(I apologize that I was unable to publish a devotional last Friday. I was at a retreat center about to facilitate a planning experience, and the center’s WI-FI was down. Sorry!)
The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 6: 5-7)
I was dreaming last night about teaching our children and preparing them for the real deals of life. It’s lingering with me this morning. This has to go beyond sitting them down (as their eyes are rolling) to give them a lecture. Such teaching can’t be delegated to the school – no, not even a Christian school. Church classes are helpful, but not sufficient.
Teaching children in the ways of the Lord? That’s the prime responsibiity of parents. (Grandparents can help, too!)
Culture (also called “the world”) is working overtime to pull your kids into its alternate interpretation of reality. From peers, from social media, and from readily-available pornographic images, their minds are registering experiences that can harden into beliefs and practices they will carry into adulthood. In the process, they are often forming beliefs about themselves that have the power to cripple them for a lifetime.
God’s plan is that children acquire such a strong foundation in Him at home that they will have a deep reference point by which to reject temptations to believe and behave otherwise. They’ll also have an internal North Star to guide them when they stray away. How can this happen? What can a concerned parent (or grandparent) do to instill the ways of God?
Yes, through direct Biblical teaching at home and through church learning activities, kids need to come to know God’s Word. I have a good friend, Van Jones, who spends time with his daughters every morning, systematically teaching and discussing the Bible. I so admire the investment of that father into those girls. They will carry that legacy into all of their lives. Yes, direct teaching opportunities are so valuable. However necessary that is, it cannot stop there.
Probably the most important way of all to prepare our kids is by example. What you say on Sunday pales in comparison to what you say on Tuesday when the washing machine breaks, when your kid is dawdling and refusing to get ready for school, or when your spouse gets on your last nerve. Oh, yes, they watch. They see if you are arising early to spend focused time with God. They notice your language when you are frustrated (and yes, they repeat it at the most inopportune times). When life’s tragedies hit, they observe whether God is at the center of your attempts to recover. Clearly, you teach by example whether a relationship with God makes a real difference in life. Be genuine in your love for God with all you are, and notify your attitudes and actions. Your children are being molded by the example they see in you.
In addition, use teachable moments by talking with your children about God’s principles in everyday situations. (Note: this will be ineffective if your example is not congruent with your words.) When various circumstances arise in your life, talk your decisions out loud at the child’s level of understanding, using God’s Word and His precepts as your deciding criteria. When you’re soothing an upset kiddo and helping him or her to figure out what to do in a troublesome situation, include Biblical principles in your down-to-earth discussion (again, without lecturing!). Use current situations as teaching metaphors for possible future encounters, helping the child to incorporate skills for life consistent with God’s ways of doing things.
You can’t stop the attempts of “the world” and “the enemy” to ensnare your child. However, what happens at home can be the immunization that prevents their contracting some very serious cultural diseases.
God, give us wisdom as we live with and work with our children. Clean up our hearts and lives, and stoke our passion for You. May we live before them an example that is joyful and appealing, one that a child would want to emulate. We need You in raising our kids, Lord! Please help us!