Recently, as part of my preparation in teaching a couple of workshops, I asked two people to read over what I'd written: Pastor David, and Anne. Even though she was vacationing, Anne took time to read, encourage, and, again, to follow up. I could easily write an entire post on how much I appreciate and love her, and why. Y'all! She's so wise! I asked her to write a post on growing children (She has seven! And she homeschools!) into the people God would have them be (both as His followers, and as individuals); please enjoy her words, below. And please visit I Live in an Antbed to read more of Anne's thoughts on faith and family! Without further ado, here's Anne...
As parents who love the Lord, we all desire our children to grow up into godly men and women who will honor Him and bring Him great Glory through the way they walk this earth. Admittedly, that goal is a lofty one. In fact, it can seem completely unattainable as we wrestle with the sin nature that rears its ugly head sooner than we could have ever dreamed possible in our precious little darlings.
And yet, as we read biographies of great men and women of God, we have testimony that it is indeed possible for these little "sinners" to grow up to be true reflections of Christ. But, how do we get there from here??!
I must confess right up here at the front that I DON'T KNOW! I am still learning so much! But He has taught me so much! And some of that is what I hope to share here.
I remember going through LaMaze classes while expecting our first born. The labor and delivery went so fast! And there she was! Our precious Hannah, sent to us from above. I was in Love. And as the adrenaline continued to course through my veins, I remember walking around my hospital room unpacking and straightening things up after they brought me back to my room, while awaiting her arrival from the nursery where they were doing their initial screenings, etc. And when the door swung open, an older nurse wheeled the little bassinet into my room while I beamed.
Then the nurse spoke, "Honey, you are gonna have to sit on this child!"
To say I was a little taken aback would be a major understatement. I was outright offended. How dare she!
Hahaha! I was so naive!! She knew exactly what she was talking about!! That very experienced nurse had seen enough babies that she pegged mine as incredibly strong willed from her first appearance in the hospital nursery. I had NO idea what I was in for! As we arrived at home, unlocked the door and made our way inside, we set her little carseat down in the middle of the living room floor.
It was at that exact moment I had this overwhelming sense of panic well up inside me as my heart was screaming, "WHAT NOW??!!! WHAT ON EARTH DO I DO WITH HER NOW?" They had taught me all about birthing her, which seemed at the time so very important. But now what?? No one told me what to do next?
Well, I am happy to say that the Lord was and is Faithful! He took us from that point and Faithfully walked by our side, teaching us how to raise our children. I truly mean it when I say that I have probably gotten more wrong than right since that September day in 1987. And the reason I say that is not to be self deprecating, but to testify to His Sufficiency. I, who knew NOTHING about how to raise children, now have children who love the Lord and seek to spend their lives serving Him. So be assured that you, too, can reach your goal of having godly children.
When Brandee asked me to write this post, she said she was looking for words that focused specifically on training our children to follow His Principles, and in so doing, becoming what they were Designed to become. That spoke to my heart because it is exactly the journey the Lord has guided us on. And is still guiding us on! Remember, I have 6 children who are still living here!!! :)
I think the foundational Truth that has impacted our parenting is that:
Every thought, word, and action reveals the heart.
Understanding that gives a framework for our method of raising children. We deal with things in terms of character. That may sound simplistic, but Truth is quite simple. And so, when a child became old enough to understand right from wrong (which, by the way, is very young for many of them), we began to require obedience from them. Even before a child turns one, they may exhibit defiance or compliance. And from the time your will as a parent is challenged, you must engage the battle.
The willingness to do this depends on our understanding that these precious little ones are born with a sin nature. They do not learn it "after the fact." Man is not inherently good. Man is inherently evil. Our children come to us with the seeds of sin in their hearts, and depending on the child and how God "wired" them, that sin nature may make itself known pretty early. Are they guilty of sin at that young age? No. But the makings are there and so the training begins from the earliest opportunity.
