Posts by Jim Mitchell

Choosing between my son and me

Good parenting is often choosing self-sacrifice rather than self.

“Daddy, you wanna hear me count to 10 million?”

Not a question I expected or necessarily even wanted to hear from my 5-year-old.

“Um … well … no, not really,” I was tempted to say (lovingly, of course).

Maybe for a mom, a question like this is precious! But I’m a dad and after a long workday, it’s most definitely not precious. “Let’s see, what’s the best way to waste time tonight? Ooh, I know, let’s count to 10 million.”

I’m pretty sure my 5-year-old can’t even count to 10 million, much less do it fast enough to fit the jammed schedule I had planned for the evening:

  • Put on comfortable clothes? Yep.
  • Eat dinner? Uh-huh.
  • Watch playoff basketball game? Now you’re talking!

Count to 10 million? Negative. I could hear it already. “One, two, three, four, five, um … wait, I’m starting over.”

Oh sure, you’re probably more spiritual than me. Cast the first stone if you must. But most of you with young kids can relate. They’re growing fast and learning about things too big for them. So they look to you for help sorting it all out. You want to be a great parent, but time and energy run short.

As I thought about the choice I had to make that night, God began to remind me of a few important things about spiritual life and parenting:

I needed to view this from my child’s eyes, not just my own. I joke that, in my flesh, I’m not really interested in hearing my son count to 10 million. But truthfully, from his perspective, that’s a huge deal and an incredibly worthwhile investment of his time. And for me to spend my evening doing that is even bigger to him.

I agree with what Steve Farrar writes in his book, Point Man: “Quality time comes at the most unusual moments. You never know when it will happen. It usually makes an appearance someplace in the realm of quantity time.”

Remembering to look through my child’s eyes gets me out of “quality time” mode and into “quantity time” mode. Don’t ask me exactly how to measure “quantity time,” though I figure counting to ten million is a pretty good place to start.

I can’t use up all my energy at work … I need to save some for when I get home. I’m as guilty as the next guy of putting every ounce of energy I can into my workday. I’ve got plenty of good reasons to do it, too. The Bible tells me to work hard, “as for the Lord rather than men” (Colossians 3:23). There’s also the economy to think about. I mean, who wants to be the guy found not working hard these days?

Unfortunately, none of that makes any difference to my son. All he knows is that I don’t want to hear him count to 10 million. For me, preserving some physical energy for when I get home actually helps me set the right pace for myself at work — sort of a parenting twist on the “render unto Caesar” concept. Render unto work the things due at work, but don’t render everything you’ve got every single day.

I needed to see this as an opportunity, not an interruption. Spontaneous “teachable moments” are the very essence of parenting. But I’ve found that it’s up to me whether I view them as opportunities or as interruptions. A steward has opportunities. An owner has interruptions. The wise parent spends his days as a steward.

On this occasion, though, I think God just wanted me to feel like a parent and to make a choice. My choice of whether to count to 10 million or not was really choosing between my son and me … between self-sacrifice and self.  And that’s always the rub isn’t it?

To be fair, a tired mom or dad may actually need to choose rest over the kids. But for me it’s usually not that complicated, and I still pick me more often than not.  But sometimes I make the better choice.

I have no idea who won the basketball game. But I’ll never forget the time I discovered that my 5-year-old son really does know how to count to 10 million.

Who knew?

Copyright © 2010 by Jim Mitchell. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

How a Christmas ornament led my son to Christ

Like any Christian parent, I can relate to the words of the apostle John: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).

Everything I might wish for my kids in this life—education, love, financial security, job satisfaction, health—pales in comparison to our prayer that they believe the gospel and be saved.


Jim and Lisa Mitchell, Grace and Evan

So when my daughter Grace received Christ at a young age, I rejoiced. I also found myself thinking ahead to when my son Evan might do the same.

“Will he believe at an early age, too, or will he resist the gospel for a long time?” I wondered.  “What if he chooses a different path, a difficult path?”  “What if he never believes?” That thought scared me.

Salvation is God’s job, but I knew I had an important role to play as Evan’s father, and I didn’t want to blow it.

I also knew that my son is very different than his sister. Grace is outgoing and decisive. She prayed and received Christ as her Savior and Lord on her own and confidently informed us after the fact.

Evan, on the other hand, has a tender heart. He says “I love you” more than the rest of our family combined. “I love you, mommy. I love you, daddy. I love you, Grace,” he often says. I worried that tender Evan might feel pressure from me to pray a certain prayer or believe a certain way, and comply out of a desire to please. So Lisa and I agreed to just wait on God’s timing and to try not to lay any stumbling block.

The names of Christ

Then, last Thanksgiving, after many months of praying together over Evan’s bed at night as he slept, Lisa and I began to sense that God might be working in him. Approaching his eighth birthday, Evan started reading his Bible on his own and praying with us during family devotions. I remember when he proudly told me that he had actually sung the worship songs with the other kids at church that Sunday—a very big deal for a boy like Evan.

That’s when we decided to use the new Adorenaments® resource—a set of ornaments created by Barbara Rainey and FamilyLife. Evan loves decorating the tree, so it seemed like a good fit. We took our time, working through the booklet together as a family over the course of several days. As the kids hung an ornament—each representing a name of Christ—on the tree, we would learn together about that name and discuss how that could impact our family.

Immanuel, God with us.  “What an awesome thought to have God with us!”

Prince of Peace.  “Wow, doesn’t our home need to feel God’s peace more often?”

Wonderful Counselor.  “Let’s ask for God’s counsel right now together.”

And so forth.  Each Christmas ornament was a new family discussion about Jesus.

And when we came to the Savior ornament, God’s Spirit did something wonderful and miraculous.

As Lisa laid down with Evan for bedtime that night, his soft little voice expressed a desire to pray and receive Christ. After asking a few questions Lisa knew this was the moment we had prayed for and waited for. She prayed with him and then sent him to tell his daddy. That night I had the chance to talk with Evan about Jesus and to pray with him to the Savior.

After he eventually fell asleep I thought about the final words from the devotional earlier that night, “Hallelujah! What a savior.”

What a Savior indeed.

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