By John Croyle
Recently, I spoke at a church outside of Birmingham. As I pulled in the driveway and got out of my car, I heard a young woman’s voice behind me: “Hey, Mr. John.” I turned around and saw one of our former residents. She was dressed nicely and had a great big smile on her face. The thing that caught my attention right off was the look in her eyes. Her eyes were practically dancing with joy. Joy that came from deep within her soul.
“How in the world are you doing?” was my first response. As we walked, she leaned over and whispered into my ear, “I made it! My daughter will never experience what me and my sisters went through! I broke the cycle—thank you!” I shared with her how proud I was of her. I had kept up with her over the last 20 years through friends and mutual acquaintances. Has she gotten everything perfect? No! But the great news is the negative childhood that she experienced would not be repeated in her daughter.
She shared with me how after she left Big Oak, she made her share of mistakes. But then her face glowed when she shared with me about her husband. He truly loved her, nurtured and cherished her, and made her feel special. After the meeting, she introduced me to her husband and her daughter. I don’t have the words to express how humbled and honored I was to meet her family. As we stood there, their teenage daughter had her arms wrapped around her daddy’s waist, and he had his arm around her shoulder. It was quite obvious she was a little girl who had been loved and nurtured her whole life.
Perhaps you had a great childhood. Maybe you didn’t. But this one fact I know: the moment a child is born and up through the age of 18, you and I as their parents have the privilege and responsibility to help write the chapters in our children’s book of life experiences.
It is a fact that you cannot write about something or someone unless you know them. This is obviously true about our relationship as parents with our children. Quality time happens as the result of quantities of time.
The majority of our children who call Big Oak home have lived extremely negative experiences before coming to the Ranch. Sure, in their childhoods, there have been some positives. But the truth remains that their lives and their family experiences are dysfunctional at best. Numerous times a year, one of our staff members will run into a child who grew up at the Ranch and is now a parent themselves. They often say something like, “Thanks to you and the Ranch, I broke the cycle. Thank you!” It is because of experiences like this that I can humbly and honestly say, “I’m the richest man in the world.” Perhaps you too have experienced this joy of seeing your children grow up, be successful, and have great families of their own. Perhaps you haven’t.
My question for you is this: How can you help ensure your children make it? There are four things you and I must do to build our children up. It is simply training them to be the great adults, mates, and parents we pray daily they will become. Be sure these roots of greatness are in your own life, and then you can transfer these characteristics into your child.
1. Make sure your heart is right with the Lord. I wish I could tell you how great I have been at this, but truthfully I mess up more than I get it right. But every day is a choice. It is my responsibility to be willing to be changed, and God is responsible to create the change in my life.
2. Make sure the intent of your heart is pure. Doing anything with a selfish, prideful, or arrogant intent will always end up on the opposite side of what you really want to be as a parent. Remember they watch you much more than you watch them. (Luke 6:40)
3. Make sure you have overcome bitterness in your heart. Bitterness is the No. 1 emotional cancer to your soul. Whatever may cause bitterness in your life, you have exampled how to overcome it by living out the best advice possible: Let go and let God. You want to transfer this positive, life-changing trait to your children.
4. Make sure you are no longer in bondage to negative lifestyles. We all have our list of “sins” in our lives that at times have had control over us. Success is overcoming these rebellious behaviors and living a life of true happiness and joy. Remember that example outlives advice any day.
Join me as we help our children write great life chapters before they leave us to write their own “rest of the story.”