Eph 6:4: “Fathers (parents), do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
Isaiah 54:13: “All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.”
Part 1. God gave me 2 beautiful children
In 1989, I married Jim Rarick by faith within 3-1/2 days. God gave me joy after marriage because of Jesus’ grace, and Sh. Jim was the most gentle man of God. I was in the middle of PhD studies. My advisor pushed me mercilessly to produced results. It was very hard to live a life of mission and perform research. So many times, I left my experiments to feed sheep but God always blessed my work when I put him first. My thesis work was published in 2 world-renowned journals, Science and Nature. God’s servant encouraged me not to have children until I finished my studies so I could focus. I obeyed this direction. Then, the very night I finished my PhD, I became pregnant. God blessed me with 2 beautiful children, Hannah and Samuel, in 1993 and 1994.
Part 2. Balancing young children with life of mission and work
After Hannah was born, I was offered a position at Yale University. But, I thought of my husband and children, and God’s work at UIC, and stayed at UIC. God blessed my work and eventually, I became a research professor at UIC. I was very successful. Life as a professor with 2 small children and life of mission to serve young college students was very difficult. Hannah had been born as a C-section because the umbilical cord was strangling her neck. She came out the color blue, but revived quickly. I had time off for 6 weeks. Dr. Lee gave me much care with food to help me. He prayed that Hannah would be like Hannah of the Bible. Then, when Hannah was 5 weeks old, I was asked to be a journey team leader to Russia. I had to decide to give up breastfeeding and pay $2000 for costs and leave my new born daughter for 10 days to serve Russian mission. God helped me to live by faith entrusting her in God’s hands.
My son Samuel was born right before the Christmas worship service, 1994, He was a great blessing to God’s servant when he was born 6 days before it. Jim asked Dr. Lee for a name, and he was given Samuel Lincoln: after Samuel, a great shepherd in the Bible, and Abraham Lincoln, a great influence for our generation. Sam received John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” as a prayer to live as a good shepherd like Jesus for others.
Jim was a music major, but made a decision to go back to school to become an engineer so he could support his family and live as a shepherd. He gave his music degree to begin the Chicago UBF orchestra. He went every Saturday night and early Sunday morning driving from UIC to the center to lead the orchestra. He worked full-time and went to engineering school. We got a nanny called Rosann who was my husband’s sheep’s mother. She stayed at our house during the day Monday through Friday and most Friday nights. I remember working all day, coming home tired with 2 toddlers to take care of. On Fridays, I stopped home briefly, then went to the Friday Leader’s meeting. On Sundays, I drove to my mother’s house 30 minutes away, dropped off the kids, drove to worship service, then drove back and picked them up. I cried several times and hit my limit because sometimes I missed my kids. Also, Hannah was a very strong-willed child. Starting at age 18 months, she would throw temper-tantrums very fiercely, and wouldn’t let up for over an hour because she wanted her way. I couldn’t bear it. One time I hit her on the head with a telephone book out of frustration. After that, she stopped her tantrum, but I cried and cried. Sam was basically a quiet child, but still he would cry as most babies do. When I think about Ephesians 6:4, “…do not exasperate your children…” I could see that I failed to control myself many times, especially after I came home from work, and in my sin, exasperated my children. I can only live by grace as a forgiven sinner.
The life of mission was a wonderful grace since God gave our family several sheep, such as Joe Grady and Bill Brower and others at that time. Maria Peace and I worked behind the scenes and many conferences during the 1990s and also supporting the world mission work together with Dr. Lee and Mother Barry. When my children were toddlers, I traveled to Greece and won first place in an international heart research competition. I was offered another position at Duke University. But, there I saw the lives of the missionaries in Greece, repented of my pride, and heard Jesus call me to serve him humbly. In 1999, I resigned from my position as a professor to be a stay at home mom and serve God’s work. I noticed that my husband grew spiritually after this decision of faith. God also blessed my young children to grow healthy, doing really well in school and beginning Bible study 1-1 with their own shepherds. Jim and I tried to have another child after Samuel, but it wasn’t God’s will. I had 6 miscarriages over 6 years which made me tired and weak. However, God gave me grace to accept this as His loving and precious will.
Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers (parents), do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Jim and I struggled to bring up our children in the training and instruction of the Lord, although we are only weak sinners in doing so. Every morning I did Daily Bread with the kids while they were eating breakfast. We did this from the time they were 6 and 4 years old for about 10 years, so they went through the Bible at least 2 times. Jim and I prayed for them regularly, but I do wish I had prayed more intensively for them. I was always busy doing something for the household like cleaning and grocery shopping for my husband and kids, for the ministry. I am a super hyperactive personality and it has always been hard for me to sit still, and I had wished I had grown in a better prayer habit as I have now when the kids were younger. Hannah started Bible study 1-1 with Maria Peace from the age of 6. They studied Genesis, and Maria helped Hannah prepare Bible study material. Later, Hannah studied with Michelle Kilby and Annie Lee. Sam began Bible study 1-1 with Benji Toh, then with Sh. Jim, and then Michael Mark.
