My mom recently made the observation that about one-third of the time we have with our oldest son Luke living in our home is gone. Over. Poof. Well, how did that happen? Cue the tears because that was a fast six years that we will never get back. Luke has moved from babyhood to boyhood and will soon move to adolescence and adulthood before our eyes.
Reminders of the rapid passing of time and the rate at which our children are growing and changing often awaken a mix of excitement, sadness and maybe even a little panic in our hearts. While in some seasons the days feel endlessly long, our children are moving steadily toward independence from us. And despite how we may feel about it on any given day, isn’t that the point of parenting?
The Scriptures teach that human beings should consider the passing of time and remember our frail and transient state on this earth. Our mortal lives are compared to a vapor that appears for a while and then vanishes at a time unknown to us (James 4:14). We are to number our days in order to gain a heart of wisdom–a heart that is governed by eternal priorities (Psalm 90:12). As we walk in wisdom, we are to make the most of the time we have been given (Ephesians 5:15), which includes the *roughly* eighteen years that we have been given with our children in the home. So, how do we do this? How do we wisely make the most of the time?
Instruct with Intentionality
God has given parents the gloriously weighty task of teaching our children to think about and truthfully answer all of life’s big questions: Who is God? Who are we? What is our greatest problem? What has God done to solve our greatest problem? In other words, it is our responsibility as parents to bring our children up in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), and our window of time to do so is relatively short.
As with all weighty and worthy goals, planning and intentionality are essential for the spiritual training of our children, and it is foolish for parents to live as if this is not the case. Our families lead busy, full-to-the-brim lives–days consumed with work, school, appointments, activities, chores, and entertainment. Making the most of the time we’ve been given on earth with our kids to train them spirituallly can easily be neglected or forgotten. But this is insanity! We will soon be gone and fly away (Psalm 90:10), and only our eternal investments will remain. Our kids will not learn the truths of God through osmosis, especially in a world that preaches a gospel contrary to that which we have received.
The intentional spiritual instruction of our children is an investment that will always require some level of sacrifice. It may mean less time for TV, social media, or hobbies on our part. It may mean saying no to certain activities for our kids so the family can have dinner and time at home together. It may even mean saying no to a certain career path for ourselves so that we are more available to invest in our kids. Intentional instruction will mean thinking through the practical aspects of how to best communicate God’s truth as comprehensively as possible to our kids in the time we have been given. It will mean guarding our own time in the Word and in the presence of Christ so that His truth naturally overflows into our conversations as we walk and play and eat and ride to ball practice.
*At the end of this post, I have shared some resources we are using to help with the spiritual instruction of our kids
Parent by Grace
Intentional instruction is necessary, but if it isn’t rooted in grace it’s downright dangerous. Here’s the thing. We can teach our kids the truths of God all day long, but we can’t save their souls anymore than we can save our own. Our kids can memorize catechisms, recite Scripture, and know all the right answers to all the right questions, but they can’t remove their own heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). We can teach them to modify their behavior on the outside to some degree, but we can never eradicate the pride and selfishness and fear inside their hearts. Intentional instruction can never breath spiritual life into the hearts of our children, but instruction that is rooted in grace can greatly prepare and fertilize the soil for the Holy Spirit to do so when he wills.
Parenting by grace means recognizing and acknowledging our own inadequacies. Our instruction will never be as intentional and consistent as it could be, and our lives will never perfectly reflect what we teach. We won’t perfectly make the most of the time we have with our kids, and often when we do try to use our time for God’s purposes things won’t go as planned. But praise be to God! He doesn’t save us or our children based on our own (utterly unattainable) perfection but rather on the perfection of His spotless Son. Parenting by grace means teaching our kids the gospel but also living like that gospel is true as we entrust Him with our times and the hearts of our precious little ones. As the days with our children pass before us, grace enables us not to panic or fear but to rest in His faithfulness.
Rejoice in the Gospel
In Psalm chapter 90, Moses notes the brevity of human life on earth. He prays not only that the Lord would teach us to number our days but also that He would satisfy us with His steadfast love each morning. If we are fulfilled by God’s love for us, we can have joy and gladness all of the days of our brief life on earth (Psalm 90:14). Making wise use of our time as parents is important, but it will never ultimately satisfy us because our time with our kids here on earth will eventually run out. Training our children is necessary, but even if they grow to love and serve Him, our days on this earth will still be full of toil and trouble and will end in death (Psalm 90:10). We should not look to our children for our happiness when things are going well with them, and we should not despair when things are not. The Bible is clear that absolutely nothing but the faithful love of God Himself can truly satisfy our souls during our short lives in this world and forevermore. And how can we be assured of this steadfast love of God? By looking at Jesus Christ. God did not spare his only Son, but gave Him to take away our sins, heal our brokenness and raise us to new life–a life where our days won’t be numbered.
**Intentional instruction is not easy, but make it your goal to just start somewhere! It may be fifteen minutes, three or four times a week, but make a plan for your family. We talk about the things of the Lord with our kids throughout the day, as we drive in the car, etc., but we try to have intentional time as a family around the dinner table several nights a week to instruct our kids in the truths of Scripture. This time is usually CRAZY, as their attention spans are short and they have LOTS of energy. The (almost) two year old is usually banging on his highchair tray and “scream talking”. But we have a goal throughout the years they are in our home (we are not doing all of this right now) to teach them…
-The overarching story of the Bible as well as individual Bible stories: (Resource: The Jesus Storybook Bible)
-Basic Theology: (Resource: The New City Catechism, )
–Books of the Bible: (Resource: We use a song I learned as a child in AWANA, but there are several helpful songs available on Youtube)
-Overview of books of the Bible: ( Resource: Planning to use this in the future- Bible Survey for Kids)
–The Gospel: ( Resource: Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers Series)
-Advent: (Resource: Truth in the Tinsel)
–Easter: (Resource: Resurrection Eggs and Benjamin’s Box)
–Scripture memory through song: (Resource: Slugs & Bugs)