Yesterday I shared a deep conviction I have had to invest in my son's faith in God.
Today, I wanted to elaborate further on that conviction of #intentionalinfluence. I believe in accepting the privilege of shaping our children's view of God, we must be intentional with 3 things:
1. We must teach our children about the character of God.
Our children will see God in the way we describe Him - until they are old enough to seek Him for themselves. Knowing this, how have you portrayed Him to you child(ren)?
Is He loving, kind, and generous? Does He protect, forgive and answer us? Is He also jealous, praise-worthy, and someone to draw close to? Have you shown Him to be approachable or feared? Is He relational or rules? Gracious or begrudging? Vital or optional? Is He who He says He is, or who we have boxed Him in to be?
When they are old enough to find God for themselves, will our children respect our view of God or resent it? Will they find it to be true or regrettably false? Will they have a solid foundation or be left exposed to the influence of who the world says He is?
If we don't teach our children who God is, then someone else will teach them everything He isn't. - Darlene Schacht
This responsibility is heavily rooted in the scriptures. We have a complete guidebook on who God is, but our lives too can reflect and exude the truths we pull from scriptures.
God's word says He is gracious, but have you shown your child how He has been gracious to you? If you teach them Jeremiah 29:11, do you also teach them how God has provided a plan for you, and how that plan was so good? When you taught your child that God is our strength, provider and protector - did you give them examples of how He has been these things tangibly in your life?
They can learn scriptures, and character qualities, but as parents we can teach them what those truths look like in life. So they can learn to see God in the simple and the complex. So they can recognize God, rather than explaining Him away as coincidence.
I have often taught my son that God is faithful to listen when we call out to Him. I have taught Gavin that God sincerely cares about my prayers for deep concerns as well as my simple asks. The result: My son will hear me or my husband pray for something - simple things - like a green light when in a hurry, and when that light is green as we arrive - he is the one that lifts a resounding praise. And when he hears me pray for something that is weighing down my heart, he is the one to remind me that God hears and cares. And when a request is not answered the way I expect, Im given an opportunity to explain how God knows what is best, not me.
Our children will not know how to safe it is to rely on God until we teach them that His character proves He is reliable.
2. We must show our children what it means to have a relationship with God.
Our daily interaction with God will greatly influence our children's interactions with Him.
Do you have a routine of setting time aside to spend with God and in the Word? Do you study and recall scriptures? Do you pray about decisions. Do you praise God and thank Him? Do you turn to Him when you are faced with difficulty? Do you worship throughout the week? Do you serve others? Do you connect with other believers? Do you attend corporate worship?
What does your child see when they look at your relationship with God?
A relationship with God looks different to everyone. And that is ok - we are all at different stages in relationship. (Strangers, Acquaintances, Friends, Family) I think the progression in relationship is equally important for kids to witness. This enables them to see what growth looks like. They can see how to grow, but also the events that cause growth. It also allows a relationship with God to be attainable to them, too.
But without an example, they are left to figure it out for themselves. Without direction, whether us or our children - God clarifies what we are capable of left on our own: foolishness and shame.
I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense. Proverbs 7:7
The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. Proverbs 29:15
We as parents have been given the responsibility of pointing our children in the direction that guides them to God. That looks different at every age, so it is a constant pursuit.
At birth, for me, this was praying over Gavin. Singing truths of God' love and faithfulness. It was centered around consistency and exposure. It was creating curiosity.
Now, at 5yo, it looks very different. It is investing in my relationship with God and teaching him to do the same. It is taking him to church, but also intentionally validating the truths they teach him through out the week. It is being an example throughout the week - praying, worshiping, reading the word. It is helping him fight fears with the truth of the scriptures. It is teaching him obedience. It is protecting his mind and heart. (NOT sheltering - there is a difference - more on this here)
Every stage of raising our children comes with another adaptation of teaching them - from exposure to protection. From protection to guidance. From guidance to discipline. From to discipline to grace and love. And throughout each step, we teach them faith, love, service, obedience, forgiveness... I could go on and on, but we teach them how to live their lives connected to GOD and through FAITH.
Train up [intentionally direct/dedicate] a child in the way he should go [teaching him/her to seek God's wisdom and will for his/her abilities and talents]; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
I do not believe Proverbs 22:6 is a guaranteed outcome - Do this and get that. I believe it is a commitment from God to take our effort and plant deep seeds in our children. Even if they stray, as the Prodigal Son did, God is committed to keeping those truths alive within them. Only God can stir truths that we bury deep, but our hope is that HE CAN.
Our parenting can result in self-willed, entitled individuals if we neglect our responsibilities as parents or it can result in service-minded, contributing individuals who benefited from the intentional discipline and instruction of their parents. The trajectory of their futures begins with our decision to accept the responsibility to be obedient to God's call to instruct.
3. We must encourage our children to listen & respond to God.
At some point, regardless of our teaching, discipline or direction, our children will have a choice. This choice will remain a constant encounter. Proverbs reminds us constantly of our responsibility to teach our children, but it also reminds us that our children also have a responsibility in the outcome.
As important as it is to teach our kids the Bible, who God is, and how to pray, it is equally important to teach them how to listen and respond. We have to teach them that hearing and responding are one in the same with God. It is not one without the other. You cannot hear and not respond - Disobedience is just another form of response.
When our children face opportunities to hear and respond to God, will they be equipped to choose obedience? To choose God?
Has your child seen you face a choice and known your options? Have you openly discussed situations with them? Have they seen you obey, and seen the outcome of your obedience? Have you also been as forthcoming to allow them to witness the result of your disobedience? Remember, parenting is humbling. ;) But I would much rather Gavin witness me being humbled under God's unending grace than pridefully hiding behind my poor decisions.
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My faith and my relationship with God is of the upmost importance to me. The fact that I get the privilege of sharing the God I love with the child He blessed me with is an honor.
How will you share God with your child today? What of His character, of having a relationship with Him, of listening and responding to Him ...
How are you having an #intentionalinfluence today?