On Wednesday I talked about the need for our little children to be taught a biblical framework for life. Even at the earliest stages of development they desperately need to know their Creator and how they can be released from the shackles of sin they are born into as children of Adam. It is our job as their mommies to faithfully provide that framework and continually present them with the gospel message.
Today I would like to look at how the environment we provide for our babes effects how they interact with the Word of God and ultimately how they view the reality of God himself.
It is often said that children are like sponges soaking up all of the influences around them. Every parent knows this to be true and most have experienced a negative example of such truths. Whether it is an unpleasant habit that you pass on to your child or a cartoon’s undesired influence, children tend to spill out what is set before them.
One startling and encouraging experience I have had with my oldest son serves as a great example of what it means to, through the grace of God, provide an atmosphere that teaches and instructs the hearts of our children (in a positive, Christ-exalting way).
One day as we were going about our business Elliot bumped into me and stepped on my toe. Very quickly and before I could even react really, he looked at me and said, “Oh, I’m sorry Mommy, I didn’t mean to hurt you.” His face was full of concern and I could tell that he truly meant to seek forgiveness from me. I was amazed by this quick and loving response to his accidental offense. For a two year old, it seemed above and beyond for him to show concern for me. But then it dawned on me that he often hears my husband and I saying something similar to him and his brother when we accidentally hurt them or offend them in some way.
We have always been encouraged by older and wiser parents to model repentant hearts before our children. If we are going to teach them to seek forgiveness for offenses they commit against one another or against us, they must also see us doing the same. And so when we are being guided by the Spirit and not by our own selfish desires, we quickly seek to ask forgiveness when we have sinned against them in some way (or simply when we have accidentally hurt them). This principle had already sunk in with Elliot and led him to do the same. In a very simple way we were teaching him to love others as the Lord commands. We were living out the Word of God before him and he was soaking it up.
Now you would like to think that this wonderful experience of obedience to the Word of God would stick and become a regular routine in this little toddler’s life, but alas he is still a sinner (and at this point an unregenerate one at that). He often fails to seek forgiveness from his brother or his parents these days. But as we talk through the need to seek forgiveness from those we have offended and continue to model that principle before him, he continues to learn that this is the Law of God and that it is expected of him. He also continues to see the work of God done in his believing Mommy and Daddy’s lives as they seek to obey the Lord in this way. The Law of God and the gospel message are both being set before him.
It is important, therefore, to mention that his inability to follow the Law of God in this way is not surprising. While we expect him to obey the law in this way, we do not expect that he will be able to do so. We expect that he will fail many, many times because he is indeed a child of Adam and still in need of regeneration. His nature has not been renewed and continues to obey his sinful impulses rather than the Word of God.
If we, who have been redeemed and given new natures, still struggle to obey, how much more then will a child whom the Holy Spirit does not yet inhabit struggle to live up to God’s righteous standards? And so, in teaching him to seek forgiveness, our ultimate goal is to direct him to the Savior who can forgive his inability to love well and who can enable him to genuinely love through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Their Environment Reflects Your Own Priorities
Our children are continually watching and mimicking us, trying to navigate the world they find themselves in. The lives we live before them either teach them how to love and obey the Lord or teach them how to love and obey themselves.
Something as simple as stopping before meals to offer thanks to the Lord provides a Biblical framework for their understanding of our reliance on God as the Provider.
Seeing us spend time in the Word and prayer teaches them that we depend upon God for wisdom and direction.
Giving of our time and energy to them allows them to experience sacrificial love and see a practical example of sharing.
Faithfully being a member of a church and regularly fellowshipping with other believers teaches them that there is something special about the relationship between the people of God–something that they too can look forward to experiencing.
Hearing us joyfully go about our business in the home singing worship songs to our Lord teaches them that true and effective happiness is found in the Living God.
Humbly submitting to and honoring our husbands gives them a framework to understand their own submission to their Mommy and Daddy (and in effect the Lord).
In a very big way, our own devotion to the Lord and our regular family life will either teach our children biblical values or worldly ones.
It is important to ask ourselves questions like:
How do they see me spending my time?
How do I speak to my children? To my spouse?
What influences (through TV or Radio or Books) am I allowing into my home? Are they godly or worldly?
All of these questions reveal the type of spiritual environment we are raising our children in. Is it one that will usher them toward a real and genuine relationship with the Living God or one that leaves them wondering why Mommy and Daddy drag them to church on Sunday mornings, but don’t live any differently than the neighbors the rest of the week?
As mothers who desperately desire our children to experience the spiritual peace found in a right relationship with the Lord, it is our responsibility (through the leadership of our husbands) to tangibly and honestly live out lives that are founded on the Word of God–lives that reflect the gospel’s power and influence.