As most of you with kids know, raising children is NOT an easy task. I used to make a joke quite often, “If only kids would come with manuals.” I literally took home my first-born baby girl from the hospital, totally clueless on what to do with this new little life God had entrusted to my care. And now fourteen years later, I am humbled as I watch my daughter blossoming into a beautiful young lady who loves Jesus with all her heart. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to God who is so gracious and faithful and has helped fill in the gaps where I was so lacking.
When I think back of myself when I was the same age, there are no comparisons. I was the “typical” teenager, and life was ALL about ME. By the grace of God, my daughter has so much more character than I ever dreamed of having at that age. No, she’s far from perfect, but “God holds the reins to her heart” and THAT has made the ALL the difference.
One of the best lessons we can as parents can learn and take to heart, is that your kids are following your lead. We teach them the game of “follow the leader” when they are very small, and if we’re authentic in our actions, they will continue to follow our lead into adulthood. We can give our kids tons of advice, fill them so full of our many words, but unless we are ourselves being genuine as a person, our words mean very little to them. Have you ever noticed how it doesn’t take long for a newborn to recognize the voice of its parent. Your child has been listening to you and watching your every move since the day they were born. And like it or not, kids become imitators of what they see. Ever hear the saying, “Kids live what they learn?” It’s so true.
Growing up, my family went to church every Sunday and like they say, “lived like the world the rest of the week.” Going to church alone does not constitute knowing who God is, or living your life for him. I never want my kids to take God, or being raised in a christian home for granted. When I came to Christ at age twenty, I slowly began to see the transforming power of God in my life. The first twenty years of my life I lived in the world and saw firsthand the effects of sin and how it eventually destroyed my family. I have had to overcome all kinds of obstacles and un-learn behaviors from from my childhood and past. But I’m grateful that my kids have been protected from a lot of those things. It is such a blessing to be raised in a christian home and I always try to help my kids to see that. I try to show them through different circumstances that arise, that there are consequences to the choices we make and that our choices don’t affect just us, but all those around us.
At some point in our kids lives there is a swing in the pendulum. Everything we teach our kids and raise them to believe has to become their own. Their relationship with God has to be their own. Often times we see the effects of this change during their adolescent years. They are starting to break away from the nurturing of their parents and starting to become more independent. This is a crucial point where we can see the genuineness of their faith or lack there of. During adolescence they have more opportunities to put in practice that which up until this point, has only been theory. That’s why the earlier we can start to show them that all of their actions have consequences, the better off they will be.
We need to set standards of behavior, and set them high. God’s standards need to be our standards. In 1 Peter 1:16 we are told to . . . “be ye holy, even as I am holy.” Whoa God, that sounds like a tall order. That doesn’t mean that we walk around like self-righteous prudes. We have to properly recognize who we are “in Christ” and strive to live our lives to honor God. We are all sinners saved by God grace and we are all a work in progress. We need to be honest with ourselves and others about who we are (we all have strengths and weaknesses) and we need to strive to do our best to follow God wholeheartedly. I had this written in my journal but didn’t write down where I copied it from, but it said. . . We all have a journey to go, a race to run, a warfare to accomplish, and a great work to do. To me this is a great summary of what our walk is supposed to look like.
Parenting is never going to be an easy task. But nothing worthwhile ever is! God has entrusted to us, a very short and precious time in which our children are under our care and guidance. The best possible thing that we can do for them is to be diligent in our own walk with the Lord. And in doing so we are better equipped to lead them! Thankfully we have God’s word and the power of prayer! I’m also so very thankful that when I fail (and often times I do) God knows my heart and he stands in the gaping holes of my life, spreading his arms wide, and covering me with his mercy and grace.
Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Proverbs 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
Deuteronomy 11:18-19 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.