"Your Family, Your Children and Your God"
The month of May is all about families. Not only do we celebrate Mother’s Day, but many families get together for reunions, kids finish the school year and some graduate. It can be a blessing or it can beat you up as a parent. As I write to you this month, how to be the family you want to be and how to live out your faith at home are on my mind.
There is no question the American family is in trouble. Isn’t that strange with all the blessings we have living in this country? Unfortunately, the family has fallen victim to the culture. Recently I saw these statistics. “Only 34% of American families eat one meal together each day. The average father spends only 8 to 10 minutes a day with his children. This includes television and meal times. Only 12% of America’s families pray together. The average couple spends only 4 minutes of uninterrupted time together each day.” Most people regard their family as highly important but have lost touch with how to make the most of their time together.
Families with children are almost universally caught up in the same kinds of dilemmas. There’s two parents working, sports activities to attend, school and homework which needs to be done and church to fit in somewhere. Children are searching for significance in their many activities while mom and dad are just trying to survive and keep a marriage together. Unfortunately, in so many families today, the family has lost the significance God designed for them while so desperately trying to meet all their needs as individual members.
Did you ever read the instructions for a pressure cooker? It might read like this: “Check pressure regulator vent and safety tubes before opening. For best results only fill half to two-thirds full. Do not overfill! Indicator stem rises when cooker is under pressure. When fully pressurized the regulator will ‘hiss and rock.’ This is normal and will allow excessive steam to escape.”
Too many families are like the pressure cooker, “hissing and rocking.” If a pressure cooker is not handled with caution it will explode. If mishandled, so will your family.
Some time ago I remember relating to a fine young man who got in trouble over drugs and other things he should not have had. Also I am remembering a young lady who got pregnant while still in high school. Both came from what most would call fine families. Parents had good jobs and lived in good neighborhoods. The kids went to good schools and had plenty of activities. What happened? There’s a real chance they were victims of the breakdown in quality family life. This could be repeated over and over again either for children, parents in their marriages or both. Families were not designed to be like automatic transmissions in a car which are put in gear and forgotten about while driving.
An excerpt from The Little House on the Freeway, gave seven marks of the hurried family. They are “1. Can’t relax. 2. Can’t enjoy quiet time. 3. Never feel satisfied. 4. Absence of absolutes. 5. Unhappy doing good things for the wrong reasons. (I call that obligations.) 6. A storm is rumbling beneath the calm. 7. World-class overachievers.”
If these kinds of descriptions resemble your family, perhaps it is time to stop and ask what you are teaching and passing on to the next generation? Is there any hope they will do any better if we don’t do better?
Joshua of old made choices for his family which continue to serve as a good centerline for us today. “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve. . .But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:31) Note that Joshua stated an intention not only for himself, but for those around him.
Changing homes in America begins with changing the intent of the parents in the homes in America. Culture is a pull like gravity and most of the time government policies do not help either. But the ultimate decision makers for families in America are parents. And it is the parents whom God will hold accountable. “The number one reason we fail to give a solid heritage is that we neglect to create a plan for doing so.” For Christians, it must grow out of an intentional desire to live a Christian life in spite of the culture and to pass that choice on to our children. It means making Christ’s priorities our priorities. In every circumstance people do better when they understand a common purpose. Nowhere is this more true than in the family. Choosing your family’s purpose is not so much about written words as much as a lifestyle which reflects Christian choices in every arena.
Right now is a good time to ask yourself this question. Do my children see my core values of faith reflected in the everyday life of our family? The stakes are high and the time is urgent. “Eighty-eight percent of children who grow up in evangelical churches leave at age 18 and do not come back to that faith for many years, and some never do. However, when their parents model their faith and are engaged as a family regularly in making Christ-like choices, less than 5 percent drop away.”
So how do we model that faith to our children? I’d like to suggest three ways. First, inspire your children to the best in life by following your example. Remember, they read us thoroughly. We don’t pull anything over on our children. We might fool other adults, but not them. From early age, they have a built in “bunk detector.” You must become before them what you want them to become. Or to put it another way, they will become what you have become before them. Emerson called it “giving our children the authentic sign.” Our actions, not our words, reflect our true value system.
The second key to mentoring is to inform. Before you think I mean get out a piece of paper and pen, let me assure you that probably will only build a wall. We inform when we take time to interpret the world and explain consequences of actions. Play time can be the beginnings of teaching children about fairness. As bad as some television programs have become or the sadness of some evening news stories, these become moments of encounter and discussion if used properly. Children are not unwilling to talk about issues if we make them creative and teachable. Informing children can’t be rushed and must be natural.
A third way to mentor our children is to insulate. I don’t mean isolate. Children aren’t always going to be under our wings. They will meet and mix with all kinds of people and families. If our children have a consistent frame of reference for Christianity it will pay dividends down the road. The best way I know for that is to have regular discussions and material which is of highest quality spiritually for them in the home. There are incredible materials from games and story books for little ones to appropriate scripture translations for all ages. As children grow older, it is important for them to see you as having to work through challenges just as they do. “Children respect parents for being honest, transparent and vulnerable.” “They will forget your presents, but they will not forget your presence.” Having a family time of resolving issues of the day and praying together is the best insulation for your child’s spiritual health and emotional well-being.
Building a successful family isn’t easy. Healthy families do not just happen. No family is doomed to failure unless they do not try and no one is guaranteed success without trying. The single most important issue becomes the spiritual choices of the parent or parents. It is all about the God you serve. Has the world with its culture, its boundaries and its rewards become your God? Not perhaps in name, but by example, it has for so many. Family life, both marriage and children, become the victims. Would you stop right now and consider the lens or filter through which you are interpreting the events and circumstances of life. Does your view of life stretch into eternity or is it only about what happens until you die? Do you live with a sense of stewardship about possessions, influence and family for which you must one day give an account to God? The answer to these questions may well tell what your family life and heritage in your children may be for generations to come and where you and they will be in eternity.