Any parent that has spent time in the military knows the hardships that come with being a consistent example, role model, leader, disciplinarian, guardian, etc. for their children. It is a fact that we live in a world that is trying to lead our kids astray in many ways. As our kids grow up and move into schools, we are in a constant battle for their time and their hearts. Schools and friends in school will not exhibit the Godly care for our families that are consistent with Biblical principles. Conversely, they will often seem to be pulling our kids in the opposite direction. Some of these principles are essentials for keeping our families focused on what is most important for their spiritual grown and their hearts longing for the love of Jesus.
The first one is a regularly cited verse that is the foundation for our kid’s hope is Christ. “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) There are a couple of parts to this that are imperatives. Read to your kids. Not just the Bible verses about honoring their mother and father, but Bible stories about the hope and love that Jesus brings to them. Even the deepest of theological concepts must all start with Jesus. For our children to know, without any doubt who Jesus is, what He did for us on the cross, and that He rose from the grave to conquer death is the starting point. When kids ask why, the simple answer is that we love Him, “Because he loved us.” (1 John 4:19) The next part of this equation is that kids see you loving Christ as well. Seeing mom and dad sacrificing for one another and loving one another is absolutely essential for their spiritual growth.
The second principle is quality time. As warrior families, we deal with time away as one of our biggest obstacles to deep relationships. There is always the possibility for misunderstanding and contempt from our kids as a byproduct of our jobs. Most military counseling will just leave that hanging “quality time” phrase without any real tools. When Paul was addressing the Philippians, he encouraged them by saying, “But one thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” (Philippians 3:13) The question to ask yourself is: How will I conduct myself in front of my kids today that shows them I love Jesus? You cannot change time away, but you can be intentionally faithful in their midst. Love your spouse sacrificially, do not allow distractions, spend time in God’s word, remind them that you love them, do things they enjoy, show interest in their school work, sports and activities. Be present.
Discipline is always a tough part of the equation. The third principle is being firm in your belief while not being legalistic and driving them away. We have all heard the 5th Commandment, “Honor your father and mother.” (Exodus 20:12) This is easier said than done and easier expected than exhibited. Remember that they are going to mess stuff up and disappoint you. They will make mistakes from babies all the way through life. Just as God gives you grace, you must give them grace as well. Ephesians 6 teaches us about the full armor of God. We should stand firm in our belief in Jesus and the conduct that He expects for our lives. However, we have to fight our battles with prayer and love and let Jesus do the work in their hearts. Be reassuring, loving and graceful as you remind them of God’s plan for their lives and your expectations for their conduct. One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received in counseling my kids is from Pastor Aaron Kaun (Faithful Bible Church, Southern Pines, NC) is that when our kids are not living as they love Christ and are being swayed by the evils in the world, it is another opportunity to show them that we love them. Proverbs 13:34 tells us, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Remember, the rod we use is the Word of God. Remind them of His great sacrificial love and encourage them that you are there for them for counsel, crying, questions, discipline, encouragement and their best interest.
Ephesians 5: 22-33 is an amazing example of the relationship of a husband and wife. This picture of sacrifice and submission is contrary to what the world will teach our kids. Our children will never see a better example of what Christ did for His church than the relationship of their parents. Imagine two parents who love the Lord so very much that their love for Him pours itself out into laying down their lives for one another. When we seek out what is best and pleasing for each other in everything that we do, we create an atmosphere that precipitates a loving, serving environment in our homes. Fathers…here’s the kicker. The responsibility is yours to create this atmosphere. The example is that Christ died for His church. For a sinful, imperfect church. Therefore, you must lay down all your obsessions, and LOVE your wife.
This will not be an easy road at times. You will be challenged. Pray for your spouse. Pray for your kids. Pray with them. Let them see you pray. Raise them with the Word of God as the final authority in their lives.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Stay on the grind,