Both of my kids had their own experience of coming to Jesus and inviting Jesus into their hearts as Savior when they were young. Both asked us if they could be baptized. Hannah says that when she was about 6 or 7, she thought, "Am I going to heaven or hell?" From her baptism testimony, she said, “I thought I would be going to hell because I lied, talked back to my parents and I did not listen. I kept on asking my mom how to get into heaven and kept on worrying about what if I did not get to heaven.” During Christmas 2004, when Hannah was 11, Jim and I went to visit Argentina UBF. She and Sam stayed with their grandparents for one week. Hannah says in her testimony, “One night, I was filled with so much guilt that I could not stand it anymore. I got out of bed and stayed up the whole night crying softly and telling Jesus all of the bad things I have done. Then, I asked Jesus into my heart. I kept on asking him, thinking that he would not go in. Finally, I realized that in the Bible, Jesus said that he would take all sinners into his heart if they only accepted him. Finally, that night, I welcomed Jesus into my heart.” She was baptized a few months later choosing Ruth 1:16b as her life key verse: “Your people will be my people and your God will be my God. I pray for her even now based on this verse.
Sam had an interesting way of coming to Jesus. He said that when he was 11 at the 2006 CBF Easter Conference, he was listening to Abraham Pozo’s life testimony. Abraham had been in gangs, shootings, parties, and drugs, and confessed that God sent Jesus to die and take up all of his sin based on John 3:16. Sam wrote in his baptism testimony, “Awestruck, I fell to my knees. I thought to myself, “How could God love us so much that he can change this sinful boy into a child of God?” I searched my soul and saw all the evil in my life. I remembered Jesus thinking about His love and grace for this wretched sinner like me on the cross. At that moment, I confessed to everyone there that I was not worthy, but Christ redeemed me from my sin. He said he was forever changed by Jesus blood as a new creation in Christ was baptized shortly after this.
When I think about my children coming to Jesus, I realized that it is only God’s work. Ephesians 6:4b says, “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Jim and I could only do this with our sinful nature and a feeble attempt to help them study the Bible 1-1 and in CBF, and have scattered prayer for them. But Jesus revealed himself to them without Jim or I being there with them. I thought of Isaiah 54:13, “All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.” This verse helps sustain me even now when my children are adults. It is only by the grace of Jesus that our children come to him. It is only the Lord who will teach them and guide them to know him more and more, and great will be their peace, with the ultimate peace of eternal life in the kingdom of God.
Part 2. Releasing my adult children to God
When my children were pre-teenagers, I studied 1-1 with Mother Barry. She noticed that I needed to use my scholarly achievements, so she suggested that I return to teaching. I started teaching part-time at Wright College. Then, I was offered a full-time professor position. At that time, the Dept Chair gave me great grace to have a schedule to finish work every day at 2:30 pm so I could pick my children from school, and be there for them in the afternoon. I also had Fridays off and the entire summer off to take care of my kids and God’s sheep. God gave our family the mission to serve Loyola University, where my husband became fellowship leader. God blessed our family in every way. Jim did reallywell in his job as an engineer, and he served in the orchestra, as elder, fellowship leader, a good shepherd and a wonderful father. I got tenure within a few years and became a Distinguished Professor. Both of my children excelled in school, getting all A’s. Sam gave his heart to play basketball. I don’t have time to go into all the details, but the kids did well academically. God blessed us spiritually and materially in every way. Hannah went to an IB top Chicago public school, and was quite involved in HBF and sang worship, going on mission trips to Ukraine and Korea. Sam grew spiritually through HBF and at the Catholic High school, playing basketball well and forming a Bible club. I was thankful that God gave Sam a best friend David Andrews, who was a sincere Christian. He was a good influence on Sam. Neither of the kids dated or had a girlfriend or boyfriend. We went on family trips to places like Disney World, the Grand Canyon, the European Conference and Greece. We had family devotions.
As the children became teenagers and more independent, one of my sin problems was revealed. My character is very task oriented, and I have always had a hard time forming deep relationships with people since my father never made much relationship with us kids. I also had a big sin of trying to control things, and especially since Hannah was always strong-willed, she wanted to do things her own way. This makes sense. But, due to my bad sinful habit, our personalities clashed and we had fights starting when she was about 16. When we had arguments, Jim would get in the middle. Jim has a very gracious personality, so gentle and kind, like his mother. I am more abrasive and get things done according to the task. I did many things for my kids, and they tell me that they know I loved them, but I had a hard time forming a heart to heart relationship with them. Jim and Hannah had such a good relationship as father and daughter. They would spend a lot of time together talking. Jim also took care of Sam very well as father and son, doing many things together like go to basketball games and Buffalo Wild wings restaurants. I felt I had so many things to do with work, housework, shopping, and sheep. I poured out so much for my kids to help them in so many ways, but my sin was that I could not make a deep relationship with my kids when they were teenagers I am so thankful for my loving and kind husband who was a wonderful father to our children, to make up for my weaknesses.
