The surprising joys of having grown children

Sibling differences and friendships in adulthood

September 5, 2019

My wife and I truly enjoyed every stage of parenting, but I had no idea what was coming—from welcoming our first-born into the world and bearing the responsibility for another totally dependent human being, to sending our last child off to college and experiencing the “empty nest.” While some parts of the journey have been tougher than others, each has really been a joyous gift from God. Some of my greatest delights in parenting have come from the ways I’ve been surprised. 

Surprised by the differences in our children

I basically grew up as an only child. My sister, who was older, moved out and married before I started elementary school. So, I did not have much of a context for being a sibling and, honestly, had not given it much thought. Then, we had four children. One of the surprising things to me about having multiple children is how different our children are from each other (and us) and yet how they have traits that are woven together across generations, sometimes in an eery way.

Our oldest is a hands-on learner. If he can touch it, see it, and sense it, then he can understand it and probably take it apart and put it back together better than before. He was always that way. One time during his early elementary years, we had a repairman at the house working on our air conditioning system. We discovered our son crouched down by the repairman at the outside unit asking a hundred questions about how it worked and what each coil, knob, and valve did to make it work.

When our second came along, he was his older brother’s easy going counterpart in many ways. Taking things in stride and enduring the bossiness of his older brother, he just went with the flow. He was as stubborn as his brother, but three years younger, he thought his brother hung the moon. As long as he had enough sleep, he was pretty much good with everything.

I’ve got this down, I thought. My first two were not perfect, but they learned to respect authority and comply with the rules. When our third was born at 33 weeks and spent a few weeks in the NICU, I should have known things were going to be different. Our third son was diagnosed on the autism spectrum with Asperger's Syndrome. I had to create another category because he was not like the first two. He didn’t respond to the same discipline methods and had no context of authority on any level.

God can make each step of parenting beautiful in its own way, and we can trust him to surprise us with gifts we never anticipated. 

Then, just to add another curve, we had a girl. One of my favorite ways to describe her role among her siblings is a paraphrase from “The Lord of the Rings”: We had three boys and one girl to rule them all. Feisty and driven, tough and tender, and ready to prove herself, her brothers adore her, and she basks in it.

Four children, and not one of them is the same. I don’t know why, but I wasn’t expecting that. But, it is God’s good gift to us, allowing us to love and appreciate each one for exactly who He created them to be.

An even bigger surprise

Now, they are all grown. And, I have had an even bigger surprise: I am blown away by our absolute joy in having grown children and watching them interact with each other. We are blessed to have children who get along as adults (at least for now). They genuinely both love and like each other. They accept and even laugh about their differences and their similarities. 

Looking back, I’m not sure why our kids get along so well in this season. We accept the relationship they have with each other as a gift from God and hold it loosely, knowing that they are all his. Along the way, there are a few things we may have done that the Lord has used to help them get along as adults. First, we tried to model a balanced relationship, one where disagreements happen but are resolved civilly. Or, put another way, we tried to teach them to fight fair and forgive deeply. Second, we encouraged the kids to work out their differences with each other when appropriate. Rushing in to solve every disagreement did not teach them to work things out on their own. Often, I would offer to make everyone unhappy if I had to get involved. Finally, we talked honestly with them about themselves and about each other, but we never said things about them “behind their back,” and we would not tolerate if they did that either.

We have not had adult kids very long, however we are trying to encourage them to connect with each other. It looks different in various seasons and stages, but when they connect it’s special. We don’t expect them to spend time together like they did when they were young because it’s not realistic and, honestly, would probably not be healthy. Yet, we have found that because they generally get along, they seek it out with each other.

We now get to sit back and watch, knowing we have great memories of their years growing up and praying for what God has for them in the future. Mostly, we thank God that we can enjoy our children in a way I would have never dreamed while we were in the fray of it all. In Christ, we can be hopeful parents in the midst of the chaos and the crazy. God can make each step of parenting beautiful in its own way, and we can trust him to surprise us with gifts we never anticipated. 

Bobby Reed

Bobby Reed serves as chief financial officer. His primary responsibilities are financial oversight, human resources, and administrative business functions. Bobby, a graduate of Louisiana State University, came to the ERLC after serving on the staff of churches in Louisiana and Florida. He and his wife, Louise, have four grown children … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24