My favorite part of vacation is by far watching my babies sleeping. Every year, my heart feels a little ding as I notice tiny details that have snatched away their innocence and led them closer to being teenagers. They’ve suddenly become aware of things I wish they didn’t know, and we’ve had more and more discussions about sin and overcoming it.
Another favorite part of vacation is how we sometimes have a traveling church service, organized by my son, who is now nine. He chooses several songs from the book, decides who will pray and when, and writes his own little sermon. My daughter sings along in her sweet little voice. Moments like these, I feel a small twinge of success that we’re doing something right. But then, something worldly creeps into our lives, and I get worried all over again.
Recently it’s struck me how little time I actually have to teach them everything they need to know to grow up as faithful Christians.
Like many, we started our kids off in Bible class a week or two after they were born. Those early classes were nothing more than singing and holding shiny objects in front of them, but the message was clear–like Ma-ma and Da-da, God is someone important who loves you and that you need to love. We’ve worked on memorizing scriptures together, made sure to only miss services when it’s essential (like an ice storm), and even then, we usually have a devotional and worship at home. But also like many, we worry. There’s no guarantee that even with all this preparation our children will choose God’s way.
I’ve heard several people recently compare preachers to salesmen, claiming the analogy that we have to offer God’s truth as some kind of a promotional deal–Hey, for merely a little self-sacrifice and some dedication, praise, and worship, you, too, can have hope of heaven!
And as a teacher, I understand this. A bad lesson when well delivered can be a good sell, and a good lesson badly delivered can be a poor sell. While I don’t like the idea of reducing the gospel to some random product needing promotion, I do feel that some of us need to put a little extra effort into it, especially parents.
Just as some have said in education–parents cannot expect teachers to be solely responsible for delivering the content that will teach their children to love and respect God. And sadly, there’s a finite time we’ve been given to accomplish this task.
I’ve always loved the hymn “Softly and Tenderly,” but I’ve always been curious about opening line of the second verse–“Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing.”
Time is now fleeting. What does that even mean?
Time was fleeting, is fleeting, and will continue to be fleeting. Like it says in James 4:14, life is a vapor. So, to say it’s NOW fleeting is interesting. But I think maybe I understand.
When my babies were little, I didn’t think a lot about protecting them from sin. Their innocence shielded them. And even though time passed at the same fleeting rate, now, the stakes are higher. I have a new awareness of how few moments I actually have to teach them to avoid certain kinds of language and how to be loving and benevolent instead of selfish.
If only I could slow that time.
Well, I can’t do that, but I can choose how much of it I waste. We have to remember as parents that every conversation matters. Every incident in their life can be a teachable moment. We have to seize those moments and nudge them in the right direction.
I’ve heard some say that they don’t want to push religion on their kids so they don’t talk about it that often. They fear that shoving it down their throats will cause them to turn away from it. But this idea is in stark contrast to scripture, and frankly, I believe it’s the reason a lot of churches are losing their young adults.
Most of us are familiar with Proverbs 22:6, which tells us to train up a child, and Deuteronomy 6:7, where Moses instructed the Israelites to teach God’s laws diligently to children.
Hebrews 12:5-11 says:
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Three things to draw from this passage. One, if God treats us as sons, we should be treating sons (and daughters) like God treats us. He provides instruction, discipline, and guidance of how we are to follow His ways. Two, God expects parents to discipline and instruct their children, and this is to be respected. Three, discipline and instruction may be painful for all involved at first, but doesn’t that peaceful fruit of righteousness sound worth it?
When we make plans for their education, social engagements, sports activities, etc., we must not forget to plan for their spiritual growth as well. We can make no excuses–after all, it’s part of the God’s plan that we teach our children to be his followers.
Remember, as Proverbs 19:21 says:
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about defiant children, just further evidence of a problem I’ve observed in my years at a high school teacher. It stuns me how many parents are completely perplexed by the behavior, and how little confidence they have in their own ability to assume authority of their household.
What scares me is that we’re turning our kids into mental patients. We’re telling all of them there’s something wrong that needs to be fixed when a lot of times, we’re that something wrong that needs to be fixed.
I’ve seen an alarming number of parents in recent years go “Nurse Ratched” on their children, taking the attack and shame route. Then, by the time they reach my class at age 16 or 17, they start to rebel in full force. Nurse Ratched starts seeing them as a McMurphy and they almost get to a point where they hate their own children. They’re willing to do anything to get the behaviors to stop, no matter the cost to the kid. Cut them off at the pass. Emotionally lobotomize them.
I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with parents of students who are not coming to school and failing classes that they are “out of ideas” or they “have no clue where to start.” And then, at SIXTEEN or SEVENTEEN, they head to a doctor and beg them for meds to control what they should have handled years prior.
The conversation goes something like this. “They were A students in Middle School, almost like the perfect kid. I don’t know what’s wrong with them.”
I want to just lean across the table and scream at them. You went wrong. You quit on your kid. You stopped paying attention and started playing Farmville 24/7. You started leaving them at home by themselves so you could run out to bars and latch onto strange men or women. You didn’t stand up and demand respect when they were younger.
But instead, I offer tutoring and go home that night to pray for them.
In no way do I believe I’m a perfect parent. In fact, I need to do a ton of growth myself. But I do believe that my efforts to be a godly parent are making a difference in my children, and they could make a difference in yours.
I came across this great post today: 20 Important Bible Verses for Parents
A few key summary points:
- Children are a blessing and we’re to love them (Psalm 127:3-5)
- Children should be taught to memorize verses and know God’s word (Deuteronomy 4:10)
- Parents are commanded to train their children (Proverbs 22:16, Ephesians 6:4)
- Parents are commanded to discipline their children (Proverbs 29:15)
Bottom line, it’s our responsibility as parents, and it’s our fault if we fail at it. God has given us all the tools. We have to stop making excuses, pleasing/satisfying ourselves at their expense, and do the job we were put on this Earth to do–raise up families to honor, love, and glorify God, and to spread his gospel to every creature.