For my first real job I was the librarian at a Christian school. (I hear you out there making your librarian jokes.) We had to arrive at 7:15 a.m. for morning devotions, led by the pastor of the church. Interesting plot twist: ten years later that same pastor pled guilty to stealing nearly $1 million from the church and school. I still remember a lot of what he said at devotions. Do you think that I esteem those words now? No. I don’t. Rightly or not, for me, he has lost all credibility; he was inauthentic in his character, and I don’t trust him.
I wonder if the relational equivalent of this is happening in the houses of well-intentioned Christian families. I wonder if there is a chasm between action and word, between character and doc- trine. I wonder if what we say does not seem to mean anything.
Simply put, are we a family who, together, lives this Good Life?
If I tell my kids to get their rear ends off the couch and have adventures, am I myself moving my own rear end toward adventures? If I tell my kids that too much technology is harmful, am I myself stuck scrolling my phone?
If I tell my kids that being cool doesn’t matter, am I chasing the latest iPhone, applying gobs of concealer before I leave the house, or ordering new clothes every three weeks from this or that boutique?
If I tell them to be kind, am I myself screaming at their dad when I get mad?
If I tell them reading matters, when was the last time I picked up a book?
If I tell them faces are more important than screens, do I look them in the eyes when they’re talking to me?
If you are like me, this list of questions surfaces a little bit of a guilty, depressed feeling. We have high ideals, and yet we are very, very human. People sometimes take this to mean we drop the ideals. Embrace the imperfect, stop trying so hard. I get the appeal of this, but it essentially falls flat and is unhelpful.
My pastor sometimes tells us he wants to be the “first repenter.” I think this sums up a better response to the guilty, depressed feeling. In this response we don’t stop trying. We confess first.
Part of the good news about being a parent is that you have a built-in accountability system! Isn’t that wonderful? A friend of mine said he told his daughters they could ask for five dollars every time they saw him using his phone while driving. Don’t you bet that habit was broken quickly!
I’m going to be honest with you. There’s something scary about writing a parenting book when your kids are all ten and under. I don’t use words like jinx, but if I did, I might feel like using it here. The jury is very much still out. I don’t have a proven formula. But, honestly, I’m not sure you should believe me if I said I did. What I do have is this:
Work out your faith with fear and trembling in front of your kids. Be authentic but give them truth.
I can’t resist quoting Paul David Tripp:
If we are going to teach our children to run to Jesus daily, we must run to Jesus daily as well. If we want our children to be sad in the face of the sin of their hearts and hands, we must mourn our sin as parents as well. You see, it is only as we are willing to confess that we are more like than unlike our children, that we ourselves need parenting every day, that we will be parents in need of a father’s grace who will again and again lead our children to the grace of the Father.1
I think this is one of the most exciting parts of this whole thing. We all learn together. Together, we adventure. Together, we choose faces over screens. Together, we apologize and pick ourselves up again tomorrow. Together, we chase after the Good Life.
- Tripp, Parenting, 56–57.
Excerpted with permission from Let Them Be Kids by Jessica Smartt, copyright Jessica Smartt.
* * *
Let’s pray together today that the Lord would help us to live what we say! Our families are watching. The world is watching. Let’s reach for God’s best and live the good life! Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily