For the sake of clarification and to prevent any possible confusion, I will disclose that I am not a mom.
However, I enjoy the blessing of having a wonderful mom. I can try to emphasize that word in every possible way or offer other words in an attempt to give everyone who doesn’t know her an idea of the godly woman she is, but there truly aren’t words for such a description (although I will say I think Proverbs 31 could sum her up well enough!)
That being said, having been raised in a Christian home with two parents who loved the Lord and sought to instill a reverence for the Word of God in our hearts from the earliest ages on, I have come to realize in the past few years how much of an impact such efforts made on every aspect of my life.
I still remember a lot of scriptures and general biblical principles because of how frequently they were sung or written or read aloud in our house while we were growing up. Those scriptures have come back to me time and time again even at times when I didn’t want them to (Ps. 119:9-11). The Lord used His Word to protect me; He graciously caused it to resonate with me long before I cared to truly know and believe it (Is. 55:10-11). I believe this was His faithfulness to my parents for their obedience in seeking to instill His Word in the hearts and minds of their children even if they didn’t know for sure what the outcome would be (Proverbs 22:6).
I say that to say this to every young mom who may be exhausted or discouraged when she feels like every attempt to teach her children is vain:
don’t give up. Please understand the eternal value of what you’re doing. You are teaching your children the greatest reality they could ever know and you are establishing a foundation of truth beneath them that will serve as the only rock they have to stand on in the midst of a world where everything else shifts as sand (Matt. 7:24-27). You are imparting wisdom to them that has a weight to it (Proverbs 6:20-22). Your children need that more than they need to know the basic academic subjects or how to socialize or how to work around the house. Teach them to fear the Lord, to stand in awe of their Creator, and with that will come divine understanding that they could otherwise never attain (Deut. 6:1-9, Proverbs 1:7, 3:13-18, Mark 12:28-34). The more they know of God and His goodness and character, the more they will apply themselves to learn those other things because they will come to understand the importance of using knowledge, relationships, and work to bring glory to the One you used every opportunity to point them to.
I want to take a minute to elaborate a little bit more on that last sentence. I am not saying that raising your children in a home where God and His Word are exalted is a foolproof way to ensure that you will never deal with a prodigal. Ultimately, we don’t control our salvation or the salvation of others, so it is still God’s hand that will do the final act of saving someone and giving them eyes to to see His glory (1 Jn. 4:19, 2 Cor. 4:4-6). However, what I am saying is that it is far more likely that your children will love the Lord and value His Word if they see that you love the Lord and value His Word because it is safe to assume that you and your husband will be some of the most (if not the most) influential people in their lives. The Lord will be faithful to your obedience whether you are able to see the fruit of it or not (Lam. 3:21-24, Jer. 17:7-8). I also want to distinguish between head knowledge and heart knowledge. You may teach your child every fact about the Bible. You may have him memorize every scripture. You may ask her countless times to consider if her actions toward her rival sibling is how Jesus would have treated His sibling. Nevertheless, all of that knowledge will mean nothing if they stand before God with an unrepentant heart (Matt. 7:21-23).
So how do you teach your child to have a repentant heart?
You teach them by showing them. You apologize when you know you made a mistake. You show them that sin is grievous to you as it is to God. If they sense that it weighs on you when you have offended God as well as your fellow man, they will feel that weight as well. I remember my parents apologizing to me or my siblings or to each other if there was something they knew they didn’t handle well in front of us. I also remember a few times when they prayed aloud for forgiveness from God. That showed me they knew they weren’t perfect and needed to be forgiven. It also taught me to seek reconciliation and to be very aware of the fact that I can make mistakes too. For beautiful references regarding what godly repentance looks like, see the ‘repentant’ psalms (Ps. 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143).
You remind your kid (and yourself) that he or she is a broken sinner, desperately in need of grace. All have fallen short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). Even the smallest child has a heart that is inclined to hate God and rebel against His righteous Person (Jer. 17:9, Ps. 14:1). They aren’t perfect. So don’t expect them to be and don’t act like they are. Pray that God would give you wisdom in being able to determine when you should show your child grace by mitigating punishment or when you should show them justice by letting them face the consequences of a poor choice. Again, believe that He will be faithful to reward such obedience.
Last, but definitely not least, you pray for them (1 Thess. 5:18, Eph. 1:15-23, Col. 1:9-14). The more I’ve come to understand the power of prayer, the more I’ve come to believe that my life is a product of it. I am blessed to be part of a family that prays. I am reminded regularly by family members that they are praying for me and I am becoming more aware of the fact that they have prayed for me all along. I sometimes reflect on the seasons the Lord has brought me through thus far and I now know that it isn’t just a coincidence that my life is what it is today. It is the Lord’s work and His answer to the prayers that have been prayed by my parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and who knows how many other relatives who have faithfully asked His favor over my life (James 5:16b).
