Monday, February 7, 2011

The best thing you can do as a parent

If you are just joining us for Mommy Monday, this is a series of notes to my little sister, who will become a mommy for the first time in June.  Please feel free to add to the conversation!


No doubt you will read a ton of parenting books over the next few years, from nurturing a newborn, to discipline to schooling.  You will read a lot of helpful things, some not so helpful things, some things that work and others that don't.  When it comes to parenting I feel like I have read almost every book out there and there are still quite a few in my Amazon cart.  But one thing that I have learned recently is that the best thing you can do as a parent is not read more and more books but to model the gospel for your children.

In a lot of ways this is harder than reading a book.  If you are consistently modeling the gospel for your children you are changing and that is hard.  It's not fun to admit we are wrong, repent and live a life that shows joy and contentment.  A life like that requires sacrifice and a lot of work. 
But in a lot of other ways it is also freeing: we don't have to be perfect, have it all figured out and appear to have it all together.  And neither do our kids.  Modeling that freedom in the gospel for them, showing them that God changes needy sinners, is all they really need. 

What does this modeling look like? 
1- Fellowship.  The best way to know the gospel is through fellowship, with God and with others. 
It's hard as a new mom and eventually as a mom with young children, to find the time to fellowship with God.  Quiet time is an oxymoron for the first few years of parenting, there aren't many!  But you need to find them.  It will probably not look like an early wake up time with intense bible study and an hour long, journaled prayer.  I am just coming out of the potty quiet time phase.  I kept a devotional on the back of my toilet that has short but meaty devotions that I could digest in 10 min, while I did my necessary business.  It worked for awhile and it was fruitful.  I read through Comforts from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick a few times that way.  Some seasons it may just be going to church on Sunday and being fed the Word or going to a women's biblestudy once a week, which is the other kind of fellowship you need.  You need people in your life who will not only support you through this period of your life but you also need people who will consistently speak truth and point you to the gospel.  Your kids need to see these times of fellowship in your life, they need know how important it is for you to spend time with God and with other people.

2- Correction.  Not right away, but before you know it, you will need to correct your children and train them in the way they should go.  These are often the most convicting times for me as a parent. 
If I am encouraging my kids to say they are sorry, I think, "When was the last time I repented, to God, to my kids?" 
If I am instructing my kids to be kind to each other, I think, "Have I been kind and gentle to them? To Matt?  To others?  Do they hear me slander others?" 
If I am instructing them to serve one another and not grumble, I think, "When was the last time I served and did it cheerfully?"
If I am encouraging my kids to not be greedy, to be thankful for what they have, I ask myself, "Do I act content with what I have?  Am I always shopping for the next best thing?  Do my kids see me sacrifice?" 
All these things are important instruction for our kids but we need to question whether we are modeling these same things for them.

3- Grace.  How do I react when my kids sin?  That has been the most convicting question I have asked myself as a parent.  Do I treat them as Jesus treats me when I sin?  What I believe about the gospel will be seen in the way I treat my kids when they sin.  Bottom line.  That is hard.  But that is why I need to constantly go back and remind myself of His promises and His love for me.  It is not dependant on my getting it right or even on my love for him.  Our kids need to know that about us too.  And this is where grace abounds!  I don't get it right, I don't model the gospel for my kids as I should!  But it should drive me back to the cross over and over and renew me.  This can be overwhelming to think about, how our actions as parents affect our kids.  But, the truth is that God ultimately is at work in their hearts and he can use circumstances in their lives and other people to show them the gospel when we can't.  He uses broken people for his purposes all the time.  He can use me and he can use you.  Amazing, isn't it?

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10

What is the most creative use of fellowship with God you used when there wasn't much quiet time?


Lisa said...

Wow Jane, beautifully written and vitally important. To answer your question, I've never been able to consistently wake up before my children but back in the days when there would be the quiet lull of babies napping, I would make it a priority to get in the Word and pray before I did anything else on my long list of things to do. One little thing that helped was leaving my Bible open on the kitchen counter or table. I was always heading in there in my freetime to cook or clean something so seeing my Bible was a nice reminder that the dishes could wait while I took care of more important business. These days it's a lot harder. I can't always count on ten minutes uninterupted in the bathroom but I do have Spurgeon's Morning and Evening in there.

Magpie Designz said...

great advice sis! Thanks!