Chad and I attended a conference last week called Orange. (Click here to learn more about the Orange Conference.) This is our second year and it was phenomenal, again. It’s held in Atlanta, GA, and 5,000 other people from other churches and different denominations all join together to learn and to worship the Lord. I came away so refreshed, with a desire to really implement some things in my church, in my family, and in my personal life.
Thursday was a day of breakout sessions. The first one I attended was called “Unpacking Deuteronomy 6”. In this chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses is relaying a message to the Israelites, from God, before they are about to enter the Promised Land. The following is that portion of scripture:
Listen, Israel! The Lord our God is the only true God! So love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength. Memorize his laws and tell them to your children over and over again. Talk about them all the time, whether you’re at home or walking along the road or going to bed at night, or getting up in the morning. Write down copies and tie them to your wrists and foreheads to help you obey them. Write these laws on the door frames of your homes and on your town gates. (Deuteronomy 6: 4-9, CEV)
The session was taught by two women. One woman was my age and had 2 children, ages 6 and 9. The other woman was younger than me and had 2 children – a 9 month old and a 3-year-old. Although these ladies had just as much or less experience at parenting than me, they were full of wisdom. I knew they had studied this scripture and really looked at what it means, especially for the family.
They began the class by saying this: “Family is messy and family is changing.” Wow, not the most encouraging statement, but really . . . it’s true isn’t it? Even for those of us in the church. We are not exempt just because we follow Christ. Family is full of people, people with messy lives (like yours truly). As the women unpacked these 5 verses in Deuteronomy, they gave the class 5 points that God wanted to relay to His people that day, concerning the next generation.
1) Imagine the End – Focus our energy on issues that make a lasting impact. As the Church, we need to remind parents that it’s all about God. We need to help our children (and ultimately ourselves) remember what God has already done for us. Let our children know that God is the 1st priority.
2) Fight for the Heart – Create a culture of unconditional love for the emotional and spiritual health of our children. When Moses told the Israelites to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and strength, there was a major shift from rules to love. If any of you have read any of the books before Deuteronomy, you know that there were A LOT of rules to follow. This is where God begins to relay His love, over rules, to His Church. As parents we can show our children this unconditional love in a practical way by doing the simplest of things, consistently over time, to show our kids we love them.
3) Make it Personal – Allow your kids to see how you strive to grow so they can confront their limitations and pursue character in faith. This is one that I know all too well. As a parent, I mess up. And that’s OK. What’s not OK is to continue to beat myself up and let my children see that I can’t handle screwing up. What I need to do is tell my children “I’m sorry” and let them know that God is still working in my life. I am a work in progress, just like they are. One comment that I loved hearing from one of the mothers speaking: “A parent doesn’t have to have everything right before they can be a positive spiritual influence in a child’s life.” I have apologized many times to my kids and for all sorts of things. For yelling, for accusing them falsely, for being in a bad mood and taking it out on them, for talking down to them, and for not taking the time to listen to them. I’m pretty honest with my kids, on an age-appropriate level of course. I want them to know they can come to their Dad and I, to each other, and to God, to say “I’m sorry. Can you forgive me?” I want them to know that God will accept them unconditionally, even when they are at their worst.
I have a lot of information to share so I will continue with the next 2 points on Friday. In the meantime, think about this: How do you show your children God’s unconditional love in practical ways? If you have a thought, please share in the comments section. I’d love to know, and I’m sure other parents would as well, what other families have done. Thanks for sharing!