In this episode of Mind + Heart, Phillip Holmes interviews Melissa Kruger. Kruger is the Director of Women’s Content at The Gospel Coalition and is the author of several books, including Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood and Five Things to Pray For Your Kids: Prayers that Change Things for the Next Generation. She is also a part of the Let’s Talk podcast and is mother to three children.
Holmes asks Kruger about her background and testimony. She talks about being raised in the Methodist church in North Carolina, and her experience of conversion at an FCA event as part of her high school years. Holmes asks her about how she met her husband. Kruger talks about their dating life, eventual marriage, their three children, and some of their personal family history.
Holmes and Kruger pivot to discussing the impact of the pandemic on parents, and Holmes plays back her previous Wisdom Wednesday episode, “How do I entrust my children to the Lord?”
Holmes asks Kruger what advice she would give to new parents seeking to raise godly children. She explains the importance of remaining in the Word and in prayer, and talks about the necessity of resting in Christ, pointing out that children can readily identify “fakes.” Holmes describes his own parenting experiences and talks about the necessity of remembering that a parent’s job is not to “fix” their children but to be transformed themselves by God’s Word.
Holmes asks Kruger what her most useful practice has been in entrusting her children to the Lord. Kruger describes the importance of separating one’s self-worth from their child’s growth in godliness, remembering that the Lord must do the work of saving a child, and entrusting this task to him.
Holmes and Kruger discuss how parents can model what it looks like to trust in the Lord. Kruger talks about living an open Christian life in front of her children, even through suffering and difficulty. She describes the central role of family devotions, and the beauty of not only being able to pray for her children, but being prayed for by her children.
Holmes asks Kruger what encouragement she would give to parents seeking to raise godly children. Kruger points out that God gives specific children to specific parents for their sanctification. She also offers a reminder that this means that the daily struggles of parenting are never in vain since they are all being used by God to further sanctify the parent.
Mind + Heart Season 2 Episode 3: Parenting
Phillip Holmes: Before we dive into this week’s episode of Mind + Heart, we want to take a moment to highlight a new opportunity at Reformed Theological Seminary. Getting a Master’s degree can seem daunting, especially if you’re working full time, taking care of your family, or just trying to get back to normal in the midst of a pandemic. But what if there was a way to further your education at your own pace without the commitment to a full Master’s program? We recently launched a core certificates program that will help you do just that. The certificates are between eight to 13 hours, allow you to study at your own pace, and accommodate any learning style, offering both audio and video classes, a self-directed course schedule, and regular interactions with teachers, assistants, and professors. You can learn more today at rts.edu/online.
Welcome to the Mind + Heart Podcast, which features interviews and more from the faculty and friends of Reformed Theological Seminary. We created this podcast to assist you in your daily quest to love God and love your neighbor. I’m your host, Phillip Holmes, and this week I’m joined by my guest and my friend, Mrs. Melissa Krueger. Melissa Krueger serves as Director of Women’s Content at the Gospel Coalition. She is an author and contributor to several books, including Walking With God in the Season of Motherhood and Five Things to Pray For Your Kids: Prayers that Change Things for the Next Generation. She is also the co-host alongside my wife and an RTS student, Jackie Hill Perry — my wife Jasmine Holmes, and an RTS student, Jackie Hill Perry! — called Let’s Talk. Her husband, Mike, is the president of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, and they have three children. Melissa, welcome to the show.
Melissa Kruger: Thanks so much for having me. This is fun.
Holmes: Glad to have you on.
Kruger: I’m a little sad Jasmine’s not with us, though. But that’s, you know.
Holmes: I know! One day we got to get her on the Wisdom Wednesday. And then we can have her on the Mind + Heart podcast. But, you know, I never want to push something like that because I’m kind of like, just gonna push my wife — you know, somebody’s got to tell me to do it.
Kruger: Let us come on together!
Holmes: Well, yeah, that’d be great. That’d be awesome. So before we dive into this week’s episode, tell us a little bit about yourself, Melissa. Briefly give us your origin story. Where did you grow up and how did you become a follower of Jesus?
Kruger: Yeah, I grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, so not too far from where I am now. And thankfully grew up in a church-going family, went to church every Sunday that I can remember. I’m so thankful for those habits. We were at a Methodist church, and I’m thankful that I grew up knowing the church, the life of the church. I was in choir, memorized hymns. Thankful for all of that. I would say it wasn’t until I was in high school that I really understood my own need of the gospel. I think I kind of thought, I’m in a Christian home. I go to church, I’m a Christian. You know, I was kind of born into this thing. And so, it was really in high school that I understood, “Oh, this is a decision I make.” And it was through a ministry at a large public high school called FCA. And a teacher there was running that ministry — it was Fellowship of Christian Athletes — and I started attending. My brother kind of forced me to go. And it was there I really heard the gospel and responded. And since then, I’m thankful that I have walked with Jesus since then, and I’m just so glad he pulled me out and saved me. That’s what I can say all my days.