As soon as they are able to understand your words, talk to them about the "whys." When you talk to your children, discuss character qualities. Even toddlers can understand concepts like patience and kindness and service. And when you start from the beginning, or wherever you are in the parenting journey when the Lord reveals these things to you, they learn quickly what these traits look like. Instead of saying something like, "No, no. We don't do that," say instead, "It was unkind of you to take that toy away from your brother. You are being selfish. To be like Jesus, we are supposed to be generous with our things and share." By naming the character qualities, good and bad, children learn to look deeper than just the "surface" of their actions. They learn to label the motives of their own hearts.
In the same way, when I become impatient or grumpy in front of the kids, I need to confess in specific terms to them, labeling the character qualities by name, all the while pointing to the Lord as the One to whom we are responsible. When our children see us being accountable to the Lord, they learn that these are not just "Mom & Dad's Rules." It's much more serious than that. They see us taking our character seriously and they learn to take it seriously.
When things in the family are dealt with on this level, it provides a strong framework for us to build into our children an understanding of God's Plan and Purposes for each individual. When we consistently point them to the fact that we are accountable and responsible for our choices before the Lord, it is an easy connection for them to see that He has Plans for them.
The talents, giftings, and abilities He Designed into their beings help reveal what He desires to accomplish through them. Those unique aspects of their created beings are specially crafted by their Loving Father so that they may use them for His Glory. And when they are trained up from a young age to look deeply into the motives of their hearts, revealed by their character and seen through their choices, they learn how important it is for them to yield all to Him so that they can walk in the fullness of His Purpose for their lives.
Every parent knows that each of their children is naturally gifted in certain ways. One of your children may be very creative, expressed through artistic talents, while another may show no artistic bent at all. That simply means their gifts lie in another area. When your child shows an interest in a specific area, encourage it. Feed the flame. Help them sate their curiosity in productive, meaningful ways, always pointing them to the Lord and His Design for their lives. Help them understand that the things they are good at are an indication of the direction He would like them to pursue in their service to Him. Give them a Big Picture view by telling them that you want to help them learn what He Designed them to become. Help them understand that they have an important role to fulfill in the Body of Christ and their giftings meet a specific need for the Body's role in the world. Pray with your child for discernment in what He Designed them to become. Model for them the seeking of His Face for direction and insight.
As a parent, you want to commission your child to accomplish his/her "mission" for Him. A sense of their Purpose, a Vision for their lives will give them a mighty defense against the lies and schemes of the enemy. That enemy will try to convince our children that they are worthless instead of priceless, incompetent instead of gifted, aimless instead of filled with purpose. By building into their spirits the Truth of who they are, they will more readily recognize these lies. By helping them walk in Purpose, they will be able to choose activities and friends that will help them accomplish that Purpose. By training them to recognize the motives of their own hearts through instruction in character qualities, they will learn to love Truth. They will learn to desire Truth in the innermost places of the heart. They will learn to accept responsibility for each of their choices and the consequences they set in motion, for good or evil, when they make a decision.
So much of parenting in our nation over the last generation has not been based on Truth. It has been based on relativism and humanistic principles. Even those called by His Name have been deceived. As parents, cry out to Him for Wisdom and Discernment. He will supply it in abundance. He is the answer to whatever your question is in how to train your child up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Ask Him to help you. Pray for your children everyday. Many times everyday. Ask the Lord to help you see who He Designed them to be, He knows them perfectly. Ask Him to help you touch their hearts and stir up in them a love of Truth that will stand against all the onslaughts of the enemy. Beg Him for Wisdom to teach your children that their own worst enemy is not the evil one, but it is their own sin nature.
And ask Him to help you live a life worthy of your calling to parent. Sit before Him and allow Him to show you the areas in your life that are in conflict with His Will. We cannot do our very best to train our children when we are not walking in the center of His Will, dependent on His Wisdom.
If all of this sounds a little overwhelming, start simply by praying everyday for Wisdom and Discernment. Ask Him to help you desire Truth in the innermost places. Then know that He WILL answer! He WILL move on your behalf!! He WILL show you how to be a better parent tomorrow than you have been today. Trust Him. For He IS Trustworthy. He will bless us as we seek to honor Him through the raising of these children.