I went to a conference a few years ago and sat in a room with a hundred other women, perched on the edge of my chair with my notebook and pen in hand. A mother of six children got up to speak, looking thin and radiant with her long blonde hair and perfectly made up face. Her clothes were freshly pressed and fashionable, and she had a humble yet confident air about her. She showed us graphic after lovely graphic filled with the brilliant ways that she teaches her children scripture. With the year-long schedules of their family worship times. With gorgeous pictures of her family on mission trips in exotic faraway places, her children lined up in a stair-step row in their crisp white shirts and dresses.
I scribbled like crazy in my notebook, wanting to remember everything this super Christian mom had to say so I could go home and whip my family into spiritual shape. We had no scripture flashcards or carefully cultivated family worship curriculum. We barely had time to say bedtime prayers at night after busy school days and after-school activities. I felt like the world’s most underachieving mother when it came to my kids’ spiritual development because I didn’t have a specific twenty minute time set aside every day to teach my kids how to be a Christian.
I came home overwhelmed. My notebook filled with ideas was tossed in a drawer, and life continued. Crazy, wild, busy, fun life.
Since that time I have learned that I missed the point that day when I tried to soak in all of the wisdom of the super mom. The truth is that I can knock myself out coming up with an amazing family worship hour every day, and I can quiz my kids on Bible verses at every mealtime, and I can tuck Charles Spurgeon quotes in their lunch boxes every day (I do none of those things, by the way), but what they really need from me is all at once simpler and much, much more challenging: they need to see my authentic Christian life.
The truths of God’s word need to be so real in me that I can’t NOT talk about them day in and day out. My faith needs to be so deeply ingrained in me that it informs every situation, every decision, every discussion. And, when that happens, before I know it I have spent a large part of my day with the kids just naturally talking about what the Christian life is all about, who Jesus is, and what the Bible says about things.
No matter where or how formally I try teach my kids how to be Christians, no words I say will ever be as important as they way they see me living on a day to day basis. A carefully crafted lesson about forgiveness means nothing if I hold a grudge against a family member or friend. A lecture about the importance of obeying God’s word is useless if they see me ignoring His commands.
As a mother, I can easily make this faith seem like a joke if I say one thing to my children and then live as if I don’t believe it. They are watching me to try and figure out what Christianity really looks like. And, they don’t care if I have beautifully illustrated Bible flash cards or not. They need to see a changed life. Not a perfect life, but a changed one.
So, you see, I found out that what God has called me to is much higher than lesson planner. I do need to teach my children scripture. I need to give them sound doctrine. But, I can teach these things to my children, as the Bible says, when we sit at home, when we walk along the road, when we rise up and lie down. In other words, impressing the things of God on my children is an all-day, every day, life-long pursuit. It is more than a curriculum. It is a way of life.
So, if you aren’t in a phase where family worship hour is a thing that’s really going to happen, take heart. What your kids really need from you is something so much bigger. They need you and your authentic Christian life.
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
So refreshing. Thank you. My ‘word of the year’ is insignificance. I am weary of thinking that I need to do bigger and bigger things for the kingdom of God. I’m asking God to show me ways to do the tiny, insignificant things to serve Him and others.
Jean, I love your word. Thanks so much.
This is why I keep reading your blog. I appreciate people who keep it real. I did a bible study one time from the blackaby’s and never appreciated a woman more when she said that she had to find time to pray while vacuuming or doing dishes. As a mom who also works outside the home, I appreciated anyone else who shared that hour long private prayer times were unattainable at this stage of life! Thanks for keeping it real in sharing a faithful real life.
Amanda, thank you for your encouragement! It’s hard to look around and feel like all the other moms are knocking it out of the park–it always helps me know that there are regular moms everywhere who are just doing the best we can, trying to live out the truth of God’s word, however imperfectly.
You are exactly right! And thank you for the reminder because I forget sometimes — as we stopped working on memory verses because we finished school for the summer, and I know we should continue. As I wish we had a family worship time, but I keep forgetting to remind my husband. And I feel like a failure. But you’re right that my children need to see me walking the walk, not just talking the talk.
Nikki, thanks so much for your comment! It’s so easy to fall into the failure trap. But, it sounds to me like you have a heart for teaching your kids to love God. And, that will show in your everyday life, whether or not you’re getting a formal lesson in regularly. Keep going, mama!
Lovely expression of what many of us, moms and dads, have struggled with. My kids are adults now, and I can see how even my feeble attempts at teaching them have been cultivated by Providence. We make our attempt and God’s sovereignty gives the increase.
Bill, I love this. He can perfect and redeem our efforts. Thanks so much.
Thank you for this. I had our third baby 2 months ago, and the last month when my older two have been out of school (they are 6 and 7) has been tough. I feel like all I can do is just keep the ship that is our household moving, hoping to keep everyone fed and in relatively clean clothes. I have felt so guilty about what I’m not doing and all the potentially wasted opportunities of the summer and them being home with me.
Hang in there, Chelsey! Quantity time with your kids matters!
Oh Melissa, thank you SO MUCH for your honesty here. In women’s retreat or during Bible Study, which woman did not fantasize about being the perfect Christian mom, who has is all and follows a perfect plan to raise her perfect Christian kids? Staying in God’s hand and giving Him the time we don’t feel we have is difficult enough… So your idea of living an authentic Christian life resonates a lot with me. As a mom of 4, what I found useful too is to have a list of “done for you” resources for Bible object lessons for kids, so when I do take the time to teach the kids, I don’t have to create the whole lesson by myself. Thanks again for the encouragements, it meant a lot for me today.
Great tip, Elise! Keep it up, mama!
Yes!!! Thank you for this reminder. And thank you Bill for the reminder of God’s sovereignty over it all.