Trophy by Greencolander. Shared under a Creative Commons License.
When Jon Acuff recently blogged about how he sometimes feels like he is completely bombing his children’s spiritual upbringing, I could totally relate.
We don’t do family devotionals. My kids don’t illustrate the Psalms after reading them. We haven’t spent a Christmas Eve handing out food at a homeless shelter. I don’t pray with my kids before they leave for school (…and they go to public school!). We don’t recite memory verses at home daily. We haven’t spent Spring Break evangelizing in a third world country.
By all the Christian parenting rulers, I fall short. I often feel like the worst Christian parent ever. And I’m a preacher’s wife; that makes it even worse. Surely a preacher’s wife could get her priorities straight, right?
But then I started thinking…my parents didn’t do any of those things, either. In fact, my dad never taught a Sunday school class or went on a men’s retreat. My mom has never been on a mission trip and we (gasp!) only listened to that sinful honky-tonk country music on the radio (to be fair, Christian radio didn’t exist back in the “olden days,” but I digress…). I’m not sure that they ever had a daily “quiet time.” Did my parents fail me? Are they, perhaps, worse Christian parents than I am? Then the question begs to be asked: how did they end up with three God-fearing, Christ-following children? Can all the credit be given to the church?
The many Sunday School and youth workers of my church no doubt had a great impact on my life, but I give my parents most of the credit for my spiritual upbringing.
They taught me how to be thankful for all things, how to give generously, how to put God first and prioritize accordingly, how to tithe, how to have compassion, how to make wise choices, how to do the right thing even when it is the hard thing, how to have a committed marriage and they showed me how to love (among many other things). There used some words–yes–but mostly, they showed me these things with their actions.
Have you heard the saying, “A man can preach a better sermon with his life than his lips?” I also love St. Francis of Assissi’s famous quote: “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”
Basically, my parents followed the philosophy of Deuteronomy 6:7:
Impress [God’s commandments] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
I guess this is my parenting philosophy as well. As they say, faith is “more is caught, than taught.” God comes up a lot in our day-to-day conversations more often than you might expect.
I think the most important thing we can do as Christian parents is to recognize teachable moments and to live out our faith in front of our kids.
The bottom line is this: there is absolutely nothing wrong with having family devotionals or spending an hour in group prayer each day, but it still won’t guarantee that my children will grow up to follow Jesus. I hope and pray that they will, but they have to make that choice for themselves. All I can do is “train them in the way they should go” and hope that “when [they are] old [they] will not turn from it.”
So, I may not win an award for Christian Parent of the Year…but I’m okay with that.