As a new parent, I'm enjoying the relative ease of being able to share, sing and talk about Jesus with my little boy. There is no pressure, nothing I need to be "politically correct" about. He's too young to comprehend it all just yet.
But I know the time will come when he will have questions. When he will wonder why we go to church 2-3 times a week, why we pray before we eat, why we sit and read our bibles, why we choose not to drink alcohol and change the channel when sexual images come on TV. I'm sure he will have friends whose parents do things differently and he'll be tempted to compare. There will be things that we do wrong that we'll have to apologize for. Soon he will know our flaws.
The statistics of pastor's kids leaving the faith is even more disheartening. The responsibility to make sure that "doesn't happen to us," can seem overwhelming at times.
So with all this in mind, we have given a lot of thought about how we will raise Micah. Not to say we won't do things differently when the time actually comes, but we've thought a lot about how our parents raised us and what we would like to change or do the same.
Here are a few of the ways we are preparing for parenting.
1. Live out our faith at home. We believe this is one of the greatest things we could do as parents. Showing Micah what it looks like to follow Christ in every area of our life. Being careful not to act one way at church and another at home. Reading the Bible together as a family and making it a priority. Hopefully these things will help Micah see that Jesus is not just a part of our life, He is our life.
2. Admit when we're wrong. Showing Micah (and any future children) that we're not perfect won't be very hard, he'll see us make lots of mistakes. But admitting them will make all the difference. And asking forgiveness when we wrong him will be even more important (and I can only imagine, very very hard!) We want our children to see us in the best light. I know I already care what Micah thinks about me and he's only 8 months old! It's part of loving someone so much that you never want to do anything to break that bond. But the best way to teach children the gospel, is to show them mommy and daddy need forgiveness too.
3. Train them for righteousness. We have discussed this one a lot. We've heard parents talk about not wanting to "pressure" their children to go to church, to read their Bible, or do anything basically that might make them feel forced to follow Jesus. We understand this and get where the parents are coming from. But we feel a responsibility to train our children to love the Lord and the things of God. And there will be times when they may not want to attend church and we will make them go. We find it ironic that when it comes to school or extracurricular activities, parents have no problem pressuring their kids to make good grades and be the best they can be. But when it comes to faith, we want to sit back and let them decide for themselves. Training involves discipline, and sometimes we need to be pushed to do the right thing.
4. Show love unconditionally. This one seems easy right now. Nothing Micah could do could make me love him less. Even when he claws my face with those razor sharp nails (Geez! What is it about baby nails?) But what happens when Micah decides to stray from our guidance? And does things that honestly, I can't even bring myself to write down because of how brokenhearted I feel even imagining it! What happens then? Our love will be what brings him home. No matter how good we parent, the choice is still his to follow Christ. If he strays, we cannot stray from loving him the same or we are preaching that love is earned through action, which is exactly the opposite of the love offered through Jesus Christ. This does not mean we won't discipline him, we plan to do a lot of spanking in our home (Proverbs 23:13) but it will always be done in love. Even if that means we need to take a few moments to compose ourselves and pray before we do.
Being intentional as parents is important. Sure, our son just learned to crawl and he probably won't be able to talk his way into trouble for at least a couple more years. But if we don't begin to plan now for the future, then we'll resort to being led by our natural tendencies. And let's just say... mine aren't too pretty.