Holmes: Amen. So tell us, how did you and Mike meet?
Kruger: Oh yeah. So then I go to college, and thankfully my brother was living with this guy named Mike Kruger. And so it was real convenient when your brother has great roommates. And we started dating my freshman year, his senior year.
Holmes: How’d your brother feel about this?
Kruger: Well, we hid it from him for a little while because we just didn’t want him to know. And one of our first conversations we got on [to] Calvinism. And so that’s why I think he wanted to ask me out. So we dated for five years. And you know, if you want to hear more about that drama, we talk about it in Let’s Talk. You can go listen to that. We’ve been married and we have three kids: Emma, John, and Kate. Our oldest now is a junior in college. Our middle child is a senior in high school, and our youngest is a freshman in high school. So those are kind of the ages of our kids. And we live now in Charlotte. We kind of moved all over for some years. My husband did his Ph.D. in Scotland, so we lived overseas and now we have landed here in Charlotte and it’s been a great place to raise our kids. So we’re thankful for that. You might be able to look spiritual out there, and you might look a certain way. But kids see what’s going on in your home and they feel your relationship with Jesus more than anyone will.
Holmes: Awesome. Where were the kids born?
Kruger: Emma was born in Scotland. So she was born in the U.K. She got her passport when she was a week old, literally, got her passport.
Holmes: You don’t get dual citizenship in Scotland, do you?
Kruger: I think she could have, but it takes some work, and we just never did it. And so she did her first international flight at six weeks old. That’s fun for a new mom to do. Then the other two were born here in Charlotte.
Holmes: So, Melissa, in 2018, you asked the question, “How do I entrust my child to the Lord?” We were just talking about this off the mic, how the pandemic has lasted so long. I mean, it’s been a year and a half, almost two years now. One of the effects of the pandemic is that especially in the beginning, we spent a lot of time at home, and I’m sure a lot of parents are spending a lot more time with their kids than they normally would have just because there aren’t any extracurricular activities. So you have all these different things. And of course, during this time, parents are probably learning more about their kids than they realized, and finding new reasons or new things than they realized that they need to pray for when it comes to their children. So I think this is a really helpful question. So before we go any further, let’s take a moment and listen to Melissa’s response to the question, “How do I entrust my child to the Lord?”
Kruger: As parents, a question that we always have to be asking ourselves is “How do I entrust my child to the Lord?” And it’s difficult, because often I think we think we love our child even more than the Lord could love our child. And so, that’s why it’s so important for us to remind ourselves continually as parents of the truths of scripture.
The two most important things I like to tell parents to do, the ways that we can actually daily entrust our children to the Lord, is to be in the Word, listening to God’s promises, listening to who he is, and then, be prayerful parents — those two things combined. Because we need daily reminders of what our hopes should even be for our children. And the Word reminds us of that. What is God’s best for our children, when we read it in his Word? We’re also reminded that we can trust him. We’re reminded of his character, of who he is, that he is all good, that he is all-knowing, that he is all-powerful, that he is everywhere when we can’t be everywhere that our children are. The scriptures are full of such good reminders for us as parents, and we need those reminders on a daily basis.
And then, we get the opportunity to talk to the Lord about our children. It’s an amazing thing that the creator of the Universe allows us to come into his presence and take our sometimes very tiny request to him, but to know that he cares about every hair on our child’s head. So we know that we can take any request, from how they’re doing in school, to perhaps trying to avoid getting lice on their hair. Whatever it might be, we can take those requests to our Father and he hears us. So the wonderful thing about entrusting our children to the Lord is we get to essentially be the child who goes to our Father with our children, entrusting them to the Lord.
Holmes: So Melissa, what is one piece of advice you would offer new parents as they seek to raise godly children?
Kruger: Yeah. My advice is always, I feel like, kind of the simplistic advice, but it never — I think I’m going to have it in 20 years. It’s kind of like, eat vegetables and exercise so that you’ll be in good health, and it is: be in the Word and be in prayer. And I mean, I think this goes back to Deuteronomy, where he says, before he tells them what to do with their children, he tells the parents, “You love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength. These commands that I give you; they are to be on your heart. Teach them to your children.” Well, if it’s not on my heart, I can’t really teach it to my children. And if there’s one thing Mike and I have seen more than anything, children can spot a fake. You might be able to fake your godliness out there to the world that’s devoid of an actual relationship with Jesus. You might be able to look spiritual out there, and you might look a certain way. But kids see what’s going on in your home and they feel your relationship with Jesus more than anyone will. And they’re absorbing it in your home in a way that is a little bit terrifying — you know, in some ways, the responsibility of it.
