Disclaimer: I am not a parenting expert. (Can anyone really claim that title?)
My four children are now grown and I get to enjoy eleven grandbabies. I love my family–from the littlest to the oldest, and I am grateful for every single one of them, and to be clear, we are not a perfect family.
We are imperfect people serving a perfect Savior.
We laugh, we cry, we fuss, and we struggle just like everyone else, but there is always love.
While I am not defined by my past, I a well aware that the way I grew up had a great impact on who I am today. My Mom was almost 17 when she married. Dad was 19 and had enlisted in the Army. Baby #1 came 9 months later to this young country girl who married a city boy–and they had to grow up fast. They raised four children together and their early years walked with the Lord, but in later years walked away. In my last blog post, Tell Your Story, I share more of my story and how my parents influenced my spiritual life.
Parenting is hard work. It is a 24/7 job that requires sacrifice, diligence and determination; but even more than those things, it comes with the daunting task of shaping and molding these precious gifts into godly young men and women who will live in a way that honors their Creator.
Just recently I was asked to speak at a Mother/Daughter banquet, with the theme, “Whatever!” from Philippians 4:8:
“…dwell on these things”.
The list of things we should dwell on are a beautiful picture of God’s character:
We should always use caution when focusing on just one verse, and you miss something very important if you focus only on verse 8. Look back to verses 6-7 where we are shown how to keep the right focus; prayer. Prayer is the crucial link that helps us to go beyond our earthly perspective of truth, justice, etc., and the eternal perspective of what is truly good and right and holy.
“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
In our early years of marriage we only had one vehicle, so when my husband had to fly out of the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport it was a grand adventure for my three littles to take Daddy and watch him fly away into the massive Texas sky. The adventure didn’t stop when Daddy left, however, and with a one year old on my hip and two pre-schoolers grabbing my shirttail, I walked out of the terminal with a bit of trepidation at the thought of going solo for the next week.
As I began the trek toward the massive parking lot, my insecurities were on high alert as I searched for our beat up old Chevy. Knowing that no one would possibly want to steal our old Caprice, there was a very good chance that I had gone into a full-blown memory lapse. I lugged those precious babies all around the huge parking lot, frantically looking for our car as nap time was rapidly approaching and patience was wearing thin.
This was before cell phones. I’m sure the DFW airport would have had pay phones somewhere, but who would I call? And what could they do to help three tired little ones and a frazzled mom? I couldn’t just leave the car at the airport and wait until he returned. Not only would it cost a fortune–I would be without a car all week. After totally exhausting myself and my children, I finally decided to retrace my steps. I went back into the terminal to where we had left our beloved husband and father and I stopped to pray. Asking God to help me had not been the furthest thing from my mind, of course, but now, all of a sudden, it was the foremost thing in my mind. I changed my focus from a frantic, “What am I going to do?” to “Lord, you know right where we are and you know exactly where our car is, so please calm my spirit and give me the wisdom to see this clearly”.
I was still lost, but I retraced our steps and walked out the door– this time into the correct parking lot (Parking Lot A instead of B), and walked straight to my car.
One door led to confusion and anxiety–the other to comfort and peace.
Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” John 10: 9-10
Can you see the lesson He taught me here? Perspective is everything. Paul explains it beautifully in 2 Corinthians 10:5,
“…taking every thought captive to obey Christ.”
This last year began a new season of life for me. After raising four kids and then four years of caring for grandchildren, God is reminding me to “Be Still”. Not the Psalm 46:10, which literally means “stop fighting”, but Psalm 4:4 “…reflect in your heart and be still.” Stopping to pray is always a wise thing, but learning how to be still, even in the chaos that life can bring means that I am walking in a constant awareness of His presence.
Bible dictionary: A stillness… associated with a sense of expectancy or reverence, especially in the presence of God.”
So in this crazy, mixed-up fast-paced world, how do we do that?
We choose it. We do just what verse 8 says, and we intentionally spend time focusing on what is :
TRUE +NOBLE +JUST +PURE +LOVELY +COMMENDABLE +MORAL +PRAISEWORTHY
Do you want a godly character? Then ask yourself, “what does God’s character look like?” Does the list in verse 8 seem difficult to attain? Maybe it’s because you are looking at it from the wrong perspective. It’s not a checklist of things on our to-do list, but a list of God’s attributes that can help us to dwell on Him, and it’s in the process of doing that, that we begin to look like Him.
When someone says that one of my girls looks like me, I see that as a compliment because, of course, they are beautiful, confident young women. But my goal in life should not be to make mini-me’s out of my children. The better goal would be for them to model godly character so their lives begin to look like Christ.
If you look at it that way, then the better question is not, what does godly character look like, but WHO does a godly character look like.
Look back at Philippians 2:13:
“For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose.”
Don’t you see? It’s not about you at all. It’s not about your ability to perform or to be perfect. It’s about a perfect Savior who works in and through us– God living and working in you and through you in ways you might not even see. It changes us from “I’LL NEVER BE GOOD ENOUGH”, to “CHRIST IS ENOUGH. ”
It is not just some kind of mold we are trying to fit in, or a list we are trying to check off. It becomes more than something to attain, but something internal that is revealed by our actions–attributes that are an overflow of our heart.
The question I was presented with was, “How do we instill godly characteristics in our children?”. The answer is, you don’t. God does it. It is His work and His love that pursues them into a relationship with Him. The responsibility that He gives us, however, is to let them see something of what that looks like in our own life. So come back. In coming posts, I’ll cover three things that I want my children (and others) to see in me because of my relationship with God.