As my children are becoming adults and their leaving home looms very closely on the horizon, I find that I understand Paul more and more. He began a new church in Thessolonica, full of new believers that he led to the Lord, and he thinks of them as his children. But they are on their own now, before they were even fully ready to be, and he is anxious about their wellfare. Will they continue on in their faith in God? They are surrounded by pagans and antagonistic jews. Will they give in to the pressure? Will they give up their Christianity?
Paul finally receives word that they are doing well. They are doing what he taught them to do. They are not giving in to peer pressure or the evil ways of the world around them. They are still following Christ. And Paul is encouraged!
I think of my own children. Will they continue to live a life of faith? Or will they bow to the materialism of this world? Will they get into trouble when they are on their own out there? I can think of nothing in this world I want more than to hear that they are doing well on their own.
As I thought of Paul and his converts and my own children, I also got a glimpse of my Pastor's job too. Because the members of his congregation are his spiritual children. No wonder my pastor likes to hear about the spiritual lives of us... not just the problems, but the victories must encourage him greatly. I must remember to tell him more of those good things!
The last thing in this long train of thought this morning was that as a Sensei and a teacher I am also like Paul. I have a responsibility to and for my students as well as a right to be proud of them when they do well. The kid that successfully defended himself against a bully at school, the shy timid little boy who grinned and did his kata in front of everyone, the student who walks taller and no longer lives a life of fear... those all encourage me more than I can say. I have a responsibility to look after them while they are in my care, just like I look after and train up my children while they are in my care. And this is what Paul says about that:
For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worth of God who calls you into his kingdom and glory. 1 Thess 2:11-12
And that is my job as a parent and a Sensei. I don't call them or save them, God does. But I encourage, I comfort, I urge. Sometimes with force, particularly when they are young; sometimes with guidance and advice. Sometimes it's a hug or a cookie or a kind word. But there is a purpose in it all. And it is not just about karate, or math, or music or whatever I am teaching or pushing at them. My ultimate goal must be for them to live a life worthy of God who calls them into His kingdom and His glory, not my own.