I've been thinking a lot lately about how I can do the most important job that God has given me. Not the one I get paid for, or my future aspirations for starting a society shaping entertainment company. No, the mission field in my own home. I've got two boys who need to brought up in the "discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4) Taking a survey of my life reveals that there are two ways one can measure their success in life. You can judge success by societies standards of education, career advancement, wealth, and happy family life. Or you can look at it like God does… and He doesn't seem to care at all about any of those things. Jesus didn't call the educated to be His disciples. He told them to give up their careers. He told the rich young ruler who had followed all the laws that the only way he could enter the
I had some moderate success by societies standards for a while. My career took a very fast upswing some years ago, my salary doubled and I was given a bunch of responsibility. But none of that mattered to God. It didn't make me happy. It didn't save my marriage. So when I think about my sons' futures, and how I would like to shape their hearts I see that I want to instill what is truly important. God's plan for their life will undoubtedly look very different than what I can imagine. But it's my job to equip them for wherever that journey takes them. And most importantly, instill a desire to find and follow God's plan. I've found that God seldom speaks out of thunderclouds to people anymore. He speaks to those who love Him in very subtle ways. So really, my basic job is to cultivate a love for God in my sons' lives so that they will be ready and willing to hear Him and His desires for them. How do we fall in love with someone? We get to know them. How do we know God? His Word and His Spirit. So here is what I've felt inspired to do with them to help them know God…
To know His Spirit is a heart transforming process. I can't change my boys' hearts, only His Spirit can. But I can teach them to recognize and appreciate the fruit of that change. Changing from the 100% inward focus of infancy to the outwardly focused person God wants us to be is a life-long process, and must come from within. You can not be forced to love anything. I can't set up a list of rules that the kids have to follow and expect them to love those rules. But I can show them when they demonstrate fruits of the spirit. Here is a list from Galations 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Whenever a person demonstrates these attributes that is a work of the Holy Spirit. Whenever my boys demonstrate them, I want to recognize them and encourage them in it. I want to show them the natural results that come from that fruit. To teach them to love God is to teach them what God loves. So I'm going to be making a poster with a barren tree on it. Every time they 'show fruit' I'm going to draw the fruit I see on the tree. I may make some stickers for this. So far I have strawberry for Love, a coconut for Patience, a lemon for Self-control, and an apple for goodness.
We used to keep a happy face chart where we would put a smiley face under their name for every good action we saw them doing, and we would cross them out every time they did something bad. Then we would tally all the faces at the end of the week and get them a reward of some sort based on that number. But we ran into two problems. One: they kept getting more faces taken off than put on. And two: what good does it do to bribe your children into acting good. Because with a mixed motive like that, it truly is "acting" good. Once the incentive is gone, the heart will just go back to its default selfish mode.
So while I have no idea whether a reward-free fruit poster is going to make them behave better, ultimately I care more about showing them what God loves, and how He loves the fruit that they show.
The second idea I have is a long-term project. As a family, I want us to memorize a whole bunch of God's Word. The chapters that I memorized for BibleQuiz as a teen have stuck with me and formed my life experience in ways I probably don't even recognize. God's Word truly is powerful. Here is one of my favorite verses:
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Combine that with the list of armor from Ephesians 6 which calls the Word of God a sword, and I feel like creating a physical display of a spiritual truth. As we put more of the Bible into our hearts, our offensive weapon against "this present darkness" grows more powerful. So I told the boys that when we have finished memorizing this massive amount of scripture (which will probably take several years) I will build them a sword to symbolize the weapon that they have forged in their hearts. I think I will engrave their names and all the verse numbers that they memorized. A kingly gift for the sons of a king… Uh… That being Jesus, not me.
So while things like a good education, appreciation for the arts, and people skills are very important for me to teach my kids, if any of those things is put before a love of God and others, than I'm not doing my job of arming the future generation for the war they will have to fight in. Like it says in 1st Corinthians 13:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.