Monday, April 22, 2013

13 Things I Want To Teach My Children

As I was sitting in church yesterday, I was distracted by a family in front of me at one point. They were not participating in the prayer and were instead talking and laughing. I found myself bemoaning their lack of proper piety, and then was suddenly jolted by the realization that I was being less than stellar myself in that moment. Instead of keeping my gaze fixed on Jesus, I was busy shaking my head at people I'd never met.

That led me to this epiphany: what if every time I found myself judging someone, I prayed for them instead? I don't mean the "dear Lord, let so-and-so be more holy and a better person" kind of prayer. I'm talking just a simple prayer asking the Lord to be with them and to guide and protect them. Perhaps a prayer of mercy for my prideful heart could be thrown in there too.

I suddenly had this deep desire not only to pray for that family in front of me, but to make a solid commitment to pass that practice onto my children. That got me praying about what else it is I would like to pass on, and this is the list I eventually compiled. It is in no particular order, and is certainly in no way an exhaustive list.

{1} In lieu of judgement, offer a prayer. I figured I'd start with what I just mentioned. Outside of matters of life and death, it really does us no good to respond to others we do not know in judgment. In fact, it can do our own souls harm. It tempts us into being prideful in thinking we would never do what the other is doing, while distracting us from the real possibility that what we do is worse in someone else's eyes. Splinter and log, anyone?

{2}  Along the same lines, when faced with the choice to be right or be kind, choose kindness. Yes, I borrowed from Mother Teresa there. She was a wise woman, what can I say? People rarely want to hear what we have to say if we are snarky about it. St. Paul reminded us it did us no good to be right if we did so without love. Who wants to be a crashing gong? People need to know that they're worth your kindness and love first, so enter in kindness and then when the Holy Spirit opens the door, leave them with Truth.

{3} Have iceberg faith. No, it is nothing like iceberg lettuce (all water, little nutrition). What I mean by this is the kind of faith that people definitely notice and that can make waves on the surface, but also a faith that is rooted very deeply beneath that surface so it is rarely truly shaken, even if hit by an ocean liner. Iceberg faith.

{4} Cherish solitude and silence. To quote Mother Teresa again, "The silence of the heart is where the Spirit speaks." In today's world, solitude and silence can be hard to come by. It can also be uncomfortable. I want my children to treasure quiet. I don't just say this because at their current stage that is never found outside of sleep. I want my children to be comfortable spending time alone, and to know that they are never really alone. In that solitude, God is always with them. In that silence, they offer Him a chance to whisper into their hearts His words of love and His words of wisdom, helping them to know themselves better.

{5} There may be more forces than God at work in the world, but God wins. We fight powers and principalities in this world. There is a battle beyond our complete understanding going on. Oh, dear sweet children, please always remember that the war has been won. God wins. So when things seem to be heading downhill, fix your eyes on the cross, on the One who has already claimed the victory and never lose hope.

{6} Learn to see the hand of God in the little things. Few of us get to see the burning bush, but God is writing us His love letter in little ways every minute of every day. Make it a habit to look for those little things throughout your day, or at least reflect on them at the end of the day in thankfulness. Even on your worst day, you will see His hand at work if you look with intention.

{7} Do good, but be faithful. It isn't enough just to do good things for one another. Sooner or later, if we forget the Source of all goodness, we will lose our way. You see, it isn't enough simply to go and serve the poor if we forget that it is Christ who comes in distressing disguise, and He is who we ultimately serve. If we do not stay rooted in Him, we risk being washed away by the vogue of the day, in which "good" is dangerously subjective.

{8} Life is full of choices. Choose wisely. You will be faced with making choices daily. You can choose to be happy or not. You can choose to exude joy or gloom. That's not to say there won't be times that life will get you down, but you can choose whether you get back up or not. When it seems everyone else is doing wrong, choose the right. There will be times when our culture will tell you that you don't have a choice, that you are a victim. Look them squarely in the eyes and prove them wrong. God gave you a free will - use it. Choose good, choose joy, choose life, choose justice, choose Love, choose Truth. Life will present you with choices -  choose wisely, Junior, choose wisely. (Did anyone else hear Sean Connery's voice there? I did. That's something else I will teach them.)

{9} You are enough. You are beautiful. The world will constantly tell you how and where you don't measure up. While you should always be growing, God wants to use you right now, just as you are. Never seriously doubt your worth. Though some days what life throws at you and the whispers of the evil one will begin to gnaw at you, never forget that God loved you into being, and that brings with it a dignity that cannot be exterminated. Created in God's image, you contain His beauty, because God doesn't make ugly things.

{10} Live simply. Don't get caught up in the trappings of this world - they are exactly that: a trap. It's okay to want nice things, but when we become focused on our next acquisition and the next best thing, we forget those who go without the necessities, those who are the least of these. Never lose sight of our duty to care for others, since they are the face of Christ. Read Matthew 25 often - don't be a goat.

{11} Be thankful. It can be easy to get focused on all that has gone wrong or all that we do not have. The truth is that we have everything we need when we are adopted into God's family. He will and does provide all that we truly need. Spend your days thanking God for all that goes right, for all that He has provided, and most of all for the selfless love of Christ who gave His life for you (and me).

{12} Be bold. Take risks. Nothing worth doing ever comes without a little risk, and doing what God calls you to do will at times be risky. Step out in faith and be lovingly bold. Never confuse boldness with brashness. Being bold isn't simply shouting louder than the opposition. It is to follow Jesus out of love and with love no matter the cost.

{13} Love like crazy. Mother Teresa used to say the greatest poverty is loneliness and feeling unloved. Look on people with the eyes of Christ and love them like Jesus. Enter into their life story, walk with them, help to lead them to Jesus if they aren't already there, make them feel significant. Don't worry about saving their souls so much as loving them in a way that allows them to meet Jesus through you. He'll take care of their salvation.

Boy, oh boy, do I have a long way to go if these are the lessons I want to teach my children through the model of my life. I refuse to be a "do as I say, not as I do" mother, so I'd better get on my knees and pray that I can get some of this under my own belt before they're old enough to point out what needs polishing!

Until next time, get out there and love 'em like Jesus!


  1. That analogy for iceberg faith was genius! Really good analogy...really liked 4,6, 11, and 13.

  2. This is beautiful... I hope I can do this for my future children, as well. :)

  3. Thanks, Patty - feel free to use it! Totally the Holy Spirit!
    And thank you, Jen. :)