But I would also say, you know, we often think, “Oh, I need to read all the parenting books. I need to do all these things. I need to strive harder. I need to be better. I need to do all this.” Whereas the Lord says, “Come to me, you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest for your souls.” So I think what I always try to say is, choosing that which seems counterintuitive: time with the Lord and time with prayer. That’s the best choice you can make every day. And to do that, that’s just as important as putting veggies on their plates each day. It’s more important. And so I think fostering our own spiritual life is one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids.
Holmes: That is such a good answer. I had a conversation for the podcast with Dr. John Fesko. And it was on apologetics and we were talking about general revelation and special revelation. But one of the things that he highlighted was the noetic effects of sin and how basically, special revelation — you know, we know that there is a God, right? General revelation, but we don’t know how to worship him. So there are things that there are the commandments and there are the things that the Lord has written on our heart that are revealed in general revelation. But we constantly need the Word of God to refocus us, to set our minds on the things that he would have our minds on. And what I simply mean by that is this: there is a worldly way of raising children that initially makes sense to us until we refocus back on the Word.
What the Word essentially does is correct our vision. So there are . . . things that . . . we as parents end up doing, and then we go to the Word and we realize that that’s not at all what I should be prioritizing when it comes to my child.What the Word essentially does is correct our vision. So there are reactions—there are things that oftentimes I think parents, we as parents end up doing, and then we go to the Word and we realize that that’s not at all what I should be prioritizing when it comes to my child. That’s not at all what I should be emphasizing when it comes to my child. I’m teaching my child sort of this works-based righteousness, and the Word of God reminds us, it teaches us, it corrects our vision for what parenthood should look like. And I think that’s — what you’re saying is absolutely key.
If a parent is essentially trying to raise their child, but they’re not doing it with the Word of God as their basis, as their foundation, they’re going to probably raise children who have an appearance of godliness, but they are not necessarily. They’re going to be whitewashed tombs. And as you pointed out, children can absolutely spot a facade. They can spot someone who has the appearance of godliness, but they can tell within their household that they deny its power. And I think that’s such a good answer to tell the parents to first, no, focus on your heart and the Word of God, not on the children, because that’s what I want to do as a parent. My knee-jerk reaction is, “I got to fix them. I got to fix them.” And I’m ignoring all of the stuff that needs to be addressed in my own heart because I’ve neglected the Word somehow in that particular season. So that’s really helpful. Building on top of this, what is one practice that you’ve found most helpful as you entrust your children to the Lord?
Kruger: Yeah, I think — and this kind of goes with what is before — is remembering that they are created in his image to reflect his character. They are not created in my image to be reflections of me. Part of it is saying, “Lord, you have given me this child to raise for you.” The more I can separate my worth — I have value and worth because I’m created in the image of God, not because I have an obedient child. And the more I attach my significance as a woman, or your significance as a man, to how my child performs, the more legalistic of a parent I will be and the more controlling of a parent I will be. Whereas when I entrust them to the Lord, I say, “OK, Lord, I’m going to do what you’ve asked me to do. I’m going to be a prayerful parent. I’m gonna seek to bear fruit—love, joy, peace. Yeah, I’m going to seek to do all these things that you’ve asked me to do,” but I can’t make them a believer. I can’t force them to obey God, but I can entrust them to him.
And the more I can separate — if they’re walking in rebellion, that’s the fact that the Lord hasn’t gotten hold of their heart and given them a new heart. I mean, the more I can not make that about me, that’s part of entrusting them to the Lord. And then, if they do come to Christ, part of entrusting them to the Lord is taking no pride in that. Yeah, you’re saying the Lord rescued them, the Lord saved them. And I just thank the Lord. But either way, it’s “I am called to be a faithful parent. The Lord must work in my child’s life to make them a believer.” And I think that’s part of this entrusting that soul to the Lord.
Holmes: Yeah, it’s so interesting how that has to be the focus. My calling is to be faithful and to help, but not to necessarily change. There’s a difference between trying to change someone and simply helping someone. Because it really takes — like, this is for the Lord. This is a job that only the Lord can do. He didn’t call me to do the job of change it. He called me to do the job of assisting, aiding, helping, and ultimately what you said, to be faithful. So how can parents model for their children trusting in the Lord? And this is something that you’ve already alluded to, but expound on that. How can a parent model for their children what trusting in the Lord looks like? I am called to be a faithful parent. The Lord must work in my child’s life to make them a believer.
