Listen, Israel! The Lord our God is the only true God! So love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength. Memorize his laws and tell them to your children over and over again. Talk about them all the time, whether you’re at home or walking along the road or going to bed at night, or getting up in the morning. Write down copies and tie them to your wrists and foreheads to help you obey them. Write these laws on the door frames of your homes and on your town gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4–9, CEV)I became a Christian as an adult when my children were preschoolers. I didn’t know anything about Christian living or how to raise my children according to the will of God. I came into the kingdom of God with a great deal of pride and arrogance. I thought I knew what to do, but whatever that was, it did not include teaching them what the Bible says.
The New Testament commands for family life are a bit different than those from the Old Testament law from Deuteronomy. The part about children says this,
And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)I didn’t have a clue what kinds of behavior would exasperate my kids. I also had no idea what it meant to bring them up in the discipline and training of the Lord. In those early days, I struggled a great deal with leaving my past behind and moving forward into a new life. His discipline and training of my own life seemed more than enough challenge.
It is said that hindsight is 20/20. I agree. Now, after my children are grown and my grandchildren are having babies, my heart has many “I should haves” when I read verses like these. I also struggle with trying to balance my failures and responsibilities with the fact that God is the major player in bringing anyone, children or adults, into a saving faith and the joy of walking with Him.
Some parents do all the right things and their children walk away from God. My parents taught me very little about the Bible, yet God saved me. Adam and Eve were under the care of a perfect Father, yet they fell into sin. There seems no magic formula for parents. All I know is that I am responsible for loving and obeying God, and leaving the results with Him. I often get this backwards and blame myself for any negative results in the lives of others. Instead God wants me to take responsibility for my own obedience and disobedience and not beat myself up concerning the choices of other people.
One reality gives me comfort. When my children were little, I never scolded them for ignorance or blamed them for what they did not know. Also, if they did know what to do and refused to do it, the issue became their rebellion — for which I did hold them accountable.
Does God think of His children the same way? Does He make a distinction between ignorance and disobedience? This seems simple on paper, but easily clouded by the emotions of regret and those ‘I wish I had . . .’ thoughts. We do not live in a perfect world with perfect answers to every question.
Nevertheless, this morning I’m thinking also of a greater reality that gives me greater comfort. The Bible says that God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that I can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). I know that is true regarding the spiritual needs of my children who are now adults. I still need to do all that He asks me, but at the same time must remember and rely on the fact that nothing is too hard for God.