Deuteronomy 6:4 says, "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."
It was God's plan that children be nurtured, trained and instructed by their parents. We can trust that if God gave us children, He also gave us EVERYTHING we need to disciple them. He gave us His POWER! Embrace this truth: Your children were given to YOU. God chose YOU. Meditate on that thought. God knew all of your "issues", your background, your sin, your inexperience--EVERYTHING! Yet He trusted you with this Great work of shaping these little ones to be followers of Him.
When Jesus gave the command to "go and make disciples", he was also talking to parents. He was saying leave your comfort, your desires, your need for self-fulfillment, in order to enter their world, to teach them, to struggle with their sin (and your own), to teach them life lessons, to have your heart broken at times, to repeat yourself about a million times a day, to clean constantly and never have a clean house, to bear with a constant barrage of questions, to patiently endure years of your conversations being interrupted,to go weeks an months with little to no sleep, an on and on. In short, discipling requires sacrifice. Why would anyone sign up for such a lovely assignment? Because the Creator of the Universe, entrusted His most precious possessions (people He gave His life for) to us. We have been given such an important and blessed assignment.
So I want to challenge you to stop thinking of your children as obstacles that need to be removed. Our culture sees children as being "in the way". (As I was typing this, I was interrupted by my children needing me to get a ball that went over the fence. And yes, I'm thinking, "Go away, don't bother me. I'm busy". The Lord reminds me constantly of my own depravity.) When we want to do something fulfilling (like write a blog), fun, or important, the question that usually surfaces is, "What do we do with the children?" When it's time to serve in ministry, we have to deal with the dilemma of childcare. Don't get me wrong, there are times when the setting or subject is inappropriate for children. And there are times when parents need a break. I understand that all too well. But shouldn't that be the exception?
The Lord is convicting me of seeing my children too often as inconveniences, rather than the blessings they truly are. I propose a paradigm shift in our thinking. Instead of "sending" our children off to the "experts" to teach them, maybe we need to take the command given to the Israelites seriously. Parents were given the responsibility of raising their children, not the government, not the church, not schools--parents. The buck stops with us--the parents. I don't say this to add guilt, but instead to encourage you. God trusted YOU to bring these children up, to train and teach them in the ways of the Lord. Yes, you are inadequate--apart from God's power. Yes, it's hard work. No, you don't need special gifting--only a willingness to be used by God. You can do it! And the God of the Universe promises to help you!
Let me say that I am not at all against having others come along side of parents to provide support and encouragement. Discipling is best accomplished in a larger community--not isolation. We need friends and family members that we trust to help us as we disciple our children. It allows our children to encounter others who love them yet have strengths that our different from ours. (So we need to be intentional and prayerful about who these people are.) We will also need the encouragement and support of others along the way as well. But we need to be reminded that God has given us, the parents, a special window into our children's heart that no one else has.
I must mention that discipling isn't catering to our children's every whim and desire. It isn't signing them up for every sport activity, every dance class, art class, and generally spending your time entertaining them. Do we want to produce people who have an "entitlement" attitude, who never have to work for anything, who lack discipline and creativity, who are unwilling to delay pleasure, who avoid all work like the plague and who find it a foreign idea to deny themselves of anything? Of course not! So we must not follow the pattern of the world as we disciple our children. In a separate blog, I will talk about the pattern of discipling that Jesus set for us to follow.
Lastly, I do want to acknowledge that discipling is HARD WORK! Our children press beyond every every conceivable limit. They will stretch our patience, test our love, and utterly exhaust us in every way. Discipling is NOT for the faint of heart. But I believe that God planned it that way. If we want our children to "follow us, as we follow Christ," we too, must be shaped and formed into the image of Christ Jesus. So God uses these precious children, to accomplish this work. I cannot tell you how many times I've come to the end of myself, only to fall face down on my knees crying out to God, "Help Me!". He always does--abundantly.
So...will you answer the call?
Heavenly Father, thank you for allowing us to participate in your great work--the redemption of mankind, and the expansion of your kingdom on earth. Thank you for your perfect wisdom which ordained that we would be entrusted to bring forth children and raise them up to be followers of you. I don't know why you are so lavish in your gifts to us. You know how often we rebel against you. You know all of our "issues", our unbelief, and Every single failure. Yet you gave us the gift of children anyway, and you gave us the capacity and ability to do the work you've called us to do. Help us Lord to say yes to you no matter the cost. Help us to follow your example. You chose to make yourself nothing--compared to the incomparable glory of who your really are. You chose to serve those who should be serving you. And you humbled yourself and became obedient to death (one whom you will later destroy). Teach us how to follow your example. Show us the crosses that we must carry in order to follow you. And we praise you for unfathomable riches that you have for those who do. Amen.