I’m trying to teach my children the piano. I can play, but I never do. They never practise, so we’re not making much progress. I know that if they saw me play, they’d probably play too.
When my husband does the washing up, he sings worship songs as loud as he dares (my children are heavy sleepers). When my 5-yr-old son plays with his Lego, he sings worship songs, too.
I have a lovely friend who always comments on my children’s clothes when I see her. She told me one day that her son is really fussy about what he wears, and she doesn’t know where he gets it from.
My neat-freak friends despair when their children cry over spilt yogurt; my own children are hopelessly messy and I know where they get that from.
I used to have so much trouble getting my children to eat vegetables, and when I asked people for advice they usually said first, “do you eat vegetables?”
Your children don’t just learn from what you say. In fact, many would argue that they learn a lot more from your actions than from your words. This is such a sobering thought.
A mentor of mine, Linda Marshall, used to say to me that if you wanted people to learn something, you should tell them, show them and then tell them again. I need to remember that the “showing” part speaks volumes.
I’ve been challenged over the past week about “spiritual disciplines” (which means reading the Bible and praying). I do these things, but I am not as committed to them as I am to teaching my children to do them. So if I don’t prioritise them myself, why should they value them? And worse still, am I teaching them to be hypocrites?
Thinking more broadly, I might teach my children to put Jesus first, but if I clearly put their education or their extra-curricular activities first, then why should I expect them to grow up following Jesus? I know this is a problem in many youth groups: parents end up blaming the youth leaders because their children give up on church, but they’ve clearly modeled to their children over the years that church is bottom priority.
We’ve just started a series at church on The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). These words from Jesus are seriously challenging:
‘Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’
As Pastor Andy Mason said, the wide gate isn’t necessarily the way of sex, drugs and rock and roll. It can also be the way of false religion and hypocrisy. And what could be more hypocritical than telling my own children to rely on God through prayer, but not doing it myself? Instead of just telling my children to scoot along the narrow way that leads to life, I need to be on it myself. Otherwise why should they believe me?
They won’t find it much of a struggle to praise the Lord if they see that I truly love and worship him myself, with my words and my actions. This means that when I say, “Not now, I’m just reading my Bible,” I’m actually doing them a great favour. I read a leaflet once that said you shouldn’t feel guilty about reading a book in front of your children, because you are teaching them to love reading. Don’t feel bad about praying or reading the Bible when your children are safely doing something else (CBeebies?), because you’re showing them that this Jesus thing is real for you, too. It also shows them that we can’t sustain ourselves; we need Him to feed us and help us each day. As Pastor Andy says, if Jesus needed to pray each day, how can we survive without it?
And I just can’t mention the narrow and wide roads without ending on a Colin Buchanan song:
“Big car, sweet ride! But tell me where you gonna drive that thing?
Cos there’s a wide, wide highway and it leads to destruction;
There’s a narrow, narrow way and it leads to life;
You’ve got to drive, drive, drive with your eyes on Jesus
He’s the King, He’s the prize,
He’s the narrow, narrow, narrow way that leads to life!”
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