Friday, May 31, 2013

Getting Off My Rump

Sometimes I am frustrated by the fact that the Bible doesn't give us black and white answers for every situation.  Even in the spiritual disciplines, the Word can be vague.  We are commanded to give, but how much? The Bible emphasizes the importance of prayer, but when is the best time?  For me the most maddeningly hazy area of Scripture is parenting.  I would love to open my Bible and find a verse that says, "When thy 2 year old child shall throw herself on the floor, thou shalt ignore her.  Verily, if she continues to wail and gnash her teeth, the rod is what thou shalt use." 

Discipline is not the only area that lacks specifics in the Bible.  We are instructed to train our children up in spiritual disciplines (Deut 4:10; Psalm 78:4-6; Proverbs 22:6), but we aren't told specifically how to do it.  One thing is for sure, though; training involves action.  

When God spoke of his promise to Abraham, he specifically mentions his intention that the patriarch would pass down his faith to future generations. "For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him" (Genesis 18:19).  Notice all the action words?  Keep the way of the Lord. Doing righteousness and justice.

The trend of action-teaching continues into the time of Moses.  Again, God intended for the Israelites to teach their children to ensure they would have the means to follow God's laws. 
 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead . You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).  
Talk, walk, rise up, bind, write.  

So what does this mean for me, the young(ish) mother of three?  What does it mean to the grandmother, the aunt, the single mom, the Bible class teacher?  We all have a role to play in teaching the next generation about giving, Bible study, confession, prayer, and all the other spiritual disciplines we've talked about this month.  Based on these passages, the "how" seems secondary.  The primary goal is that we DO IT! Take action; do something; teach in whatever way you know how.

If you are like me, though, you'd like to have a little guidance.  The first tip I would give for teaching spiritual disciplines is to model them yourself.  We had an excellent comment on our Bible reading post  from Vanessa with  She said we should read from an actual Bible so our children can see exactly what we are doing.  I think that applies to all our spiritual disciplines.  I don't think it breaks the rule of secrecy to let our children know that we give and pray.  Of course, we can't model what we don't do.  Maybe you have trouble making spiritual disciplines a habit.  I know I do.  If  you are training to practice them more often, do it where your children can see. Let them know you are making an effort; I promise it will make a difference to them.

Another way to teach spiritual disciplines is to have our children practice them regularly in an age appropriate way.  For instance, we started reading Bible stories to our children from small board books.  Eventually, we progressed to longer Bible story books.  Then we moved to reading the Bible to them.  Now we let our oldest read a Bible story book to us.  Eventually, she'll be reading the Bible on her own.  We chose to do family Bible time right before bed, and we have made a habit of it.

Although we have done fairly well with Bible reading, I have a lot of room to improve in teaching my children the importance of prayer. My children don't often see me pray, and our prayers together are pretty much confined to mealtime and bedtime.  This week, I have several goals.  I will pray more myself, both in private and in front of my children.  I will teach them about this privilege using the Lord's prayer and Jesus's parables.  I will take the time to lead them in prayers about more than blessing our food and "helping all the sick people to get well."  

I'm sure you can think of many more examples.  A young child can give a quarter from Mommy's purse to the offering plate.  An older child earns money and gives a portion to the plate.  A teenager may be encouraged to do more spontaneous giving.  We can teach each discipline in ways that our children will remember as they grow in their own faith.

I'll be the first to admit though that it isn't easy to develop all these disciplines in children.  Sometimes it seems like it's all I can do to get my own spiritual life in order.  Training up a child is tough, but it is the job I signed up for when I decided to have children.

I may still get frustrated now and again that the Bible doesn't give me an exact formula for teaching my children.  But the more mature side of me knows that God gave me everything I need. Anything more would be needlessly restrictive.  He has given me the freedom to teach them in the way that works best for me and for them.  My challenge is to get off my rump and DO IT!
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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