If you ask Christian parents one thing they wish they had done with their children, the answer for many would be family devotionals. The idea of your family sitting around the fire reading and sharing from God’s words seems like the ideal of the godly family.
Our lives are filled with obligations, extra curricular activities and church ministries. We are often hard pressed to find the time to eat together. Work and sleep schedules may mean your child doesn’t even see a parent for a day or so because she is sleeping when the parent leaves and returns from the office. Honestly some weeks are so hectic in our house, I feel we have accomplished something spiritual if we are able to find our Bibles in time to take them to church! The idea of a family devotional time seems to be an unrealistic goal left over from a time when life was slower.
Strange as it may seem, I believe part of the ability to dedicate your child to God springs from having a close relationship with her. The scriptures don’t tell us much about the short time Samuel lived with Hannah at home. I imagine Hannah treasured the time with Samuel and showered him with her love. I often wonder about the conversations they must have had each year when she visited him. What did she say to him about her love for him? What wisdom did she try to leave with him in those few days each year?
We are blessed with having our children live in our homes for several years. If you have been a parent for more than a few weeks, you already have a sense of how quickly the time with your child passes. As your child grows older, you feel a greater urgency to teach him everything you want him to know before he goes into the world. Unfortunately, this is also often the period of time when your child may want to shy away from what he considers a “mushy” conversation.
When our daughter was about to turn four, she begin to notice you could buy things if you had money. We decided having an allowance was a great way to teach lessons on stewardship and giving. (There are a lot of different theories on allowances. Our personal take was that since we are a single income household, everyone shares the money “daddy” brings home.)
At the time banks were not popular, so I had to search high and low for three banks and a “church coin purse” that looked very different. On her birthday, we explained that since she was now a big girl she would begin receiving a weekly allowance. To make the math easier on everyone, we gave her four dimes a week. Each of the banks was labeled with how the money in that bank could be spent. She had one for church, one to buy presents for family, one to save for college and one she could spend as she pleased. One dime each week was to go in to each bank.
As part of my teaching reading class in college, we had to teach an adult to read. I learned there are books written especially for older children, teens and adults who struggle with reading. They are called “high interest” books. The vocabulary is easier but the subjects are more interesting to adults than what Dick, Jane and Spot are doing.
The Bible can seem like a very intimidating book to introduce to your child. We think about all of the difficult words and concepts. We remember all those laws and begats and we start to feel a sense of despair. How can we get our child to read all of the great things God has to say to us, if he gets bogged down and never wants to open it again?
If I am truly trying to parent like Hannah, I will often make decisions that seem strange to other people. As someone who has dedicated my child to God, my priorities should always be making choices that help my child become closer to God. Sometimes making those choices means I ignore or even reject what the world considers important.
I live in a very competitive community. The majority of the parents have college educations and most of the mothers stay at home at least until their children are teenagers. These parents want the best for their children. I have watched many of these parents hold their children back a year in school so they can appear more advanced academically and athletically than other children in their grade. These children have parents who make sure they have lessons in music, sports, foreign languages and even extra academic classes to give them the competitive edge in life. Yet many of these same parents will do almost nothing to make sure their children know God’s words.