A Jesus-Heart for Children, Part 2
In the last post, we looked at how Jesus responded to children and how we can do the same. Whether or not we have children of our own, we need to cultivate a Biblical response to children. But what would Jesus have to say to moms? Being a mother entails a whole other level of interaction with children. What can we learn from Jesus to apply to the day-in-day-out routine of motherhood?
YOU CAN’T GIVE WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE
“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “ Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42
Like no other generation before us, moms today have access to more information and parenting helps than ever. But I’m not sure if that has helped or hindered us. In fact, access to more information has probably created more Marthas, anxious and troubled about many things.
- What sleep training method should I be doing?
- What kind of baby food is the best?
- Is my child getting enough sensory play time?
- What kind of discipline should I be doing?
- Are my kid’s friends good influences?
- Homeschool or public school?
- Music lessons or dance class?
- Breast feeding or formula?
These are all good questions to ask, but too often they create anxiety and trouble in our hearts and frantic researching. But Jesus told us Marthas, there is one thing that is necessary. ONE THING.
What is that one thing? Sitting still with Jesus. Cultivating intimacy with Jesus, and a listening heart.
Isn't this also the one thing we hope to pass on to our children? A desire to know and love Jesus above all else? That one day they would be strong men and women of faith, people who love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, who delight to do His will, and who are serving Him with their whole heart and their whole lives?
But how can we cultivate that if we don't model it ourselves? We cannot give what we do not have. Let us not be like Martha, frantic and worried with good things and forgetting the best thing. This is the hard part, the things that distract us from Jesus usually aren't bad. Martha was distracted by "much serving." Serving is a good thing. But it distracted her from the BEST thing: Knowing Jesus. Being a good parent is a good thing and it can easily distract us from the best thing.
So how can we be radically dedicated to knowing God in the daily grind of life? I think it means keeping the disciplines of Bible reading and prayer central to your day, not matter what the cost. But it truly is costly. To sit with Jesus while there is a lot to do is a radical thing. And your inner Martha will be screaming the same thing she said to Jesus: "There is so much to do! Tell her to help me!" But remember, Jesus rebukes Martha and says, "only one thing is necessary.
To choose to make space for God in your day might mean making frozen chicken nuggets and mac and cheese for dinner (again!), instead of that awesome recipe you found on pinterest. Or letting a pile of laundry sit unfolded for a day or two, wrinkling all the clothes. Or not being able to hang out with a friend or have that play date you wanted. Or having to welcome someone into a messy, cluttered house because you chose to seek God instead of clean up.
Sitting still with Jesus is costly. It costs you precious time. And usually means you can’t get other things done that you want to. But what a testimony this is to your children! To see their mom be radically dedicating to knowing God. I guarantee they will want to know why that book you call the Bible is so important, who this God is they always hear you praying to, and why time on your knees is more important to you than a clean house.
There is no other way to pass on a vibrant faith to your children than to cultivate and model one yourself. Do not let the desire to be a good parent distract you from your highest calling: to know and love Jesus.
BE GOD-CENTERED, NOT KID-CENTERED
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26
This is one of the hardest things Jesus said. A requirement to be a Christian is to love God so much that your love for even your children looks like hate in comparison. This grates against the kid-centered world that we live in.
I shared yesterday that the majority view of children is that they are an inconvenience. And I think this is true. But this pendulum can swing way to the other side as well where parents dedicate their entire lives to their children. Putting them in the best schools, the best sports programs, getting them the best food, stopping everything in their life to accommodate their children. I do not think this is the answer either.
Children were never meant to be the center of our world. God is. There is a difference between wanting what is best for them and living your life for them. What would those who know you say drives your life? Would they say, “They radically love and serve their kids!” or “They radically love and serve Jesus!” Of course loving Jesus includes loving your kids well. But our loyalty should always be with God first, not our family.
What does this look like? This means the things Jesus asks of us are central in our schedules, not our children’s events or schedules. Jesus calls us to be His ambassadors, to be missional in how we live, to be dedicated to His bride the church, to be know and love Him. If your children are keeping you from doing these things, you need to reevaluate how high of a position they have in your life.
For our family, being God-centered means many things. Since Jimmy travels the country to share the Gospel and minister to others, we often tag along so that the kids can see him. This often means undesirable nap and bedtime schedules, unpredictable diets, and stressful travel days. For us to leave space in our schedule to be missional in our neighborhood means we don't have as much time for other extracurriculars that the girls would probably enjoy. But our loyalties should be first to the Kingdom of God, even if that makes our love for our kids look like hate.
Seek the Lord for what it looks like for your family to be radical followers of Jesus. Let your kids grow up in a home centered on God and His Kingdom.
“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Just so I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:7, 10
There is one way to know God: repentance. Every one of us are sinners, who from birth hopelessly love and live for ourselves. We are all separated from God and utterly incapable of gaining access to Him apart from the work of Jesus for us. We can only know Him when we confess our sin and turn from it toward God, trusting that Jesus' righteous life and atoning death cover our sin. This process of confessing our sin and turning to God is what the Bible calls repentance.
“For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said, ‘In repentance and rest you will be saved.” Isaiah 30:15
And repentance is not just a one time transaction when you are saved. It is the daily, consistent habit of a Christian. “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” Matthew 3:8 So the question is, are you modeling repentance for your children? How will they know what it looks like if you do not show them?
One of the best gifts we can give to our kids is repenting before them. When we are sinfully angry with them, we should confess that sin to our kids and ask for their forgiveness. This can be uncomfortable because it can feel like we lose the “upper hand” with our kids. But how else will they see what true humility and repentance looks like if we do not show them?
Mormons, Muslims, and Jews all teach their kids to be good, moral people. Our parenting should be radically different as we have a radically different faith. But too often, Christian parenting boils down to “Be a good kid.” But the truth is, they have absolutely no hope to be a good kid apart from God’s saving work in their lives. They are hopelessly self-centered sinful people without God, just like us. And it is our job to show them that hopelessness and lead them to a savior! Not give them some false sense of outward morality that convinces them that God is pleased. All that does is create Pharisees, the very people who crucified Jesus.
Help your children see how hopeless they are of being good without Jesus by letting them see your own neediness. Let them see you as a fellow sinner in need of God's grace every single day. One of my favorite questions to ask my kids when they've been disobedient is: "Is it hard to obey?" Usually the response is a resounding and desperate "YES!" And what a beautiful moment to say "It's hard for mommy to obey God too! We cannot obey without God's help because of the sin in our hearts. Let's pray and ask God to help us both today to put our faith in Him, not ourselves."
Disciple your children in repentance. Show them what it looks like to humble yourself before God and others. There is no great thing you can give your children. As Jesus said in Luke 15, heaven rejoices over the repentance of a needy sinner much more than a self-righteous person who doesn’t think they need Jesus. Let's give heaven something to rejoice about!