So many Christian parents today are asking the million dollar question, how do you raise happy, well adjusted children that love the Lord in this world with it cultural onslaught of degradation, temptation, and peer pressure that constantly tugs at our hearts? Many young parents are desperately seeking answers, as they have seen the destruction that has affected so many young people. Some have devoted their entire ministry to help families in need, providing resources such as books and seminars for what seemingly has worked for them.
I am thankful for such ministries, as we have gleaned a multitude of wisdom from watching other Christian families struggle with some of the same issues that we have. But as with anything, there is a balance--I have seen some families try to "copy" another family or ministry by implementing their philosophies of child training, home schooling, courtship, college, etc. only to set themselves up for failure and frustration.
For example, there are many "perfect" looking families that we would all like to emulate, when we go to their homes they all seem to love each other so perfectly, always are obedient to their parents, and their home looks so orderly that even the cupboards are alphabetized. They get up with a cheerful smile on their faces at 6 am, ready to jump out of bed, read their Bibles and start their homeschooling at 8 am, without any distractions or complaining. Then we go home feeling like "what is wrong with me?" or "I am a terrible mother and homeschooling teacher, etc.."
The older I get, the more I appreciate Christians who keep things "real." I am kind of relieved when I go to some one's house and find a few dust balls behind the furniture, or a sign of a few imperfections--it gives me hope, that maybe I am not the only one who struggles to get everything done, or occasionally raises her voice at her kids, or even (I am getting real honest here) has an occasional spat with her husband. I am not justifying my sinful behaviour in anyway, because deep down inside I desire to be a better mother and wife, and am constantly working on those areas where I fall short.
So when people ask me, how do you raise godly children? I am not exactly sure how to answer them. First of all, I still have young children at home, and the final chapter of our life story has not been written. Even if your children are grown and married, our measure of success is demonstrated in how they raise their children--so if we succeed in raising our own children for the Lord, I will only feel satisfied until I see my grandchildren and future generations carrying the torch of our faith.
Secondly, the minute you try to imitate or copy someone else's family or ideas, you are neglecting the individuality of your family and their unique set of circumstances and situations. Without sounding too cliche, God didn't create us to be "cookie cutter" Christians. Of course the Bible is our guide and final authority, but even the letter of the law has to be tempered with the grace of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus as II Corintians 3: 6 tells us "for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." We are also admonished in I Corinthians 8: 1 that "Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth." Parents need to prayerfully seek God's wisdom on how to apply the Bible for every situation that comes up in our daily lives, not just look at other people and how they handle a particular situation, although we can learn from them. Well meaning parents can destroy their children by applying the law without the Spirit of God.
Sometimes you have to be willing to step outside the box of popular opinion--not worrying about what others will think, as long as you know that you have God's direction and guidance on that situation, and it doesn't violate the Scriptures in anyway, and you have also sought the counsel of your spiritual authorities. A good example of this in our lives was when we sent our two older daughters to Bible college, while we are on the field here in the Canary Islands. Some of our peers couldn't understand how we could do such a thing, sending them several thousand miles across the ocean. This has been a lengthy blog entry, so I will continue this topic in my next entry.