The Apologetic Parent: Training Children to Live the Faith
by Jennifer Pinch
When I was young, my mother used to say, “When you grow up, I hope you have a child exactly like you.” Her intention was not to give me a blessing. I was a strong-willed child who questioned absolutely everything. You couldn’t make me do anything. I needed to be persuaded. At the time, it was difficult for my mom to understand my continual need for reasons. She was satisfied with deferring to authority and she is, by nature, a peacemaker who avoids conflict. My dad, however, has always been able to see through my behavior to the heart of the matter. He knew that my challenges were most often a genuinely felt need for information and not just to provoke drama. Being a mother myself, I can now empathize with my own mother’s frustration and disconnect because two of my three children are just like me.
God is good. He knows what we need despite our “stiff necks” and willfulness. Parenting has taught me more about myself than any other life lesson. When my first daughter was born, a good friend sent me a book by Gary Thomas called Sacred Parenting. At the time, I was quite confident that I knew everything and that the book would be fluffy anyway so, logically, I put it on the nursery shelf and mostly forgot about it. When my strong-willed daughter was six years old and the illusion that I was going to be the perfect parent was thoroughly broken, I reached for that book. What I read caused in me a mix of sorrow and hope. The author said, “When we don’t understand the purpose of parenting, the process becomes tedious.” As I continued to read, I began to understand that my child needed me to look beyond behavior modification, which, in retrospect, ought to have been obvious. I needed to engage in a sacred
journey that would not only “train up a child”, but shape my own soul in the process. God was warning me that it is a grave danger to be satisfied by raising a little Pharisee when He has given me the responsibility to shepherd her heart. His purpose for parenting is to enable my child to know God and glorify Him.
My parents always prayed that my strong-will would be a virtue, not a vice. They never sought to break my will, but to bend it toward the Lord. Their desire was that my God-given intensity, passion, and fierce determination would be used for His kingdom. How can we empower our children to be strong-willed for the Lord? I believe that the answer is in Deuteronomy 6:5-7, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” As parents, our love for the Lord should be evident throughout all of life. When our Christianity becomes something we do rather than someone we are, our children will be the first to call our bluff. My prayer for each of my children has become that they would love the Lord with all of their hearts and all of their lives; and God has commanded me to lead by example.
Many parents mistakenly assume that church attendance, Christian children’s programs, and isolation from secular culture will keep their child in the faith as they reach adulthood. According to research by The Barna Group, the most critical need in a child’s spiritual development is for a family to engage in faith together at home…
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