I've found myself nodding in agreement and bowing in shame to much of the parenting advice I’ve ever received — feeling emboldened and inadequate all at the same time. There has been one piece of advice, though, that came like a refreshing drink of water (or maybe a slap in the face). It’s equal parts simple and overwhelming. It’s advice that continuously causes me to re-think my habits and makes obsolete many of the strategies and tips which tend to paralyze us.
Before I share it, here are just a few of the aspirations I have for my kids (including one teenager)…aspirations I hope you share, no matter how old your kids are.
- To hunger and thirst for God’s Word — for wisdom from and relationship with Jesus.
- To longingly desire to impact each person they meet, not to be viewed as a nice kid, but to be viewed as a relentless and devoted follower of Jesus — leaving an eternal impact.
- To live as transformers of culture rather than conformers to culture.
- To have a compassionate broken heart for lost people, praying often for them, and freely sharing the Gospel of hope through Jesus.
- To stand for what is righteous and true, not just in big things but in small everyday choices of what they read, watch, how they spend their free time, what they browse on their devices, and with whom they choose to spend time.
- To contribute as an invaluable part of their church, the body of Christ.
- To faithfully serve and sacrifice with their time, talents, and money.
- To be rooted in the love of Jesus to define their identity.
How could I ever start to see these dreams become reality?
This is where that one piece of advice comes in:
Be the follower of Jesus you want your child to become.
That’s the advice. Simple. Profound. And for me, it’s hard to acknowledge as I line up my current practices with those eight aspirations.
You’ve probably heard some variation of the saying, “Character is more often caught than taught.” That’s true of many things but especially when it comes to our teenagers’ faith and commitment to Jesus. Our kids will see right through our words and instead adopt our actions. Mine do it already in simple everyday things. If I expect my them to take off their shoes at the door and not leave their coats on the floor, then I must consistently take off my shoes at the door and hang up my coat. They very quickly get confused if I don’t do what I’ve been telling them to do.
The same is true with our relationship with Jesus. If I say the Bible is important, but they never see me read it or talk about it, they’ll conclude it isn’t very important. If we want our teenagers to live committed to Jesus, but the priority of living out our faith is negotiable--only fitting in after all other options are explored and our earthly commitments and responsibilities are complete--we will send a very confusing message...a message that is nearly impossible to rise above.
Be the follower of Jesus you want your child to become. It’s never too late to start.