The greatest act of love you can show your children is to point them to Jesus. The greatest thing you can ask for their lives is that they would come to a deeper understanding of His infinite worth.
At the risk of making this a little long, I just want to add a few bullet points to give specific observations I’ve made in my own life and in the lives of others who I watched grow up in the church. These are general observations and are not meant to be critical of my parents or any other parents I grew up around (Mom, since I know you’re reading this, that was my subtle way of saying not to over analyze all of this and think you and dad did everything wrong). This is specifically for the parents who may be tempted think it’s possible to shelter your kids from every evil they could encounter in the world. I feel like it’s obvious that you can’t, but I understand caring for your kids so much that you may think it’s possible if you’re really really careful. It’s not. I’ve seen plenty of families try different ways to keep their kids from becoming aware of what the world around them offers, but here are a few inevitable realities:
- Sin is present wherever humanity is present. Sin is present in your home. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can keep your kids from it. Instead, as they approach new stages and begin to learn about the worldliness that surrounds them, be the first person to address those issues with them because otherwise they will learn about it from their peers or the media (neither of which you want to be the first source of that kind of information for your children).
- The Bible is their ultimate source of truth, so if you haven’t already made scripture reading and memorization part of their daily life, start now. Give them the biggest flashlight available to help them navigate the darkness they’re immersed in (Ps. 119:105). They will retain biblical truths now more easily than any other time in their lives. They will need those truths when they face hardships (another reality you can’t shield them from, Jn. 16:33). Understand that they will deal with consequences of their sins and the sins of others that you cannot possibly control. Each child’s heart will suffer at some point. They will feel pain they don’t know how to express. They will experience things they don’t want to talk to you about. Keeping that in mind, think about how scripture will speak to them when you can’t (Psalm 119:71-72, 114-117). Think about how such words will pierce their hearts when nothing else you say can get through.
- Along the same lines, don’t underestimate the power of Proverbial wisdom. I remember reading Proverbs consistently each morning before we started school. I’ll admit that most days I wasn’t a fan, but often those words came back to me when I saw other people making decisions that seemed unwise and when I was being tempted to make foolish decisions as well. God only knows how many times I refrained from doing something stupid simply because the truth of a Proverb rang in my ear. I now love reading that book and being reminded of how biblical wisdom is so practical and relevant in everyday life.
- Don’t ever aim to please your children more than you please God (Gal. 1:10). You’ll receive backlash from them. They won’t like having ‘rules’ regarding what kinds of shows they can watch or music they can listen to. They won’t like being different from the kids around them. But remember that you are seeking to raise children who aren’t of the world (John 15:18-19, 17:6-17). If you compromise biblical truths to appease your children because you’re afraid it will strain your relationship with them, take a moment to evaluate Whose will you are called to seek and obey above everyone else’s… (including your children’s). Also, consider that they will notice what you compromise, and they will more than likely follow in suit.
- This last one will probably be the most difficult one to get on board with, but it is crucial to your children’s spiritual growth. Pray that your children would be sanctified. In doing so, know that sanctification most often comes in the form of suffering (Acts 14:22, James 1:2-4, Rom. 5:3-5, John 15:2). When they face such tribulations, remind them of God’s sovereignty and purpose in all of their pain (Prov. 3:12, Rom. 8:18, 28-30). Encourage them to believe that such times will leave them looking more like Christ (2 Cor. 3:18, Ps. 17:14, Col. 3:1-4). Trust that God’s ultimate goal for their agony is His glory and their good (Isaiah 53, 2 Cor. 5:21, Prov. 17:3, 25:4, Rom. 9:19-21).
My hope in writing this is to encourage and uplift women who are seeking to glorify God through their motherhood. So for all the moms who feel exasperated, bewildered, and defeated, know that you are fulfilling the great commission every single day. You are making little disciples. The Word that you speak, read, and pray over them will resound in their hearts all of their days, no matter how hard they try to forget it. I would like to think that most of them will one day thank their moms and seek to raise their own children up in godliness. Unfortunately, some will fall away because the world will enchant them with its lies and their bent toward sin will control them. In the case of the first, you can rejoice with them and praise God for His goodness. In the case of the latter, you must continue to pray for your child’s eyes to be opened to His light and trust that God’s plan is better than your own. Regardless of the outcome, I can confidently say that you will never look back on their upbringing and say, “I wish I hadn’t taught them about Jesus.”
Thank you to all the godly moms out there for doing what you do! You an incredible gift to your family and a testament to God’s goodness (James 1:17, Rom. 11:36).
My son, let them not depart from your eyes-
keep sound wisdom and discretion;
so they will be life to your soul and grace to your neck.
Then you will walk safely in your way,
and your foot will not stumble.