After Hannah went away to college, she began to drift away from the Lord more and more. Perhaps she had never formed a deep relationship with Jesus. By sophomore year in college, she was rebellious and didn’t want to come to church or be a part of anything related to God. Jim and I spent much time praying for her and talking to her, but the more we tried to help her, the more she seemed to become rebellious. She quit 1-1 and stopped going to church. At first, I was upset, and threatened to cut off all her college support. But, then she didn’t talk to us for months after that. This struggle has been very hard, and it is still not over, five years later. Hannah is still a prodigal child. A couple of months ago, I asked her if she has a problem with Jesus himself or the church. She said clearly that she can’t believe and accept the teachings of a man who says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” She has always had a heart for people, and she can’t reconcile how Muslims and gay people and people of other beliefs can’t come to God in their own way because they seem like sincere people. We also think that she knows what the life of a Christian is, and wants to enjoy her own life right now. She says she doesn’t want to ever get married and have children, but serve around the world helping people as a social worker. It is hard to know exactly what happened to her because in her baptism testimony at age 12 she says, “When I grow up, I plan to be a teacher of the Bible, and one of my biggest prayer topics is to make the world a kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation.”
For the past five years I have struggled much over Hannah. I can tell you that it has been one of the most difficult things in my life. I have cried in agony. However, the incredible thing is I have grown spiritually through this. I have been given the special grace to know God’s love and agony for lost souls. I have been able to grow in a deeper prayer life and struggle with God’s word more. I have been able to grow to release control of things in life and give it to God. At this point, there is nothing I can do in myself to change Hannah. It is God’s work, and I have struggled to release this to him. The interesting thing is that my relationship with Hannah has become closer. Pastor Greg Laurie said that the most important thing is with prodigal children or any adult children to keep the relationship with them. Hannah and I talked frequently. In fact, when she struggles with something personally, I am the one she usually calls, even before Jim. Hannah graduated last year from Columbia University in New York with a Master’s in Social Work. I am thankful that she likes to meet with Yvette Shin to talk and go to movies together. This August she will go to Ukraine as part of the Peace Corps for one year. I have committed myself to pray for Hannah until I have breath, with prayers every day, and I ask God to let me see her turn to Him if it his grace to do so.
In my agony over Hannah, I was so distraught and discouraged, that sometimes, I wanted to give up the life of mission. But, Isaiah 61:3 became real to me: to “provide for those who grieve in Zion-- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” God began to grow in me a heart for young women in our ministry, especially young mothers. I began to visit Cheryl Kramarcyk, who was struggling much and had an idea to leave our church. In fact, she needed a mother. Cheryl became like my daughter. God has given me other young mothers who became my daughters in Christ. God gave me a sheep Haimei who became like my daughter and grew in our Loyola ministry. God even gave me my 85 year old mother as my sheep. After 5 years of Bible study with her, she was baptized at the age of 84 in a local church. Mostly, God allowed my heart to conform more to Jesus’ image during this time of struggle. I always had a sense of angst and anxiety even in my Christian life for over 25 years, but in the last 5 years, God taught me to trust in him more and sing praise songs, so that angst and anxiety left me, and God gave me the oil of joy, a happy, thankful spirit.
How about Sam? Since he was baptized, Sam has always said he loves Jesus. When I hear him pray, he confesses his love for Jesus. Yes, he is weak and needs to grow spiritually. He needs to be trained in righteousness. He is graduating from IIT next year with a Master’s degree in Engineering. He was all-American in Basketball and led the Bible club at IIT. He always tried to bring the basketball players to the club meetings. I am so thankful for Michael Mark’s family, the Henkins family and all IIT coworkers for their support for him. He now lives common life near IIT with David Henkins and David Cook. He never dated in his life but now at age 22, for the first time he has said he wants to marry a woman of God by faith in God’s time. This year we pray for him to grow in a deeper relationship with God through struggling with God’s word and devotional time, and for him to grow as more of a spiritual leader for the younger undergraduates.
In conclusion, as I think about Eph 6:4: “Fathers (parents), do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord,” all I can say is that as a sinner, I have failed much as a parent, many times exasperating my children, but I live by the grace of Jesus. I also struggled in my weakness, co-working with my husband, to “bring our children up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Proverbs 22:6 promises us that when we train up a child in the way he should do, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” I am imperfect as a parent and surely did not do all I could to bring up my children in the training and instruction of the Lord, but again I live by the grace of Jesus. It was Jesus himself who visited my children when they were young, even when I wasn’t around, so that they each confessed faith in Jesus. So, I hold onto God’s promise from Isaiah 54:13, “All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.” It is the Lord who will teach my children, to give them peace of eternal life. I release them to Jesus’ care, committing myself to keep praying for them to love the Lord Jesus and serve Him to bring His kingdom into the hearts of lost souls in this world.
One Word: All your children will be taught by the Lord.
By Helen Rarick