We’re told in the Word to raise up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4. How was I doing with that responsibility . . . the responsibility captured in the word, nurture? The experience our young children have with us is the basis of their first understanding of what God is like. I came face to face with that sober reality when our daughter, Savoury, was eight years of age.
It was Sunday morning as the van turned down the road on the familiar trek to Church. Except, this morning, we wouldn’t be making the right hand turn leading there. We weren’t taking a different route. We wouldn’t be late. In fact, we weren’t going at all. We were going to the lake.
From the rearview mirror, I could see the concern oozing out of her heart and covering her brow with clouds. Her worry formed itself into a halting question, “Daddy . . . do you think God is okay with us not going to Church today? Does that make Him mad?” Imagining how God would take the decision, Savoury’s concerned eyes stared out into the trees passing by the side window. She was just sure God was angry about going to the lake instead of going to Church.
That sounds like God, doesn’t it? Angry at parents with little kids so exhausted from a season of intense medical trauma that the Dad opts for a once-in-a-blue-moon Sunday spent at the lake?
After all, isn’t God angry and disapproving most of the time?
I assured my little girl that God thought spending Sunday at the lake was a very good idea but it was well into the trip before her furrowed brow relaxed. Her little heart wouldn’t have put it in these words but what she was wrestling with was the question many of us have as children and pack like an overstuffed suitcase into adulthood: Does God approve of me? Does God even like me?
If our children have a sense of God’s general disapproval, the mirror is the best place for Dad and Mom to look for the reasons why. A sense of guilt for missing one Sunday in a zillion, really? Some serious soul-searching was in order for me. What had I done? How had I parented her to cause worry that God doesn’t approve of us if we deviate even a little from the beaten path?
How many parents feel they have done enough to ensure their children grow up with the sense that God truly loves and approves of them? That He thinks they’re just great? We’re often pretty good on the “admonition” side but what about the “nurture” side of our responsibility? Clearly, as a young dad, I hadn’t done enough.
Dad & Mom, our children need to know, need to feel, our strong approval of who they are when they are young because in large measure, a child’s first perception and understanding of God’s view of them is a reflection of their relationship with us.
Through our parenting, do we communicate the message that our children are loved and approved of only when their behavior conforms to a given standard or do we communicate what every Christian young child needs to know?
God’s default position toward His children is that, like all good fathers, He truly loves them, approves of them . . . and from time to time, wants them to spend Sunday at the lake.
If you’re looking for help with messages of approval, encouragement, and value to speak to the heart of your children, check out this list of 101 Affirmations Every Child Wants to Hear from Dad and mom.
This week, what will your children “know” about what God thinks of them based on your parenting?
It’s something to consider deeply.
Matt is married to Lisa Jacobson; they are raising their eight children in the Pacific Northwest. Matthew is an author, speaker, blogger, and pastor of Tumalo Bible Fellowship. Matthew and Lisa are also the authors of the best-selling “his-and-her” marriage books, 100 Ways to Love Your Husband and 100 Ways to Love Your Wife.