I often wonder how much influence I really have on my children and their faith. Am I really leaving a godly legacy? Does my private life impact their spiritual lives? Do my children really believe what I teach them? How has God's Word impacted their lives?
Having been an educator for nearly 17 years, understanding child development should be second nature for me. Sometimes the contrary is true, especially when it comes to spiritual things. It never occurred to me that many of the same techniques I have used in the classroom have worked in cultivating my children's spiritual development. Many childhood experts agree that children are typically who they are going to be by age 6. To some degree, I agree with this concept. When my children were born, I wanted them to have a better life than I did. I wanted to give them everything. Most of all, I wanted them to grow up in a God-fearing environment.
My children often see my husband and me pray, together and individually. They witness each of us spending time reading the Bible and they hear what we say about God and his character. I never knew how much of a sponge my daughter was until I was in a very difficult trial. My daughter was about 3 years old at the time. I was in the bathroom having a "woe is me" moment. My sweet little toddler came into the bathroom and said, "Mama, God is faithful." "Out of the mouths of babes" was surreal at that moment. I looked up from the floor and she was gone. I went through the house to look for her, and I found her playing as if she had not just rebuked me for forgetting about the character of our awesome God.
Often my husband will lie prostrate on the floor while praying in the mornings. One morning about a year ago, my husband was praying and was disturbed by the sound of our children repeating his prayer. Not only were they repeating what he was saying; both had assumed the same position, praying prostrate before God. Amazing. The Bible instructs us in Proverbs 22:6, "Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it." I used to wonder if leading by example would really impact my children. God has been gracious enough to allow me to live long enough to see how our private lives have already been imprinted into our children.
The power of the tongue
Children learn things seemingly at the speed of light. Especially things we wish they did not. As parents, we have to fight really hard to dismantle the power of Satan's tactics to lure our children into darkness. My children learn all kinds of things throughout the course of day. They learn how they do not measure up, how pretty or handsome they are not, and—my favorite—how "Christian" they are as opposed to their classmates. There are days when I must speak into their lives what God says about them. My daughter is in early adolescence, and her issues range on a daily basis from beauty to diversity. To combat the world's ideas concerning her inability to measure up academically to her peers, I have drilled into her that there is power in her words. I often tell her, "If you say you cannot do something then you will not be able to do it." In education, we call this self-fulfilling prophecy. I often have to reassure my son, the perfectionist, that just because something is hard does not mean he cannot do it.
Last year we decided that our children would learn to watch their words because their words would soon become their actions. We sat our children down and began to talk to them about the impact that their words could potentially have on their lives. Proverbs 18:21 became their daily verse: "The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences." They recited the Scripture in the morning before school and before their bedtime prayers. My daughter, who was struggling academically at the time, through a little parental coaching began to apply this principle to her academics. To her surprise, the power of her tongue has brought amazing results. We have seen dramatic changes in her study habits, conduct, and grades. My daughter decrees that she is a straight-A student, and she is well on her way. When my son has his moments of "I can't do this," I respond by saying, "Life and death…" and he completes my sentence. This Scripture has become a part of their vocabulary and belief system.
The faith to believe
I have vowed to myself and God that I would not be a public success and a private failure. Sadly, many children have been sacrificed on the altar of ministry and I will not be responsible for two more causalities. It is important that my children develop their own faith in God, believe in the power of his Word, and see the power of his Word in their personal lives. Deuteronomy 6:7 commands us to impress God's Word upon our children, to speak his Word when we are at home. Whatever we do should express God's laws to our children. My husband and I often say in our home, "God is faithful and God cannot lie."
In his infinite wisdom, God gave us an opportunity to cultivate the faith of our son. We took our son in for his regular physical, and the pediatrician saw a need to refer him to a specialist. We visited the specialist and she informed us that our son had a condition that would require surgery. If we neglected the surgery it could cause enormous problems as he grew. My son heard the reports of the doctors and was mortified. When we got in the car, he told us he did not want to have surgery. We asked him if he believed God was a healer and if he believed that God would heal him, and he said yes.
We began to arm our son with God's Word concerning healing, we encouraged him to speak about God's healing, and we had him read Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2, and Hebrews 6:18, all of which declare that God cannot lie. For the next several weeks, we followed the doctor's advice, prayed, and read the Scriptures with our son. In his morning prayer, our son would say, "Lord, I thank you for healing me and that I will not have to have surgery." Honestly, as a mom I had to pray for peace and ask God to prove himself to my son. We continued in prayer. Finally the time came for us to return to the specialist to review the status of the condition. After conferring with the specialist, to my son's amazement, the condition which we were monitoring was gone and the need for surgery is not necessary at this time. My son's eyes widened and he smiled from ear to ear! My son now believes and confirms that God is a healer and God cannot lie. God proved himself once again. Not only was my son's faith cultivated; mine was as well. How awesome is that? My son has now seen his favorite Scripture, Numbers 23:19, come to life!
Our actions matter
The world throws countless darts at the Christian values that we try to impress upon our children. I am confident that what we place in them will reap blessings for years to come. Many of the Bible principles I learned as a child have blessed my life many times over. The godly conversations we have in front of our children build their vocabulary and spiritual arsenal against Satan and his schemes. The prayer they see and hear us pray provides them security that we are inviting God into our daily lives. It provides a springboard for their personal prayer lives.
The godly lifestyles we practice behind closed doors cultivate their faith and annihilate the noise that claims true Christianity is dead. Even when we make mistakes, and they see and hear us repent to God, the experience teaches them about grace, mercy, and the forgiveness of God. I am grateful that God has allowed me to live a life that is impacting the generations of my children. Thankfully my children are learning who God is and the power of his Word.
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Domeniek L. Harris is an author, speaker, educator, women's ministry leader, Bible study teacher, and founder of By His Side Ministries, a multicultural, interdenominational, and international ministry for ministry wives. She is a co-laborer in pastoral ministry at Dominion Living Ministries in Memphis, Tennessee.