More and more, I’m finding parenting is less about significant single moments, and more and more about the accumulation of a multitude of smaller moments. To use an illustration, impacting and shaping our children is less about a flood and more about a drop of water applied to the same place over and over again. That’s how rocks are formed and shaped; it’s also how kids are built. Consistency. Faithfulness. Over and over again.
Sure, it’s great to give our kids opportunities for significant spiritual moments, but nothing can replace the power of time and the gospel consistently spoken, applied, and demonstrated in our homes. It’s not as exciting, but it’s much more effective and sustainable. If that’s true, then, we as parents ought to give consideration about the everyday ways we can consistently demonstrate the reality of the gospel to our children. Here are four of them:
1. Don’t minimize their struggles.
We’ve been around longer than our kids. Because we have, we know a few things. We know that strikeout isn’t the end of the world; we know that there’s always another test to study for; we know that girls in middle school will continue to be mean. It’s good that we know these things because that knowledge can help bring some perspective to our kids and by God’s grace help them understand that these things that are painful in the moment aren’t the end of the world.
But we should be careful here lest we minimize their struggles and simply brush them aside as if they don’t matter. They matter to them, and so they should matter to us. The gospel helps us here, but we have been brought into a relationship with a Father who certainly has a greater perspective than we do, and yet One who commands us to cast all our cares upon Him. The command isn’t just for “worthy” cares, or “long lasting” cares, but all of them – even those that time will reveal to be small and insignificant. One way we model this reality for our children is through inviting the same and not minimizing the real struggles they are experiencing at a given moment.
2. Keep your promises.
There might not be an environment in which our word matters more than our own home. Our families ought to be the kinds of places in which we can count on one another to do what we say we are going to do. Parents should keep their promises, if for no other reason than we are guiding our children to love a promise-keeping God.
Of course, one of the things that means is that parents ought to be slow in making promises because there are all kinds of reasons why we might have to walk back something we’ve said to our children. Conflicts come up; schedules get confused; obligations surface. So we should, as parents, be slow to speak in this regard. And when we do make a commitment to our children, we should do all in our power to keep it so they will get a glimpse of a God who can be counted on. Always.
3. Administer consistent discipline.
The truth is we don’t like to discipline our kids. Most every parent knows that. But most every parent knows that it’s necessary. In fact, disciplining our children in a consistent way is one of the most powerful demonstrations of the gospel we can give them. Though it might seem counter-intuitive to our kids, when we discipline them, we are demonstrating that we love them. We are showing them we care about their future and their character, just as God does with us.
God loves us too much to allow us to go our own way. He is an involved parent – one that is not only knowledgable of, but is active in the details of our lives. As parents, we should be the same. When our children approach their true Father, they should not be surprised to experience loving and formative discipline in that relationships, for that’s what their experience has consistently been in their earthly homes.
4. Don’t be afraid to apologize.
Sadly, though, we as parents will always fall short in the way we demonstrate the gospel. We will inevitably trivialize our kids’ struggles, break our word, and fail to administer consistent discipline. We will mess up. And in that moment, we need the gospel, just as our children do. So one other way we demonstrate the gospel is by owning our failures with them and asking their forgiveness without trying to justify why it was we fell short. In the end, we did – and the work of the gospel in our lives allows us to fully own the fact that we did.
Our willingness to apologize and own our failings as parents is perhaps the greatest way we demonstrate the gospel. When we are quick to apologize in our family, and subsequently quick to forgive each other, our kids come to have an inkling of what their relationship with God can be like.
Bit by bit. Drip by drip. This is how the Holy Spirit tends to do His work through us as parents who are seeking to raise our children in the faith. Let’s give ourselves to this work, trusting that in time, God will do what only He can and shape the hearts of these children.