This is the time of year for family gatherings. While you tell old stories, laugh at good times and re-fight old fights, think about your family legacy. Parenting has a ripple effect that continues for generations beyond the “original” set of parents.
When I hear horrific stories of child abuse, I shudder not only for the child but I also wonder about the abuser. Sadly, he (or she) probably had the same horrific things done to him as a child. The pattern often continues for generations unless someone is able to make a conscious effort to break the pattern.
Good parenting patterns can be passed on also. I tell my child some of the same sayings my grandmother told my mother. “Be sure your sins will find you out” and “To each his own, said the old lady as she kissed the cow” are two of her favorites. I also am faithful to God partially because it was such a priority to my grandparents and parents that I was surrounded by God’s Words during my childhood.
Most parents are probably pretty good about identifying the really good things and if necessary the really bad things their parents did in parenting. Many have made a concerted effort to break unhealthy habits. My concerns are the seemingly innocent choices you make as a parent which will effect the spiritual health of your family for generations to come.
My heart breaks as I hear the same story over and over again. Parents who chose to make sports, extracurricular activities or the lake/beach/mountains a priority over attending church. How many times have I heard “It’s ok. We talk about God at home”?
I am sure some families have made those choices and managed to raise strong, faithful, Christian children. I just have never met them. Every story I have heard ends badly. The problem is not just missing the services. It is sending the unspoken message that God can take the back seat to anything. The truth is, He can’t. The minute God loses top priority is the minute you start off on the wrong path away from God.
Another seemingly innocent choice that seems to have lasting repercussions is choosing a church to attend based solely on the fact that either your child’s school friends attend or that your child “enjoys” being there. Now that can be fine if the church follows God’s plan, but often the choice is made with no knowledge of what is actually taught at that church.
The saddest discussions I have had on this subject begin with “Well I know they don’t push baptism, but we will teach our child what is right at home.” I will give most of those parents credit because most of them do have baptized children. There are two remaining problems that have lasting effects on future generations though.
First, you are teaching your child that enjoying church is what is most important. The truth is church is about worshipping God, not pleasing yourself. Now, I happen to believe in some places you can do both. Given the choice of only one though, I tend to think truth trumps fun. The most important thing you can teach your child is to seek God’s truth and follow it wherever it leads. If you go somewhere admitting they teach in error, you are telling your child her personal enjoyment and comfort are more important than anything God has to say.
The second problem is that you are entrenching your family in an environment that does not follow God’s Words completely. Sadly, one day you will die. Even if your children remember hearing you teach the truth at some point, their current church environment tells them constantly that God didn’t really mean that or it wasn’t really for “now”.
At some point the environment will carry more weight than anything you taught while you were alive. You have placed your descendants in an environment that does not care to follow any of God’s commands that are not convenient for them. Once again the path you have placed your family on is slowly but surely leading them away from God’s original Words and Plan.
I think the most important gift you can give your present and future family is God. Let them know that following God is THE most important thing they can do. Let them know that your heart’s desire is that you see them and your grandchildren in heaven. Emphasize the importance of checking what even the “most famous” preacher says against the Bible. Teach them God’s Words trump everything and are not up for a popular vote.
During this holiday season, give your family the gift that will hopefully keep on giving for generations to come – the gift of dedicating them to God by not only teaching, but attempting to live out His Words. It’s a gift you will never regret giving.