Words that could have broken my heart were spilling out of his mouth. He was questioning everything we had taught him about God. With marked emphasis, he blurted out his final remark, “I’m not even sure there is a God.”
The encounter had been an emotional one, and my husband wisely responded with a recommendation that we continue the conversation at a later time, giving everyone a chance to calm down. That evening, I quietly sat down on the sofa where our son was lying with his headphones on. He was still angry, but his emotions were calm.
I patted his shoulder and said, “I am glad you are asking questions.”
He sat up, clearly surprised.
I continued with, “There comes a time when you must determine to find the truth for yourself. A person is not born a Christian simply because his parents believe in Christ. We have taught you, and you know a lot about God, but God wants you to know Him personally, not just know about Him. God is not afraid of your questions. He loves you no matter what.”
With a gentle squeeze on his shoulder, I left him with a whispered, “I love you, son.”
There is a difference between knowing about God and knowing Him personally.
To point your children toward a personal relationship with God, lead them to Jesus. Bible stories about the life and ministry of Christ reveal His nature and His character. All of scripture was written to lead us to Christ and to reveal His mission—the mission of reconciliation. God reveals Himself to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Christ is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature. God was reconciling the world to Himself through Christ. And He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
See your parenting role as a ministry.
The work of this ministry is to inform and convince your children of God’s love for them. I say convince not in the sense of reasoning as in a court of law, or debating with them until they cannot out-reason you, but making it so evident by the way you live that it cannot be refuted. Point your children to God by committing to reconcile with each other.
The following practical habits will guide you as you practice being reconciled with others, especially your children. God is our example, He desires to reconcile us to Himself.
Relate with love
We tend to think our children should know we love them. After all, we care for them, do their laundry, cook their meals, take them to the doctor when they are ill. We buy clothes for them, prepare their school lessons, bandage their scrapes, pay for braces, and so much more. But these acts of service may not speak love to a child who needs an affirming word, or a comforting hug. Take time to learn about the The 5 Love Languages of Children from Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. Often a strained relationship can be restored when we simply communicate in the specific love language of our child.
Relate with love by refusing to allow the emotional temperature of your home to cause your personal emotional temperature to rise. The attitudes and behavior of our children can easily control us moms. It’s tough to walk with inner peace when it feels like chaos all around us. But in reality, we can establish a habit of being the thermostat instead of the thermometer.
Take note of the emotional temperature in your home.
Whatever the emotional temperature is in your home, determine to regulate it, rather than be controlled by it. I remember days when I had to work hard to keep my own state of emotions under control, and some days I failed miserably. Those days were especially challenging. I struggled to extend grace to myself as well as my children, and I had to practice being an emotional thermostat. The key word here is practice. Practice being the thermostat, regulating the atmosphere, instead of the thermometer that only reflects the temperature around it. Practice making that choice over and over until it has become a habit. My children provided ample opportunities for me to practice being a stabilizing force and peacemaker in our home—a thermostat. I can imagine your children will do the same for you. It will be worth it. Children are more secure in a peaceful home where love is communicated to them more clearly.
Release with forgiveness
Offering and asking for forgiveness is the action required for reconciliation. Ask for forgiveness and choose to forgive. You are demonstrating God’s forgiveness and desire for us to be reconciled to Him. We are all in need of forgiveness. Realizing this helps us to be more forgiving to others. Our children will notice when we offer grace and choose not to judge others.
It is easy to develop a habit of holding a grudge or rejecting someone who has wronged us. Sometimes emotional wounds are deep. Offering forgiveness is not acting like it never happened; it means releasing the person from the cage of your own bitterness. Begin to nurture a habit of forgiveness in your home. Start by being quick to ask for forgiveness when you are in the wrong, even if others are also wrong. Be the first to ask, but be sincere and repentant. Then be equally quick to grant forgiveness for wrongs suffered. Develop the habit of forgiveness with the small frequent offenses that happen in a family, and larger offenses will be easier to forgive. It takes practice, but family life usually provides plenty of practice.
Restore with relationship
Our own habits directly affect our children. Scripture gives us many examples of how to be reconciled to one another and to God (e.g., Ephesians 4:1-3, Philippians 2:1-16, and Romans 12:9-21). God has placed us in families for our mutual benefit and protection. Home is a safe place to learn how to relate to others, how to be reconciled to one another. Jerry has a saying that all our children heard frequently: “Friends are fleeting; but family is forever.”
Pursue relationship and reconciliation with your children. God pursues us. He made the extreme sacrifice of His Son on our behalf. He loved us when we were enemies. He desires relationship with us. Accept the ministry given you by God. Help your children be reconciled to God by pursuing and reconciling your children to yourself.
He has not left us alone in this ministry. We have a Savior who ever intercedes for us, a Holy Spirit who equips us, and a Father who is constantly working on our behalf. Draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that you may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need. Relate to your children with love. Release them with forgiveness, and restore with relationship, being ever diligent to be reconciled to one another. You will be blessed with enduring relationships, and you will point your children toward God.
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