Maybe some of you are like me. Raised in a Christian home, I often felt defined by the things that I didn't do. But what would it look like if we parented a generation of young people to define themselves by what they did do? What if they were defined by their actions of justice and mercy, forgiveness and love, strength and courage, generosity and humility and faithfulness?
The danger in merely focusing on our children's outward behavior without the inner transformation is that sometimes our children will align their behavior to our mandates to please us or receive approval. They can end up doing or not doing these things without true spiritual healing inside. Without this supernatural transformation, we may have moral or obedient children, but we don't necessarily have spiritual children.
Before long, after the external motivations for obedient behavior are eliminated, our children will grow up and determine life for themselves: They will have been transformed by God's Spirit, or they will have chosen to live sinfully without any desire to change, or they will hide their sin and live a double life. But a spiritual life is one that is transformed and out of hiding.
Now what if we as spiritual parents agreed to do something different than merely manage our children's behavior? What if we put our energy toward setting our children in the path of the Divine and watching them fall in love with Jesus? What a remarkable difference this would make! One option warns, "Don't fall in love with the world," while the other option offers, "Fall in love with Jesus, and the world will look less attractive."
The Environment of Storytelling
As children, our world is very small. We see everything from our vantage point and how it affects us directly or indirectly. It's only as we mature (hopefully) that we begin to see the world as much more complex, and we begin to see our role as servants addressing the needs of those around us. Therefore, one role of the Christian parent is to train our children to shift from self-centeredness to other-centeredness. Paul describes this virtue in Philippians 2:3-4 (NASB): "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others."
Of course, this selflessness comes from knowing Jesus personally and committing our very lives to the power that is available to us from God. Yet even before our children fully understand this war within, storytelling is a compelling opportunity to begin to shape an other-centered and God-centered worldview in their hearts.