I remember, when I was growing up, envisioning what life would look like when I had my own family. Oh my, did I have lofty aspirations and expectations! What I did not realize, however, is that it takes more than desire to become a godly husband and father. Just because I wanted it didn’t mean that it was naturally going to happen; I had to work hard at learning and adapting my life to the word of God. Mom’s and dad’s, may I share with you some things the Lord has taught me along the way.
First, take a moment to read the following excerpts from Deuteronomy 6:
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as front-lets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
When your son asks you in time to come, “What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?” then you shall say to your son, “We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.”
God wants our children to know Him and to know how much He loves and cares for them. So He commanded us to teach them. Parents, as you reflect upon this scripture passage, I offer these suggestions for impressing God’s word and His love on the hearts of your children.
- Know where you’ve been and where you’re going. Be honest with yourself about where you stand with the Lord and begin there. Don’t try to pretend that you are more spiritually mature than you really are! And do not beat yourself up for not being where you think you should be! As He did with the Israelites, God will take you from where you are to where He wants you to be. Just start following.
- Become the spiritual person you want your children to be. You cannot lead them where you have not been.
- Trust the Lord for your family’s protection and growth. Note from the passage above: the LORD rescued Israel from slavery; the LORD showed them signs and wonders; the LORD gave them the promised land; the LORD preserved their lives. Rest in the fact that God provides. Looking back, it is easy to see His fingerprints on your life. Looking forward, there often are unanswered questions. Trust what God tells you in the present and follow Him. Be true to what you understand He has said. Don’t wait to see the whole picture before you obey.
- Model consistent godly behavior. Allow your children to see you living out your faith. Be habitual in the disciplines of scripture reading and praying. Treat others well all the time, when you are recreating, shopping, eating out, even when you are driving. Be honest in your dealings with others. It is said that values are caught, not taught. Do your children “catch you” doing the right thing when no one else is looking.
- Be intentional. Deuteronomy 6 is replete with intentionality; God said to teach your children when you are at home, when you are coming and going, when you are putting them to bed, when you are waking them. Take a child with you to make a hospital visit or to do a chore for an elderly neighbor. Many times I assumed my kids did not want to be a part of these kinds of activities with me. I was wrong.
- Take advantage of teachable moments. When you are with your children, be present mentally. Be careful not to be so mentally consumed with other concerns or too focused on completing a task that you can’t enjoy being in the moment. Opportunities for life lessons will naturally occur. Take the time to call attention to and discuss God-given learning experiences. Experience is a great teacher, especially with a loving parent to help inform and interpret it.
- Find out what makes your kids tick. Every child has a unique set of passions and interests. Learn what each of your children loves doing and find ways to spend time with them doing what they love. You will affirm them and communicate your love to them.
- Be transparent. As your children mature they will begin to see your faults and growing areas. (When they become teenagers they may even enjoy pointing them out to you.) They will see when you have a difficult day or when you grapple with a troubling situation or faith issue. A willingness on your part to open the window to your own heart (age-appropriately) can be very healthy for kids as their world becomes more complex.
- Own your mistakes. You are going to make mistakes as you parent. When you are wrong or when you fail, admit it. Pastor Ronny mentioned in a recent sermon our need to say some important words, “I was wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you.” Your children need to hear those words from you.
- Affirm often; correct when necessary. I used to think I needed to correct everything my children did that wasn’t just perfect. Well, I’ve learned that affirmation is a very powerful tool for training also. It is easy to focus on correcting undesirable behavior. Try balancing the need for correction with plenty of affirmation.
- Be a person of prayer! You need to talk to the Lord! About everything. Get in the habit of telling him your thoughts and concerns all the time. Whether just to talk or to seek His guidance, talk to Him like you would talk to a close friend. And listen for Him to respond, especially as you read His word. Pray for yourself and your spouse. And pray for your children. James 5:16 says the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
- Trust the Lord. I know I said this already but it is worth repeating. Consider this: For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. (2 Chron. 16:9) Did you get that? It is incredible! As you rely on God, He looks for ways to give you His “strong support.” And, as your children grow and place their hearts in His hand, He does the same for them. That’s exactly what He wants. Remember v. 24 of the passage from Deuteronomy above, we follow Him “for our good always, that He might preserve us alive.”
Parents I am praying for you that you will be encouraged and equipped to lead the little people in your homes to the throne of Jesus where they will find abundant life!