“God told them, ‘I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love!’” Jeremiah 31:3 (The Message)
I was having a conversation with a trusted friend the other day regarding mistakes made in youth. I think there are a few factors that play into that role: Residual immaturity as brains aren’t completed developed yet, the invincible syndrome where bad things happen to other people, and if they are a Christ follower, not having fully developed their own relationship with Jesus that has been tested and matured over time.
Now, I’m not criticizing young adults and my friend and I weren’t either. We were just merely discussing how it seems to happen generation after generation and were wondering what the common denominator was. The factors above haven’t been scientifically researched – they are just my opinion.
As a parent, I was concerned. I can’t do much about brain development as that happens biologically and can’t be rushed. However, the one factor that I can help influence revolves around helping my children develop a strong relationship with Jesus before they leave home. So I had to stop and think about what that actually meant in everyday life.
Looking at my own life and how I’ve grown in my relationship with my Father allowed me to think of ways to encourage that growth with my children. I easily came up with three specific areas I can actively work on improving.
First, devotions aren’t just for ‘old people.’ I remember my mom sitting and having her quiet time on a regular basis when I was a child. I would try to imitate her but I really didn’t know what she was doing or how to do it myself. It ended up being a time of pretending to be grown up and then going off to play. I know for myself, in the past, I’ve held my devotions as sacred and don’t want to invite anyone else into that special time. However, I’m starting to rethink that. It’s one thing to model “having devotions,” but it’s another to explain what I’m doing and extend an invitation for a season to have devotions with each child to help them develop their own rhythm before letting them take off on their own.
Or, in our family currently, three of us have accepted the challenge of reading through the New Testament in a year through our church. However, I need to take it one step further and offer to read alongside our child instead of just being available to listen and discuss what has been read separately. I know for myself, the accountability and knowing we’re doing this together has helped me stay on track.
Second is the area of giving or blessing others. I remember fondly of times in my childhood where my parents helped others who were in need. I got to thinking – how can we give our children more ownership so that they personally experience the joy of blessing others and feeling like it’s “the family” and not just mom and dad? We’ve begun bringing certain needs and requests that we are made aware of and ways that our family has the resources to help others to our children. Usually during dinner, we will discuss different options and different families or causes that need help and then decide together if we have the time, money, or both to step up and make a difference. I don’t know for sure if they are taking ownership as a result of these discussions but if done consistently, my prayer is that they will start noticing in the community around them ways they can get involved and make a difference.
Finally, in my opinion, it’s so important for my husband and I to not only share with our children ways God is blessing our family or providing for our needs (without scaring them ahead of time of dire situations) and then giving them a chance to watch God work a miracle in their individual situations. Whether it’s asking Him for help on a test and they ace it, finding something of value they lost and He helps them locate it, or helping them to listen to His whispers in their own hearts when they ask Him for guidance, wisdom, protection, or help. There is nothing that has grown my faith more than pouring out my heart to God, especially in desperate situations, and then watching Him work a miracle. I think as parents, we need to regularly share with our kids the way God is working in our lives so that they can start watching for and recognizing when He works in theirs.
Do I expect that if I put into the practice the three areas discussed above my children will have a seamless transition from teenager to adult? I wish, but no. However, I do know if I ignore the above areas and don’t regularly talk with my children about the benefits of growing a personal relationship with Jesus now before their life gets rough, they may travel a path that has long lasting negative consequences.
No one said parenthood was easy or came with a guarantee. However, when we actively seek to grow deeper in our own relationship with God, then lovingly share the byproducts of that relationship with our children in everyday situations, they’re bound to reap some of the benefits. And, that, my friend, is the real thing.
© Cheri Swalwell 2014