Anytime we look back over our life we often see so much clearer. There are many things I wish I would have done, or not done, as a mother. I wish I would have seen then what I see now as the most important seed to plant in their young hearts. I don’t suppose I did it all wrong, they both are serving the Lord and following Him. But I can’t help but wonder if I could have done a better job cultivating eternity in their hearts. Could I have done better teaching them to live with an eternal perception? Could I have done more to help them live a life pursing eternal rewards instead of the worldly rewards?
Here are a few things that I believe give our children a better start to living with an eternal perspective. These are things I have done, seen modeled and wish I would have done better.
The first two things I see come from Duet 11:18-20 “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul ; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. “You shall teach them to your sons,talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,”
1. Make time for God. This does not mean take them to church every Sunday or make sure they attend Sunday School, Awana, VBS, and have family devotions, although all of these things are good and valuable. But the problem comes when we separate “religious” training and our everyday life. If all that we do is the above without including God in the everyday moments of life then we begin a pattern of separating the sacred and the secular.
God should be spoke of daily, not in a forced way but in a way that is natural. A parent should look for ways to point their children to God in the everyday ordinary ways. Look for teachable moments. Look for opportunities to teach your children about God’s character and His truth.
For example, during the summer my granddaughter and I were outside when she spotted a bunny. She was so excited and began chasing it. She said to me after she realized she wasn’t going to catch it, “Nana I wish I could catch him and take care of him, he is so cute and cuddly!” My response to her was, “Isn’t it wonderful that God created something so cute and cuddly! God will take care of him because God cares for all the animals he created.” From there she began to ask questions about God and wanted to know others things He created. It was a small thing, and yet it planted truth in her little heart and opened up a conversation about the Creator God.
2. Make time for family. This is so important. Today in the pursuit of the “American Dream” we have lost the importance of the family unit. Quality and quantity time has been replaced with mom and dad pursuing their careers, and children pursuing sports, dance, music and the next top video game.
Today more than ever I believe the family is being sacrificed. Family no longer spend much time together. They are busy running to sport games, dance recitals, karate, and so much more that there just isn’t time for the family to sit together at meal time. Our family tried to spend several meals a week eating together around the table. I still cherish those meal times. It was there that we had wonderful conversations, laughed until we hurt and yes we even had some of out biggest arguments. But the point is we were talking, sharing and together.
Another way to build the family up is “unplugging”. Take a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and go for a hike, a picnic , go to the beach or camping for the weekend. As a family we loved all these things and our boys still speak of them with fond memories. Our boys didn’t have cell phones until they were about sixteen and driving, but even then it was before texting and the ability to get online with your phone. Today I think in order to help with the unplugging I would lock all phones in the car or maybe only carry one in case of emergency. (just a thought)
Be willing to make sacrifices for the family. What I mean is in light of every decision you make as husband and wife make sure you are putting the family first. I remember on one occasion when my husband had the opportunity to take a better paying job, it would have meant a lot more money and more opportunity for moving up. We talked and prayed about it for quite some time. Are boys were older and so we talked to them about it too. I remember one of them saying something about if we have more money they could have more things. THINGS. That wasn’t what we wanted for our children.
My husband ended up not pursuing the job for one reason, the family. This job would mean more traveling and more hours. Instead of being away from the family 40-50 hrs a week it would be 60-70 hrs. They let him know up front that those kind of hours would be expected. He wasn’t willing to sacrifice his family. As a result of that decision when it was our son’s senior year he was able to attend every home and away basketball game. He was also able to be there for every soccer game for our other sons senior year. My husband was able to be an involved father even during those moments that they might not care if dad was there or not.
3. Make time for others. John 13:34 reminds us that we are to “ love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Galatians 5:13b says “…but through love serve one another.” We had an advantage in teaching our children to serve others since they grew up next to their grandparents. Even when they were quite young they would be over there helping in the garden, cleaning up the yard and collecting eggs from the chickens. As they grew there help increased to chopping wood, mowing, getting snakes out of the house and many other needed chores. They loved helping their Pop-Pop and rarely was it something they were “made to do”. The advantage of this was them learning to serve.
There were other ways we tried to help instill this principle also, like serving in shelters, helping with Angel Tree, mission trips, and serving a summer camp. I remember our youngest son desiring to serve at a youth camp for inner city kids the summer after his senior year of High School. We weren’t thrilled with the idea due to the fact that there would be little to no money saved for college, but we allowed him to go and it was life changing for him. He also had the opportunity when he was 15 to go to Japan on a trip to teach soccer and share Christ, it was another life changing trip. These opportunities should be encouraged even when we as parents may feel they should be pursuing a job or other things. It’s in service to others that our children learn the joy of serving the Lord and making sacrifices to do so.
As I said above, we didn’t do these things perfectly. I wish we would have spent more time in all three areas. I wish we wouldn’t have “bought” into the worlds views when it came to what was important to spend our time on. Our boys were involved in school and outside activities but God, family and others always were most important. We weren’t willing to make sacrifices in these areas, which included our children not being able to play in town sport leagues because they would have to play on Sunday.
Yes I know, I can hear the arguments now! But you know what? Our boys still played school sports in High School, and one even got offered a scholarship to play in college. (Unfortunately he blew his knee out his senior year and the scholarship offer was taken back.)
I am sure there is so much more to this topic of creating an eternal view in the hearts of our children, but I think these three things are a good start.