What do you want your children to be like when they grow up? Not specifics, like what career you want them to have or whom you want them to marry–although you can influence that too, to a certain extent–but who they will be as a person, their beliefs and life habits? Whether you realize it or not, whatever it is your children will be as adults, YOU are in the process of molding them into that human being right now!
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
This verse is typically used in the context of discipline, but its meaning runs so much deeper. The fact of the matter is that we human beings are incredibly malleable–much more so than we typically imagine–and the younger we are, the more so. This is why a person’s formative years before age twenty or so are of such importance!
As parents, of course, we all love our children. We want them to become good human beings who live happy, productive lives and reflect positively on us. Those of us who love the Lord God want most of all that our children know and love Him too, and walk closely with Him throughout their lives. Yet, can we really impact this, and if so, how? The truth is that who we ourselves are TODAY, and how we are NOW living is already molding them–but it may not be in such a way as to cause them to become the people we would like them to be as adults. But, is there anything we can do about this? Of course there is!
What we as parents need to do is to take a good, long look at ourselves and see WHAT we are training our children to become. I, for example, can look back on our own family and clearly see how who I was at the time has impacted some of the attitudes and beliefs of our first two children as adults.
I can see how my faithfully taking our first-born to church during his formative years, homeschooling him, and later sending him to a Christian university that cared about the spiritual development of their students has caused him to care more about God than he otherwise would have. I can also see how my failing to faithfully bring our second-born to church–for very good reasons, mind you (my husband’s nighttime work schedule which made it almost impossible to get up, as well as my own job)–coupled with the close bonds she formed with secular online friends, and ultimately her going away to a university in Japan, have caused her to not be as concerned that she cannot go to church at this point in her life. I know that God has put the desire to learn this particular language into her heart for a reason (perhaps because of the fact that only 1-2% of Japanese consider themselves Christians and because she does know what He says?!) and that He has plans she herself may not yet fully understand–but I also understand how the lack of church attendance during her formative years affected her. But what about other aspects of our children’s lives–does the same principle hold true? It certainly does!
Looking at our own family again, it is clear that we value education–so much so that we homeschooled our three children for many years. Even now, when our youngest is in “regular school,” I ask her daily about her assignments and typically follow up to see if she is finished. She sees my excitement when she excels academically. We go weekly to Kumon (to drill and improve her math abilities), I have her write out and drill spelling bee words (to improve her spelling and increase her vocabulary), and assign a section of the programmed English text English 2200 daily (to gain a thorough grounding in grammar ). Recently, I drove her and her cousin to Chicago to participate in a Literature Festival hosted by Columbia College. We go to Barnes and Noble, and she sees my own enjoyment of books. She witnessed me physically jumping up and down when I heard her older sister got A’s in college, and my joy that her older brother will probably be able to afford to go back to begin earning his Master’s degree this summer. She even knows I’ve been accepted to the Masters in Apologetics online program at Luther Rice College and Seminary. It is genuinely obvious in our family that it is a big deal to excel academically and professionally!
So, who are you? What are you telling your children about what is important in life and who they should be and become? Are you telling them to value alcohol, drugs, or unemployment; to not try, to not achieve their full potential in life, to believe everything they are told without examining it to see if it is true? Are you telling them life is stacked against them and they cannot succeed no matter how hard they try, that others don’t want them to accomplish anything or that they will never amount to much? Or, are you passing along to them the truths that they are “accepted in the Beloved [in Christ ],” that they can “do all things through Christ who strengthens” them, that it is God who “wills in them both to will and to do His good pleasure,” and that “all things work together for good to those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose?” Most importantly, do you see how you yourself, as their parent, must be immersed in the truth of God’s Word in order to be able to pass along life-giving truth to your children? Remember, Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life”!
Your children are growing up NOW, even as you read this. They are taking into themselves who you are–what you clearly value and model to them through your own life. It is wrong of us to blame them later for becoming what we, ourselves, are molding them to be now. If we see that we are teaching our children to become something we don’t like or want them to become, TODAY is the day we have to make a change–because before we know it, we will look at them and they will already be adults. God says, “…Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2 NLT) Today IS the day of salvation. It is also the day to take a good hard look at yourself and see if you are passing along life and truth to your children, or death and damnation–figuratively and literally. Remember, “What you say [with your words and your lifestyle] can mean life or death…” (Proverbs 18:21 NCV) to your children. Speak, and live, carefully!
Help me be mindful of who I myself am as I raise the children You have entrusted to my care. Help me breathe life and truth into them as I faithfully train them up in the way they should go. Amen.