Sunday, March 30, 2008
To Train a Child
6 Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it.
This post is not about how to rear children, because I am right in the midst of that learning process. Maybe, hopefully, when I'm older I will have some fruit of these years, and can share some successes. But for now, I'm just holding onto the Lord daily, praying fervently, begging for wisdom everywhere I turn, wanting what's best for my kiddos, just like all of you (with children.) But I want to share with you what God is teaching us. One thing I have been mindful of a lot lately is what we are training our children in. They are all students, sitting in our classroom, soaking up what we are teaching, whether we mean to be or not. Incredibly frightening, isn't it? If parenting doesn't scare the crud out of you, what does?
The Bible says to train a child in the way he should go, and then he won't depart from it.
What is the way he should go?
4 "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. 5 And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down and when you are getting up again. 8 Tie them to your hands as a reminder, and wear them on your forehead. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
37 Jesus replied, " 'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments."
So far, if you are a Christian parent like me, you know these verses. This is all very 'Duh.'
But how is this lived out?
Recently, our worship leader, Aaron, wrote in our church newsletter about worship. He wrote about how worship is not just what we do at church. It's not something we try to fit into our lives.
We ARE worshipping all the time.
But what are we worshipping?
And what are we teaching our children to worship?
How do we define worship?
One of dictionary.com's definitions is "to regard with ardent or adoring esteem or devotion."
So what do we show our kids is important to us?
We have all trained our kids in something. Some of them can show adoring esteem to your alma mater on command at the age of 2.
Some of them know more about nutrition than I do, and are trained well in what to eat.
Some of them have been trained in politeness and manners so they don't embarrass us or act like punks. (Who wants punk kids? Not me!)
Some of them are trained that education is everything. They are trained and on the path to the right college.
Some of them are in training to become professional athletes. They know sports is what gets the ardent devotion. It trumps everything else.
Some are trained to please themselves. Do what makes you happy. We've never taught them to step outside of themselves to care for the needy. In fact, they don't know that the needy exist. (I remember when our kids thought all of Mexico was the resorts we had visited. They didn't understand why Daddy needed to go there and do mission work? Those people were living the good life! Ouch.)
Over the past few years, Rusty and I have been asking ourselves, what are we training our kids in?
What do we give ardent devotion to in the everyday. Does God just get our weekend? Or is He woven into everything we do?
Have we built our lives and are trying to fit God into in somewhere, or are we building our lives ON HIM, and only doing what He is asking of us?
Our kids are sponges. They learn quickly, and they are not hard to train.
But Rusty and I have had to take steps back and realize that sometimes we have trained them in the wrong things, or with the wrong attitudes.
For example, in our earlier years of parenting, we were teaching obedience and good behavior, but not for the glory of God and obedience to His Word. Just to have good kids. We had to backtrack.
Also, we have been re-evaluating our time in front of the TV. Aaron wrote a great post on that recently that I will be writing more about soon. But as Heather wrote, I also let my first child watch WAY too much TV. We had it on all the time. I shudder just thinking about how foolish that was. When we moved here in 2003 it seemed a good time to turn over a new leaf, and my children quickly became accustomed to no TV during the day. It's never on during the day. That's just a general rule around here. We never let them watch live TV. I can't predict what's going to happen not only during a show, but during the commercial break. We turned off the TV, and started having family meals at the table in silence. That was five years ago. (We've since allowed some bad night time TV habits creep in, but I'll write about that later in the week.) I was teaching my kids to be slothful and that mindless activity is all good. It's not.
In our earlier parenting years, I cared more about what clothes they wore. They had more GAP and Gymboree clothing. As God grew us, we realized these things are NOT important. Not even close. We weren't going to teach our kids and spend our money foolishly just to impress our friends at church or keep up with the Jones', whoever they are. I avoid Gymboree like the plague, no matter what deals they offer, and when the kids need clothes, they are the cheapies.
I could go on. God has stopped us in our tracks, over and over, and re-taught us how to submit everything to Him.
If we want our kids to know that Bible Study and prayer are important, we have to not only let them wake-up every morning to us in the Word, but we have to teach and equip them to do it themselves on a daily basis. It's not going to happen magically when they get older. I want them to see prayer and Bible Study as the most normal part of their day. Like breakfast.
But it's too easy to train them in the world's ways. I don't want that. That means we have to talk with them more. If I want them to connect to the Body of Christ, then I have to treat their role in the church as importantly as I do mine and Rusty's.
While I'm driving to church on Saturday nights, trying to shake off the craziness of getting four kids dressed, fed, and off on time, I pray and ask God to prepare my heart for worship and see opportunities to meet visitors or someone who needs a word or a smile from me.
I became convicted that I needed to do the same for my kids. So I also am asking them to pray on the way to church, asking God the same things. One of the first times we did that, we pulled up to church and Emma befriended a little girl visiting and asked her if she wanted to sit with us. The guys who brought her were so relieved and told us it was an answer to prayer for Emma to take care of her. It was her first time, and they weren't planning on bringing her. Her Mom just sent her with them. And it was her birthday!!!!! Can you imagine? So Emma got to see the immediate fruit of that prayer. What a blessing!
I also was recently convicted that I haven't been sending their Bibles with them to church. They use them daily at home, but I was afraid they would lose them at children's church in the mass of children, games, and moving rooms. But it's important to have your Bible ready to read in worship for us, and it is for them also. So I sent their Bibles with them last night. They didn't lose them, and they got to practice using them during their story time.
I would love it if any of you would share how God is challenging you in this area as well. I want Him to open my eyes to every part of our lives where we are worshiping someone or something else, and in turn, training my children to do the same.
What gets our attention?
What do we get excited about?
When do our children see us beaming with pride at them?
What is a priority in time spent as a family?
We can say God is first, but are we trying to squeeze God in, or letting everything in our lives overflow from a love relationship with Him?
What is getting our ardent or adoring esteem or devotion?