I never really expected to be married to a pastor. When Chad and I married, he was a hopeful musician, convinced that he would make it big. Through a series of twists and turns and surprising bends in the road, here we are, three and a half years into his first pastorate.
It’s a wonderful and fun challenge, this ministry life. But, from the very beginning I wondered what it would mean for our kids. I wondered how damaging it would be for them to see us in the forefront, ministering and declaring the truth of God’s word to people, when they would inevitably see us fail at living out those truths at times when we were behind closed doors. I remembered every horror story I had ever heard about pastors’ kids, and I wondered how we were going manage to show them that our faith and devotion is real, even when we fall into sin.
But, this isn’t just an issue for Christian parents who work in ministry positions. All of us should be intentional about the way we live the Christian life in front of our kids. Billy Graham said the hardest place to be a Christian is at home, and I believe he’s right. It’s so easy for us to let our guard down, to let sin and discontent and grumbling and stress get the better of us, even when we really do know that God is in control, that He gives us victory over sin and worry. We’re most likely to rage at home. To be unreasonable. To be ridiculous. To be downright un-Christian.
So, how do we live in a way that strengthens our kids’ faith instead of weakens it?
We can look at our circumstances with spiritual eyes. I remember when I was a teenager I went to the fair with a friend. I had been to this particular fair every year of my life, but I had never experienced it this way. When I looked around, I saw rides, food, people having fun, people spending money. The basics. But, as my friend looked around, he saw spiritual brokenness. He saw all kinds of circumstances that make life hard for people. He saw so many things that I had just never stopped to recognize. I realized that night that there are two kinds of seeing: there is your basic ground-level acknowledgement of what’s going on around you. Then there’s a higher plane, almost like putting on glasses that suddenly reveal the spiritual elements of the circumstances that surround you.
Imagine how our interactions at home would change if we asked God to help us see our various situations with spiritual eyes. Imagine how much more reasonably we would interact with our kids and our spouse, if only we stopped looking at the basics of their circumstances and shifted to trying to see things on a spiritual plane. Maybe we would be more understanding. Maybe we would offer more grace and mercy.
Think of how much less stress we would carry around. How much more joy we would find. Think of how much more often we would stop to praise God. To recognize what He is doing and how He is moving. Our kids wouldn’t see us panicking or worrying ourselves sick. They would see us keeping in the habit of remembering that God is good, He is in control, and He is working.
Think of how much less we would say unkind things about others. How much more we would encourage and think positively. Think of how our actions would be colored by our spiritual sight instead of by our ground-level interpretation of things. Think of how many times we would turn away from sin because our spiritual eyes can see how damaging and hurtful it will be.
It seems to me that if our kids watch us live according to the things that are eternal, the things that really matter, then they will be much more likely to want to have a part in this kingdom-minded, spiritually-sighted faith.
So, how do we get this spiritual vision?
Three things will help us: Bible study, prayer, and church life. How can we know God’s vision unless we read His words? How can we understand what belongs on the spiritual plane? We must get to know God and His word before we will be able to see things with spiritual eyes.
If we want to see things differently, we have to ask Him to give us vision. We should pray and ask Him to help us see beyond the basics, to understand the underlying spiritual implications of our circumstances and the circumstances of those around us. We should ask Him to help make our home one that is ruled by the spiritual gifts and not by emotions or attitudes.
And, we need a church family so that we can serve together, love together, and support each other. My family isn’t the only example my kids need. They need to know other Christian families and watch them interact so that they will better understand all of the ways to faithfully live out the Christian life. Not every family will do so in the way that ours does. And, it’s good for them to see that there are lots of different ways to use gifts, to glorify Him in our families and among our community.
There is no question that as Christians we are going to mess up. Becoming parents or a ministry family doesn’t suddenly make us perfect. I don’t think our kids expect us to be perfect, but they should and probably do expect us to see things from a spiritual perspective. It’s my prayer that as each day passes we are gaining clearer spiritual eyesight, and as we do, hopefully our kids will follow along after us like I did at the fair all those years ago, amazed that God is showing them a whole world of truth that they had never even noticed before.