Kruger: Yeah, I think in so many ways. Whether it’s our children see us putting tithe money in the offering plate — in a sense, they see, oh, wow, they’re entrusting some of our income to the Lord. Or whether they see us when life is hard, praying and asking the Lord to help. Where do we go in the hard times with our kids? I think they will see us suffer. I mean, that’s 100 percent because we’re all working, walking through — we all have levels of brokenness in our lives. And as they watch us suffer, how do we do that? With the Lord or do we do that in anger? Do we do that in rebellion against the Lord? Do we go our own way? They’re going to see all of that as we walk through life. And I think one of the ways — just that quiet trust of being a family that says, “You know, we can’t always change our circumstances that we find ourselves in, but we can go to the Lord with them.”
You know, it’s so funny — we’ve been with our kids now doing family devotions for twenty-one years. And that daily time, where we as a family sit before the Lord together, I can’t tell you how valuable that is. And I just want to say it doesn’t have to be miserable. It’s one of our favorite times of the day where we look around and we say, “Hey, how are you doing? How can we pray for you today?” What person doesn’t want that? You know, it doesn’t have to be this “Let me tell you all the ways you’re getting it wrong!” Time with the Word as a family should be what makes our family unique, but warm and gracious and wonderful. So it’s showing them that type of dependence, I think, and showing that I need prayer, and that Mike needs prayer, and that we’re asking for them to join us in prayer. They’re not just people in the family who we serve, but they serve us through their prayers.
And all of that starts to happen as kids age. It’s so beautiful. It makes me look back and just say, “Oh, the ways of the Lord are so much better than we would plan them out.” You know, who would know that sitting around the kitchen table and just taking the time to say, “Hey, how can I pray for you?”, what joy that would bring to a family over years and years of doing that? And so a lot of this, I’m looking back now and I’m saying, “Oh, as we walk in obedience to God’s command, that’s essentially how we show we trust him and then our kids get to experience that.”
And what a blessing. What a blessing for them to see. Even when they might not always want to come to a family devotional time or whatever, especially when they’re little. It’s so much harder when they’re little. I mean, people always say teens are hard. My teens have actually never complained. It’s such a habit. Now when they’re little, it’s hard. You’re in the much harder season.
Holmes: Yeah, they get them quiet and they get them focused. So what encouragement do you have for parents who feel they are struggling to raise godly children?
God gave me my particular children to sanctify me in particular ways, and he gave you your children to sanctify you in particular ways.Kruger: I think we all feel that! That would be my first encouragement, is that I think no one can train anyone on every parenting situation because we only have the kids that we have. Each parenting situation is unique, and each parenting situation — one thing I’ve found a lot of encouragement in is [that] God gave me my particular children to sanctify me in particular ways, and he gave you your children to sanctify you in particular ways.
And it’s not just that I’m God’s agent to sanctify them, as we were talking about earlier, but God is actually using their weaknesses and their struggles to help me become a more dependent Christian on the Lord. And when I can see that this isn’t just about me getting them right, but the Lord actually producing fruit in me, it feels really different. So my goal is not that they would change, but more that I would be sanctified in this thing called parenting. Seeing that the Lord is parenting me as I am parenting my children, and I’m not left to do this work alone.
And I feel like that’s the biggest encouragement for me — and that it’s never in vain. I think sometimes we think we go through hard things with our kids, whether there’s a trip to the ER or whatever, and we’re like, “Why is this part of my day?”, or even harder things as they age. I mean, I’m watching friends walk through really, really hard things with teenagers right now, and we wonder, “Why is my child going through whatever this might be?” And I think entrusting that to the Lord and saying, “OK, he’s doing something in me in this and in our family in this. And maybe it’s because in that waiting room, at that counseling center, I’m going to have an opportunity to share the gospel with another mom who’s there and completely devoid of any hope because she doesn’t know Jesus.” Like, none of this is wasted or in vain. So I might be in a situation I don’t want to be in, but the Lord has a plan for me [to] be there.
Holmes: That’s good. Melissa, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s always a pleasure to get a chance to listen to you and to learn from you — the love and appreciation I have for your husband, who’s one of my colleagues.
Kruger: We love y’all so much!
Holmes: Absolutely, absolutely. Thank you for tuning in, and we hope you enjoyed this week’s episode featuring Mrs. Melissa Krueger. I would also like to thank the RTS family, church partners, students, alumni, and donors for the many ways you make the work of Reformed Theological Seminary possible.
The clip we listened to earlier is from our weekly video series, Wisdom Wednesday, where relevant matters of the Christian faith are addressed by RTS faculty and friends with truth, candor, and grace. Access our entire archive or submit a question at rts.edu/wisdom-wednesday. Mind + Heart is powered by Reformed Theological Seminary, where we desire to raise up pastors and other leaders with a mind for truth and a heart for God.