The first words that children learn can reflect what's going on around them. If they see Mama all the time, you can expect them to say her name early on. Sometimes, those first words aren't very happy words. There was a couple who were dedicated missionaries in a war-torn part of the Middle East for years. Not long after their daughter was born, their area became a place where frequent bombardments and violence erupted all around them. A couple of their daughter's first words were "bomb" and "gun."
Children learn what they live, for better or for worse. It's ultimately what our children live that makes them into the people they become. God doesn't give a human being any greater trust or any greater responsibility than the shaping of a person He made in His image. Our children are, as one author described them, "wet cement." What they experience with us day after day is writing things in that cement that will mark their lives long after we're gone.
God, who asks us to call Him our Heavenly Father, has left us parents and grandparents some great help in the book He wrote. The Bible passes along some valuable instructions given to a generation of parents who were trying to raise their children in a culture that had no use for the values they were teaching their children. They were being given what their parents had to work for. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
His instructions to parents are recorded in Deuteronomy 11, beginning with verse 13. He begins by saying, "Love the Lord your God and...serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul." Parents need to give their children more than a religion. They need to show them a personal love relationship with the God who made them and a life that makes God the sun in their universe and everything else the planets that revolve around that sun.
God says in verses 18-21: "Fix these words of Mine in your hearts and minds...teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses...so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land." In short, live your life in such a way that your children keep bumping into God wherever they turn and they see a real God in real life situations.
It isn't enough for your child to hear the truth. He or she needs to see what the truth looks like in your life. Teach them faith by how you handle the storms and the stresses that hit your family. Teach them how to love their neighbor by seeing your compassion for hurting people in action. They learn about forgiveness by you forgiving them and asking them to forgive you. They learn that lying is wrong from a parent who always tells the truth. They learn about managing anger when they see you always make things right before your day ends. They learn to love God's Word when they see you meeting with God by reading His book.
The truth is, children grow up thinking God is like whatever their parents are like. That's a scary responsibility, especially if you know you have a dark side that all too often is what your kids see. It may be a dark side that continually causes you to hurt most the people you love most. Honestly, your child is your mirror. If you don't like what you see in that mirror, it's time for you to know the Savior of mommies and daddies. That's Jesus, who died for our sins so our sins could be forgiven and who rose from His grave with the power to help us change what we could never change about ourselves.
Our children show us a truth that we may have been able to run from before: We need a Savior. We need Jesus. You can't begin to imagine how different you could be and how different your home could be if Jesus lived there.