What is our goal as we disciple our children? My greatest desire is that our children be gradually formed into the image of Christ (Gal. 4:19) and attain Christian maturity (Eph.4:13-15).
As a new parent you might have had some ideas about how you would go about raising your children to love the Lord. For most of us, we quickly realized that life with children was not quite as idealistic as we originally thought. Certainly, the years of sleep-deprivation are difficult, but what about the time that your sweet little one defiantly "shook their fist in your face" and told you "no!" in no uncertain terms? "Yikes! Where did that come from?"
No doubt about it, while discipling our children can be the most rewarding investment we make, it is also fraught with questions and many "unknowns."
When I was a younger parent I think I might have been quick to offer my thoughts on parenting/discipling children, quite confident that certain "methods" would obtain a desired "outcome." Now that I have a dozen children, two of whom are adults out on their own, I am much less confident to offer advice.
As I mentioned in part one of this article, these thoughts are fruit of my preparations for a talk that I have been asked to give next weekend. It is not a topic that I would have chosen on my own, but it has been very good for me to consider and articulate my thoughts on "discipling our children."
Here's what I believe, the condensed version.
Parenting/discipling our children is more about *people* than *process*. It is more about who I am than what I do.
I was recently told about an interesting survey of “over 50-year-olds,” concerning their greatest fears…
3. fear of dying
2. running out of money
1. living an insignificant life
This strikes a deep chord in me. I do not want to live a life of insignificance. As a mother, in this season of life, my family, those I rub shoulders with, laugh and cry with are the ones in my immediate sphere of influence. The ones upon whom I can have the most influence. If you have children living at home with you, they are the ones upon whom you will have the most impact, simply because you are with them all day long.
Investing in our family is certainly a way to live a life that is significant.
Are you like me though? Is this at times overwhelming to you? Do you feel unprepared, ill-equipped or unable to successfully accomplish this task? We are unable without the Lord Jesus Christ. But praise God, His yoke is easy and His burden light. (Matt. 11:30) The problem is that we often take on a yoke that He did not intend for us to carry.
Parenting/discipling our children is not always easy or happy. We wouldn’t expect any other major calling to be easy (studying to become a doctor, being a missionary, etc.), so why are we so surprised/dismayed when, despite our best efforts, our children are, well, children? I think this primarily happens when our focus is “off.”
Our highest calling in life is *not* our family or our children! It is to love the Lord our God first and foremost. Anything else is idolatry.
Many women have abandoned careers to stay home and invest in their family. I have done the same thing (with no regrets, I might add). But we must guard vigilantly against seeing our family as our greatest calling. I propose that it is just as misguided to place our family on a pedestal that only the Lord should occupy as it is to place a career there.
When my focus is on the Lord, then I am freed to serve my family and disciple my children in ways that I never could otherwise.
Some years ago now, when I had four children, 6 and under, I found out that I was expecting again! While I was thrilled to add another child to our family, I was very overwhelmed. My pregnancies are not “easy.” I tend to get extreme “morning sickness” which lasts for much longer than the average three months. This often caused me to lose 10-20lbs and become so dehydrated that I had to be re-hydrated via IV.
The day I found out for sure that we were expecting again I came to the Lord in my quiet time, so needy~ dreading the months ahead and seeking encouragement. Do you know what the Lord lead me to read that morning? 2 Chron. 20:15
" and he said, 'Listen, all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: thus says the LORD to you, 'Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God's.'"
This made me laugh and was a fabulous reminder to me. My "great multitude" was not intimidating to the Lord! There is a "my part," and a "His part."
In order to disciple my children, and even more importantly, to serve my God, I must place my eyes on Jesus, just like Peter walking on the stormy seas and remember that "the battle is not mine, but the Lord's." (That's my part). God is responsible for the rest. (That's His part)
Parenting and discipling our children are more about who we are, than what we do.
It is about me "fixing my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith" and it is about, as Elisabeth Elliot puts it, "seeing in every frustration 'a chance to die.' A chance to leave self behind and say 'yes' to the will of God." Children are fabulous for maturing us in that way, aren't they?
Our own personal walk with the Lord is so key that I would propose that it is possible to have family devotions, require perfect obedience from your children, involve them in a myriad of good activities and still not communicate to them that which is the very most important.
Just as "love covers a multitude of sins," I believe that parents who joyfully and passionately love the Lord demonstrate a faith that is contagious to their children.
This joy-filled walk with the Lord simply must happen first…
The fact is that life is hard. I know this first hand. Here are some of the things that the Lord has blessed us with in the past years~ creating dependence on Him and showing Him faithful in ways I never would have experienced otherwise:
1. As I mentioned earlier, I get very sick when I am pregnant.
2. three miscarriages, one of which was at 17 weeks.
3. Three times our family has been shot at in “drive-by-shootings” (my husband is a policemen), one time in particular bullets very narrowly missed hitting three of our sleeping children.
4. Our ninth baby was born 13 weeks early and required several major surgeries when he was young.
5. We have experienced the challenge of helping teens navigate the (at times) stormy waters to adulthood and have had to watch them “figure things out” for themselves.
We each have our own list of difficulties in our lives, don’t we? So, how do I find joy and delight in my walk with the Lord and in my personal life? (*please understand, I don’t mean “happiness,” but joy that transcends circumstances.)
Ultimately, of course, we can’t seek or find joy. It is a gift from the Lord. He grants joy as we seek Him. That being said, here are some practical ways that I "feed my soul" and in the process often stumble upon joy!
• Quality time in the Word, preferably first thing in the day, plus additional times later in the day (you can read one of my favorite George Mueller quotes at the end of this post detailing a rich way to spend time in the Word each morning) If the younger children interrupt me early in the morning (the older children never seem to have a problem getting up too early!), I have them get a Children’s Bible story book and sit quietly with me.
• Maintaining a thankfulness journal
• Striving for a peaceful and picked-up home
• Prayer ~60/60 prayer challenge
• Documenting my walk with the Lord… journal, blog etc.
• Photography (helps me to not only “see” but also to seek and find reasons to give glory to God)
• Exercise: this, too, looks different for everyone, but for me, right now my favorite form of exercise is bicycling… hard for 16 miles at a nearby lake every day that I can manage to squeeze an hour to get out there. When the weather doesn’t cooperate I do step-aerobics in my living room…. The little guys often join in~ it’s got to be pretty comical. I really believe that getting outside is best and aerobic exercise is best of all. A stroll by the lake is therapeutic, but a really hard workout not only burns calories, and is a fabulous time to pray, but also is wonderful for burning stress.
• Meditating on scripture~ carrying around my scripture memory cards with me throughout the day and
• Using a small piece of paper or 3x5 card to write down a meaningful verse from my morning quiet time to carry around with me as I tackle life.
1. It is more about People than Process. (My children are intrinsicly important individuals who must each make a decision to follow the Lord. No particular "method" will guarantee any given result.)
2. It is more about who I am than what I do. (My walk with the Lord is paramount. My joyful obedience is significantly more important than any prescribed "method" of discipleship.)
coming soon: part 3, with some specific ideas detailing some ways we have invested in our children's lives, some discipling "specifics."
Rejoicing in the everyday blessings here, and surprised by joy, even in the hard things,