We think that we're in control, and God becomes a little bit of an adendum to our lives. We're okay, we're nice Christians, but we make our own choices and decisions, and then we get married and have kids.

And one of the things that kids do to you when you hold that newborn baby in your arms, realizing the miracle of birth and seeing before you an enormous stewardship responsibility, it rattles your cage. Because you visibly see that you're really not in control.

And so I think the first step needs to be to repent of your pride. Repent of it, and confess your neediness for God. Brokenness is a wonderful thing as a Christian; it's nothing to be feared. We only can enjoy and experience the power and presence of God when we realize how needy we are.

We need to reject arrogance, repent of our pride; it's never too late to yield ourselves to Christ and so we need to say "Lord, I'm willing to start right now and begin spiritual disciplines: walking with God, dealing with sin in our lives, reading His Word, praying, modeling what we want our children to become . . ."

Learn the lessons of your own pilgrimage and don't overprotect your children; ask God to give your kids their own personal encounters with Him, to experience a failure so that they can have a holy handicap that keeps them dependent on God and makes their faith real and genuine.

There are a lot of fathers out there who are believers who are just pulled in every direction–from work to ministry involvements to parenting. Can you give them one or two practical ways to cultivate God's righteousness?

I would encourage every Christian man to be involved in some type of small group accountability, where we're helping each other to make it home before dark. Where there is an objective, healthy sense of accountability and challenge. Where there's a sense of hope as you sit with other brothers who are experiencing challenges in their lives, you're praying for one another. You're less likely to fall into life-controlling sin when you know you've got some brothers who love you and are going to ask you some tough questions. It serves as a little bit of a moral, spiritual character check. And so I think that that's the first place to begin.

I also would say, "Step up to plate, gentlemen." Step up to the plate at home. Start taking the initiative if you haven't [before] in leading your family in prayer, leading your family in the reading of the Word of God on a daily basis. Let them see you. You don't have to be the greatest theologian in the world. But the attempt, the model of leadership where it really matters, will call you up to and call all of us up to a higher standard of accountability.

Through the years, I've traveled a great deal with my ministry and been away from home a lot. I've had plenty of opportunities to sin and really mess up and bring reproach upon the name of Christ and my family.

One of the things that's kept me is the realization that I've got a wife and four kids who trust me, who believe in me. How can I do this great wickedness or this sin or the temptation that I experience, and violate the confidence of my family and people who believe in me?

And so when you project that image and you take that role, then that very image and role that you are projecting becomes the standard of accountability that will protect you.

You tell the story in "Knowing the Father's Voice" of how you heard God's leading going to Bible college. Do you have a story that you can relay to fathers about a decision you faced as a parent and how you heard God leading you through that time?

There are many of them, many of them. We have four children and all three, three of our four children, graduated from public high school. One of the things that I wrestled with, Karen and I wrestled with, was our youngest daughter does extremely well in school. And the high school she was going to go to–public high school where our other kids graduated from–we really weren't pleased too much with the climate there.

We don't want our kids growing up to be afraid of unbelievers; now mind you, I'm in favor of public schools, Christian schools, homeschooling . . . depending on the convictions of the parent and that kind of thing. But our conviction–what we felt–was if they could learn how to be a light and stand up for what they believe in the context of an unbelieving environment, then that would suit them well and set them well for college and for serving Christ out there in the marketplace. That was just our conviction.

Well, we sensed, though, that our daughter really needed to be in a Christian school for a number of reasons. She really didn't like it. She really didn't like the fact that we were making this change. She's a committed believer, but she just didn't like it and kind of fought us on it a little bit. She was in 8th grade, I think, at the time. But I remember Karen and I almost gave in, but we sensed God wanting us to do this.

And as a parent, one of the things I've learned is that you cannot be afraid of your children and be an effective parent at the same time. There are crisis moments where as a parent you have to say to them, "Honey, I know that you don't like this, and I know that you don't want this, but at the same time, I have got to do what God wants us to do. And you're going to have to trust me on this." So that's what happened.

We prayed it through. And it has turned out to be one of the best decisions we have made, and [my daughter's] come around. The first year or two was a little bit touch and go with her, but she loves it and God has used it.

So I think if there's any word that I would give to a parent is you've got to parent on your knees with an open Bible and listening to the voice of God as you take principles from the Word of God and apply them to daily choices. And sometimes those decisions and choices will not be very popular, even among the people that you know and love. But you've got to do what God tells you to do.

Now let me turn that around. I want this to be balanced. One of the things as a father that I've learned is that I want to say yes to our kids as much as I possibly can. I look for opportunities to say yes. And as they get older, we want them to own more of the direction of their lives.

However, I cannot abort my parental responsibility to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. So I cannot let them do certain things as long as they are under my authority that would violate the principles of Scripture or what I perceive to be important life choices that I am responsible as a father to guide them in.

Another question that I had related to children is the story of your son Brendan and how you learned from him and the stolen briefcase. What advice do you have to offer fathers in listening to and learning from their children?

God speaks through your kids; listen for the voice of God. I don't care how old they are–God has used our children on so many occasions, little things that they would say, their innocent faith, taking God at face value, such as the briefcase story. You know I [was of the attitude], "Let's cut our losses, that thing is history; it's gone. Life goes on, let's keep on trucking."

And [my son is] saying, "No, we're going to keep praying until it comes back."

Don't ever trespass God's domain as you raise your children. In other words, humble yourself and listen for the voice of God through your children. Just because you're the parent doesn't always mean that you're right.

And I think in this regard, I'm going to use this word, we have to respect our children. And respect their walk with God, and God can use anybody to speak through. I think to be an effective parent, you've got to be enormously humble and listen for the voice of God and respond to it.

One of the hidden lessons in the book is taught by the stories you tell. They just speak of your willingness to let every life experience teach you something deeper about the Lord and in your relationship with Him. What are some ways you encourage men to examine the seemingly mundane things of life and ask the Lord to reveal Himself through them?

Again, it's a mindset, not so much a strategy to find these things. Every morning when I get up I yield myself and the day and the events of the day to the Lord. I ask God to speak to me, to direct my footsteps, to help me to be more like Him.

Now it's not that every single phone call I get or every piece of correspondence that I read or every e-mail that I read that I am sitting down analyzing it next to the Scriptures. But there are those holy moments in the course of the day when God will bring something to mind, something to mind that reminds you of Himself or a lesson that you have to learn, and I think to pray for spiritual sensitivity is where it all starts.

I can't tell you the number of times that I've been wrestling with an issue or something and I turn on the radio on the way to the office and somebody will say something related to that. Or I'll be in a conversation with someone talking about ministry stuff or what I have to do, and a little aside will be said that will relate to where I'm at. You know, on September 11, earlier that morning, I was praying. And I was convicted that I wasn't as grateful and thankful as I should be.

When I got to the office and heard the news of the planes crashing into those World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon and stuff, that was like God shouting to me. So it's a mindset [that involves] letting God orient your mind toward heaven. And as you're oriented toward heaven, He'll show you the things that He wants you to see, perceive and learn through the everyday experiences of life.

Copyright © 1997 January IN TOUCH magazine
IN TOUCH MINISTRIES®, ITM, Inc.
All rights reserved
Used with Permission