If I was writing a book with the same title of this blog series, the first line of the first chapter would read something like this:
“If you’ve opened this book hoping for a five-step program that will guarantee that your kids will grow up to love God and serve Him with all of their hearts, if you’re hoping for a formula that will guarantee the desired outcome, that is, kids that “get it” at age 13, if you’re looking for a promise that you will get the kind of kid that others will marvel at by simply following these simple steps, then please, close this book, place it back on the shelf and walk away. This book is not for you.”
When I decided to write a series on raising world-changers, I was responding to what I believed was the prompting of the Holy Spirit (and still do by the way). Experience has taught me that telling him “no” is a bad idea. I jumped at the idea without much thinking or stewing. Had I known the journey that this particular series would take me on, I would have still obeyed but probably with a bit more fussing. Okay, alot more fussing.
I really don’t know what I was thinking other than the fact that I knew the Bible was the best place to get parenting advice. It’s not that I thought I would have a bunch of advice to give you, the reader. Why would I? I’m neck-deep in this parenting thing. I guess what I was looking for is what so many of us are looking for: a formula for raising kids that will guarantee they turn out the way I’ve envisioned. Like most people, I am a results-oriented person. I want to know that if I’m going to put the time into something and experience ANY amount of grief or hardship over it, that I will get the results I’m after. Maybe I’m the only mom out there naive enough to believe that this applies to parenting. Whatever naivete I started with has since been stripped away, and once again I am acutely aware of my deep need for divine intervention from the only person who loves my kids more than me, Jesus.
It’s this coming to the end of ourselves and acknowledging our need for Christ in the first Beattitude that laid the groundwork for the rest of them. The second one is no less difficult. Mourning our sins and the sins of those around us is the absolute antithesis of what we see in our culture.
In our house just getting each of us to own up to the simple fact that we’ve done something wrong is a feat in and of itself. Forget mourning over it. That deep lamenting that caused the prophet Isaiah to say in regards to his sin, “Woe is me! for I am undone” (Isaiah 6:5, KJV) is unthinkable! Admission of guilt takes humility, and humility is a lost art in the human race.
I can’t help but think of Peter. His enthusiasm for Jesus deserves admiration. He spoke before thinking walking on the water before realizing what he was doing. He was adamant about who Jesus was and insisted despite the Lord’s warning that he would absolutely not betray Jesus.
And then there it is in Matthew 26:75,
“Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.”
I don’t know that this was a turning point for Peter or not. What I do know is that it is the first time we see the intense mourning over sin in his life. What follows later on in Scripture is a man who changed the world, the very person Christ would use to start His church.
The point is, understanding our deep depravity to the point of mourning over it, is yet another step that will enable us to go deeper in our walk with Christ to the point of influencing those around us.
So how in the world do we “teach” this concept to our kids? When my kids were little I taught them all kinds of things: how to potty train, how to suck milk from a straw instead of a sippy cup, how to count to ten, say their “abc’s” and spell their name. But those are skills. Anybody can learn a skill, and most people can teach them. This other, now that’s a different story. Now we’re getting into heart issues, and there is no formula for making this happen in another person.
Two things come to mind giving me relief from the overwhelming task of raising kids to love Jesus. First, in the words of Elizabeth Grant, it starts with us. We may not be able to control the hearts of our kids, but we can certainly control ours. Parents are the first line of defense in the war for their kids. We set the tone of our homes.
“Hear, O Israel: 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 upon your hearts. Impress them upon 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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”
It’s our job to introduce them to Jesus and teach them about Him. It’s not the church’s job or the job of friends and relatives, a youth pastor or anyone else. Having these allies at our disposal are great, but they’re simply reinforcements.
The second thing I’ve learned ties in so well with the first. In a conversation with someone recently on this very subject He reminded me that we have an ally, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit wants the hearts of our kids even more than we want Him to have them. Again, the pressure is off. It’s our job to foster the environment for the Holy Spirit to work. It’s His job to work.
I will never forget the first time I came face-to-face with the ugliness of my sin. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all that long ago, and it was over a sin issue I hadn’t really struggled with up to this point. It came out of nowhere, and not only was I embarrassed in front of the Lord over it (as if He wasn’t aware of it until I told Him), but I was horrified. It brought me to tears because I realized that the nails that pierced the hands of my Savior were done so because of that sin and all the others that I commit on a daily basis.
We can’t make our kids come to this realization, but at least we know how to pray specifically for them. My prayer for my kids is Psalm 51:17.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (NIV).