What do you want for the children in your life?
That was the question I posed this week to a room full of courageous ladies in drug rehab. Answers flew back: “Happiness”, “Peace”, “Strength”, “A relationship with God”.
In a previous Bible study, they had asked for a message on parenting. My wheels immediately began to spin to come up with something relevant and helpful. After having two children of my own and overseeing scores more in my fifth-grade classroom, I figured I had made enough mistakes and learned a whole lot of what NOT to do. If only I’d had my six grandchildren first! There’s something about grandchildren that fosters a bit more patience, resolve, forethought, and sweet words.
After spending some quiet time in the Word, the Spirit whispered the main point He knew I needed to focus on. These ladies didn’t need a shovelful of tips and tricks. They needed one clear message wrapped around a single thought: Be who you want them to become.
If we want the children in our lives to be happy, peaceful, strong, and in relationship with God, then we should be those things first. It almost sounds too simple to actually work, but I’m finally understanding how much God wants His love to be the filter for EVERYTHING we think, say, and do – especially the molding of young hearts and minds. As we fill up on God’s love, we become the conduit for His love to flow into the lives of our children.
The more we read God’s love letter to us (the Bible), the more proficient we become at wrapping our own minds and hearts around His overwhelming and undeserved love. “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8 NLT) Once we completely internalize that, we can’t help but share it! “His word burns in [our] hearts like a fire. It’s like a fire in [our] bones!” (Jeremiah 20:9b NLT) Who better to share that fire with than our own children and grandchildren?
Non-believing parents and grandparents are only capable of doing what they can do. They discipline from a worldly sense of right and wrong, but they are incapable of seeing their children through spiritual eyes. However, as believers, we have a portion of God living within us. The Holy Spirit’s powerful wisdom and discernment at work in and through us can accomplish so much more than we could ever ask for or even imagine! (Ephesians 3:20) Don’t ALL children deserve to be loved by someone who knows without a shadow of a doubt that they are loved by God and filled with His power?
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing easy about being a parent, grandparent, or mentor. No matter how we love them, children still throw fits, stomp their feet, and insist on their own way. But training up a child might not be as hard as we make it out to be when we think about how God handles us when we act that way. After all, “God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.” (Psalm 18:30 NLT) Just think of all the many ways He loves us: He is undeservedly kind and patient. Though we make multitudes of mistakes and messes, He showers us with love anyway. The King of all Creation tenderly pays close attention to each of us from the rising of the sun and throughout the day and night. He knows when we come in and when we go out. He knows us AND ALL OF OUR FRIENDS closely. We can confidently approach His throne with any problem or request knowing that He will always give us what’s best. We never have to prove ourselves or earn His love – it’s always there for the taking. We are allowed to make our own choices, but He doesn’t skimp on discipline. He lovingly sets boundaries for His children, corrects when necessary, and allows negative consequences to be an exceptional teacher.
At some point, all of us children make monumental mistakes that can turn our lives upside down. God allows each of us to choose our own paths. That’s sometimes a hard pill for parents to swallow. Yet, when mistakes are made that’s when our children need not only God’s love, grace, and mercy, but ours as well. Our children need us most when they must suffer unpleasant consequences. Deciding ahead of time how those mistakes will be handled can lessen the time in conflict and speed up the healing process.
When we run the thousands of decisions we make every day on behalf of our children through the filter of God’s loving ways, our children have a greater chance of becoming blessed, happy, peaceful, and strong. They have the opportunity to learn how to expertly fight their battles with Satan – their real enemy. They can become wise leaders who lead from their knees. Best of all, they will attract others to Jesus because they will have learned to truly enjoy the love of God, the grace of Jesus, and friendship with the Holy Spirit.
Being in and enjoying an intimate relationship with our heavenly Father allows us to clearly hear the Spirit’s voice inside us. Then, we can be who we want the children in our lives to become!
“The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.”
(Psalm 103:8-13 NLT)