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.