I’ve heard it expressed, “I want my children to surpass me in the strength of their own walk with the Lord, but I don’t want to make it easy for them.”
I wholeheartedly understand the idea behind this sentiment. The notion is that we shouldn’t be lax in our own pursuit of Christ and make it easy for our children to surpass us due to our lukewarm love and halfhearted obedience. I beg the Lord that this low bar-setting wouldn’t be true of me.
However, I was recently pondering this idea in light of my husband’s and my upbringing. The older I get and the longer I mother my own kids, the more humbled and awed I am at the gift we’ve been given in our fathers and mothers who’ve sought to honor Christ in everything. They certainly haven’t set a low bar for their children in their example. By God’s grace, every one of their children (14 between them) are walking with the Lord. And it dawned on me: maybe setting the bar higher in our own pursuit of Christ as parents makes it easier in many ways for our children to surpass us (although I must say I certainly haven’t surpassed mine).
Year after year—day after day—of watching them consistently studying and obeying the Word, discipling and training their kids, repenting of sin, showing hospitality, displaying humility, modeling the fruit of the Spirit, and continually maturing in Christ set an example that was as normal to us as eating and breathing. They not only told us what they believed, but showed us why they believed it. They encouraged us from a young age to know and love God ourselves by spending time with Him in Scripture and in prayer. They sought to help us establish daily living patterns and practices that connected our theology with our “liveology” (as my husband would call it). We don’t have mounds and mounds of baggage and polluted doctrine to wade through because they didn’t just say, “The Bible says so,” when it actually didn’t say so. Were they perfect parents? Of course not—there have been no perfect parents to walk the earth. But they were faithful parents. And because of that they’re some of our most trusted advisors and advocates to this day.
Charles Spurgeon said,
“Train up a child in the way he should go—but be sure to go that way yourself.”
A godly example is the most powerful tool a parent can wield in the discipleship of their children. Yes, this comes along with intentional, verbal training. But that’s part of being a godly parent, too, isn’t it? A faithful parent will love their children not only in “word and talk, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18). Their portrayal of the Christian life creates stepping stones for next generations to follow that will help lead them down the path of righteousness. Does this guarantee that a child will choose to follow the Lord themself when they’re grown? Sadly, no. I personally know some incredibly godly parents whose children have rejected the Lord. But in these cases it’s not because of hypocrisy in the parents—it’s due to deception and rebellion in the grown child. On the flip side, I know many people who grew up in awful home situations who God has marvellously redeemed and is now using to advance His kingdom; He can be trusted with our life story.
But we know this: He blesses those who love Him and keep His commandments “to a thousand generations” (Deuteronomy 7:9). We won’t see the full fruition of that promise this side of heaven, but we can hold onto it with all our hearts. When we follow Christ ourselves, God will use that in the lives of our children in some way.
I will forever be grateful for the ways my parents did this for me, and one of my deepest longings is to pass this legacy along to my children. There has already been regret, repentance, and regrouping many times over in my short decade of parenting. But the Lord has never forsaken me. I praise Him that His grace is greater than all my sin. I pray that He will take these meager “loaves and fishes” of my obedience and multiply them as only He can in the lives of our precious kids.
Lord, may my life be a help—not a hindrance—in my children’s pursuit of you.
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