Raising Pharisees; A How To Guide
As each of my 4 children were born, my hope of being a good parent was renewed. I would put away the guilt and shame of my past bad parenting choices and instead focus on the new life before me bursting with possibility. I dreamed of singing cute Bible songs, serving in the children’s ministry, reciting prayers, and lulling sleepy eyes with Bible stories at bedtime.
Life happened. We went without a home church for five long years. We were busy and stressed. Getting kids in bed and actually to sleep felt more like an emergency rather than a sweet teachable moment.
I used to really beat myself up for the inconsistency of my “Bible teaching”, especially being a home school family, with our Christian Worldview being #1 on our list of reasons why we chose it over public school. I had the best of intentions, but I seemed to always fall short.
Each school year I would start out strong with devotionals and scripture memory. Then by December it seemed my out loud prayers for the Lord to “give me strength” were about the only mention of God in my household.
As their parent and teacher I want more than anything for them to know the Lord. But, above all else, I want them to desire to know Him. I want it to be their faith, not mine. I want them to be fully established in His grace.
There was no shortage of love, Bible stories, or prayers growing up in my home. But, I also remember the things I was taught in church that made me believe I needed to look a certain way, act a certain way, and make correct choices, to show the world I was a believer. So, when I slipped and fell and then fell further, I doubted my true identity. I thought God was disappointed in me. The repentance I had always learned about was not solving my shame. I was being bombarded with temptation. I was singing praise and worship songs on Sunday morning next to the same people I had been drinking and smoking with on Saturday night. I questioned my faith, my salvation, and God all together. Up to that point, the only thing church had brought me was confusion.
I was lost. I made major mistakes and took treacherous detours from my faith. I hated where I was. But, I was convinced that the path back to God was too far. My bitter pride was hard to swallow. But, by the grace of God, I did find my way back. And what brought me there was the realization that the Lord had never left my side, His face was turned toward me in love, even while I sinned against Him. He protected me and never stopped pursuing me. To me this was an overwhelming truth that revealed God’s grace and love for me.
My kids are aware of my past mistakes. I tell them about them. I am honest, painful as it may be. I tell them the consequences I faced by making those choices. And, dear God, I urge them not to make the same mistakes I did. I want them to know that when (not if) they make mistakes they have a safe haven in their home. They are forgiven by Him and by me. Because I have been there, and it happens to the best of us.
Oh, how I hope that my kids each have this amazing life story that includes no mistakes, no regrets, and no detour from their faith.
But, then how can they proclaim His name to all the nations with absolutely no testament to His saving grace, His mercy, and love?
But, the alternative terrifies me. Do I instead pray hardship, pain, and a prodigal season for them?
I just want God’s will for them
So, what is His will? Bible knowledge and good behavior?
God’s will for us is Jesus. Period.
His will is not that they read their Bible daily, serve in church, never cuss, drink, smoke, or have pre-marital sex. His will is not that they attend Christian University, earn a Masters of Divinity, and go on to marry a believer, have as many kids as He is willing to bless them with, and then adopt 10 more. His will is not that they sell all their possessions and preach the gospel in 3rd world countries until they are martyred professing the Gospel.
Although this may be the path for some, it is not for every believer.
His will for them, and me, and you is Jesus.
My grasp is tight on my children. I do not like to relinquish control in this area. I have to constantly remind myself that He loves them infinitely more than I do. And His will for them is Jesus. I have to trust Him with their hearts and their lives.
So, while I can’t help but take pride in the scriptures they might have memorized, and I may still smile when I see them reading their Bible, or when they are kind to the least of these, I do not want them to think that is what makes them a Christian. They are His because of who He is. And nothing they do can change that. There is no list to check off, there is no map or program to compare to. He seeks us as individuals. Flaws and all. And as I do my best not to mess them up completely, I am comforted by His grace in my parenting and His complete acceptance of them each. Lord just lead them to Jesus.
Enter His rest,
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? Romans 8:35