My Family's Free Will
I remember vividly the day my older sister said to me, “It is a scary thing, as a wife and mother, to realize that God has given your husband and children free will.” Wait, what? Do you mean there is something that affects my family that I can’t control? My husband could choose to leave God or me, and ultimately it is his choice. My children are going to grow up and they will make a choice to follow God or not. They will choose who to marry. They will choose how to raise their kids and where to live and where to worship. I have to be honest, I don’t like that!
After the initial shock of this truth wore off, I set my mind on what I can do in the meantime to lead them toward godly, wise decisions. I came up with five things that I want to instill in my family while I have the opportunity:
Take Joy in Godly Things and Godly People
What can my husband take joy in? Sports, work, women, alcohol? These are common pastimes in our society. What can I provide my husband to help him choose godly past times? Companionship, a home in which he finds joy, interests that align with his. Likewise he can provide me with leadership and affection. We can encourage each other to take joy in godly brethren and good works.
What about my kids? School, popularity, fashion, hobbies, sports, drugs, alcohol, sex, dating, video games, texting, social media...truly an immense list. How do I teach them to enjoy godly things? I suggest to you that it won’t be by force (at least not all of the time). If I want my girls to have this quality instilled in them, I must pattern it for them. I must take joy in those things and help them find good people and activities and works to enjoy.
Develop and Maintain a Personal Relationship with God
The only way to do this is with time and effort. And again, this is not something I can just tell my family to do; I must pattern it for them. The old adage “Quality Time, Not Quantity Time” has been proven false in our family relationships throughout the generations, and it is false in our relationship with God. I must spend quality time and quantity time daily in prayer, study and meditation. I have to want a personal relationship or it won’t happen.
If I want my children to have strong, healthy relationships with their future husbands one day, what do I do? I show them that relationship between myself and their father. My husband is my best friend whom I make great effort to spend time with, to talk to, to please. Do I treat God with at least that much care? How can I expect my family to choose to have a relationship with God if I myself don’t make great effort to spend time with Him, to talk to Him and to please Him?
Parental, Elder, Teacher, Government, GOD.
There is no "if, and or but" about this. I must respect my authority figures and I must encourage my spouse to do this, and I must hold my children accountable to this as well. I cannot bad-mouth leadership in front of my family. Romans 13:1-3 is very clear on this topic. God has chosen those in power for His purpose. I’ve spent time lately studying Daniel. I don’t read about Daniel holding protests against Nebuchadnezzar or posting on Facebook about Belshazzar or sharing disgraceful cartoons and jokes about Darius. Daniel obeyed and respected those in authority in as much as it was within God’s law and these powerful men were each brought to acknowledge Jehovah, if only briefly, because of Daniel.
Who are my authority figures? The Elders, my boss, my husband, the President of the United States. How do my children see me respond to them? How have I allowed my children to respond to those in authority over them? Children will not respect any authority, including God, if I allow them to question and argue with those in authority over them. That includes their school teachers and Bible class teachers or their other parent. In fact they will, in their own individual way, rebel against authority if my example is to always question, argue or defy.
Be Love and Compassion
I John 4:7-8 teaches us that we cannot truly know God until we learn to love His people. That includes the nosy neighbor, the unfair boss, the bully, the brethren, my husband and children. What does that involve? The very first word in I Corinthians 13 used to describe love is patience. That one pulls me up short right there. I want my kids to be patient with each other, but am I patient with my kids? Am I patient with my husband, or the bad driver in front of me, or the Christian who disagrees with me in class?
Go back to I Corinthians 13. Love is humble and takes joy in godly things and people, love gives the benefit of the doubt and is hopeful. These are attributes that describe God, but do they describe me? Colossians 3:12-14 has a similar list. It starts with “put on a heart of compassion” and includes forgiving. If I want my children to be loving and compassionate adults, then I have to show them how to be and live love.
Understand and Value Commitment
What do you do when your toaster breaks? Throw it out! A new one is only $30 and it will have more functions. Thirty years ago people would take the time to take that toaster apart, clean it up, replace the broken part and keep using it. Our society has little use for commitment these days. Jobs are disposable, marriage is disposable, even children are disposable. How then do I instill in my children the gravity of and joy that comes from sticking to your commitments?
If things in my marriage get difficult, am I committed to making it work? Do I keep my word? Do I make an excuse for myself or my children to get out of uncomfortable or difficult situations instead of standing up and fulfilling my commitment? Do I discuss with my children the joy of long-lasting relationships and the hard work that goes into developing and nurturing those relationships? Am I teaching them about persevering through the temptations and trials and lessons of this life because I have made a commitment to my Lord and He has made a commitment to me?
I had a friend many years ago who would joke about creating a savings account to pay for the therapy her children would need after being raised by her. Yep. Every single parent has and will mess up and fall short. I will fall short in one if not all of these categories, BUT I must keep trying. I must discuss my shortcomings with my family and I MUST pray to my God daily. I must pray for forgiveness and guidance. I must pray for my husband’s leadership and spiritual health. I must pray for my daughters' past, present and future. And through Him I can have peace and confidence in the future.