Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Teaching to Reach Their Hearts

"You need to treat your brother with kindness."

"God wants us to be cheerful even when we don't get our way."

"We should read our Bibles daily." 

"We go to church every week to learn more about God and to worship Him."

"A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger."

I have said all of these things to my children.  Multiple times, in fact. Sometimes I have said them in utmost sincerity, intentionally teaching and training.  Other times, I admit, I've said them rotely, hardly thinking of what I am saying or the full impact of the words on my children's sensitive hearts and minds.  The teacher in me almost automatically grasps every teachable moment of the day and tries to take advantage of these moments to instill more truth in my children.   

Here's the thing:  all these truths are not the multiplication tables or a list of Spanish vocabulary words.  I cannot say them over and over again, hoping that if I hammer them into my children's minds enough times, they will somehow overflow into my children's hearts and transform them.  If I want to reach their hearts, I have to teach in such a way that will accomplish that goal. 

Our youth pastor spoke to the main congregation last night on the topic of "Teaching the Next Generation."  His fourth point directly addressed what I am talking about here : "You must teach to reach the heart."  He talked about conformity versus tranformation.  A Christian young person can do all the right things and appear to live for God until suddenly, when he graduates from high school, he turns away from God and church.  He has only conformed, for the parents and teachers and pastors in his life have never been able to "teach to reach his heart."  I thought about this, in particular with my children, and thought that if I can just reach their hearts, I can keep their hearts.

After we got home from church and got the children settled in their beds, I felt the need to write down ways I can "teach to reach the hearts" of my children.

1.  I need to spend time with each of my children individually, getting to know them and their interests.  This might mean a lot of Spiderman or trains, but every time I show them that I am open and listening to them, I hope their hearts get a little more tender to listening to God and the Holy Spirit. 

2.  I need to communicate with them often throughout the day and make sure that the bulk of that communication is positive and uplifting.  I would like them to be able to see grace, mercy, and love in me that they might be able to then experience the amazing grace, incredible mercy, and undeserved love of Christ our Lord.

3.  I need to keep my relationship with my Savior fresh and close.  My children need to see me not only immersed in God's Word daily, but also see me seek out God's guidance in situations throughout the day as well as thank and praise Him for all of His blessings too.  The instant I start to let that relationship slide, my children will know, because they will have a mother that is moody, unreasonable, and not Spirit-filled. 

4.  I need to be honest and open with my children.  When I make a mistake, I need to admit it and ask for forgiveness.  My children need to know that I am not perfect and especially that I am not God.  I am teaching them to obey me, but ultimately I want them to learn to obey God and follow His will for their lives.  I pray that someday they will do the right thing not because they fear disappointing me, but because they desire to please Him. 

5.  I need to avoid hypocritical behavior.  I can't tell my children one thing and model something else.  For example, I am pretty restrictive about what my children can watch on Netflix.  If they express a desire to see a forbidden show or movie, I take the time to explain that the language, attitudes, world view, etc. are not God-honoring and therefore not worth our time.  Then, later after the kids go to bed, if I spend time watching shows that have those very elements in them, I am sending a different message to my children.  I am telling them that the things I say and much more importantly, the things God says, are not that important.  Proverbs 23:26 says, "My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways." 

I will be the first to admit that when I look at my list, apprehension, a sense of nervousness, and plain old fear are quick to crowd themselves to the front of my mind.  What if I mess up?  What if I get lazy and forget to be actively instilling these truths in my children? 

Fear and worry do not come from God.  He dispells those emotions with His words of comfort: "Peace be still.  I am with you."  It isn't me - it's Him.  He put these children in my life so that I could take them and point them back to Him.  With His help, I can do this monumental task, that of teaching to reach all the way to their hearts. 

"Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD:  and the fruit of the womb is his reward.  As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.  Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them;  they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate."  Psalm 127:3-5

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