I try not to write about parenting on this blog very often. Mainly that is because, apart from anything else, my kids are too little to know exactly how I have messed them up yet. I mean, there are some telling early signs, but they won’t come to full fruition until their teens. My ‘how to’ on being an awesome parent isn’t going to generate much interest. It’s like people who write books on their awesome marriage after their honeymoon. Probably something to save for a little way down the track, if at all.
So, to that end, I shan’t be pratting on about my awesome parenting here. You will, minimally, have to wait another 10 years or so before I will countenance that. And even then, let’s be honest, if I’ve made a pig’s ear of it (which feels increasingly likely) it isn’t going to be flying off the shelf. Maybe go and listen to someone whose kids have all grown up and appear to be walking wisely, and ask them how they did it.
But very ocassionally, I notice something in my children. It may be different for you (as we’ve discovered already, what do I know, really?) But in our house, the big discussions never seem to come at big moments. I find that interesting.
I don’t know how you tend to envisage these things, but I often assume I will be there, ready to impart my words of wisdom at significant moments; moments that I assume will etch into their consciousness and stay with them forever. This never happens, of course. I will try to talk to my daughter about something serious and she is more interested in asking, ‘are Elephants the best smellers?’ Not a pertinent question to the passage of the Bible we have just read, or the specific gospel in-road I spied and thought I would take advantage of, but regardless, it’s not the big moment I thought it might be. My son (and nobody told me how early this set in) is quick to roll his eyes (he’s nearly 8!) and insist, ‘Dad, we know! You’re always going on about Jesus.’ I mean, I guess, I’d rather that than they grew up assuming Alan Partridge quotes or something were the most vital life skill I could impart, when we all know that is a meagre second.
But what I have noticed is not that the children always say these things. It’s that the big moments to talk about these things tend to come at otherwise inopportune times. They do not – as we might hope – necessarily come up at bedtime while we’re reading the Bible and praying. Instead, they seem to come up when I’m busy doing something else and they suddenly come out with an awesome question that I desperately want to answer. Or, I’m up to my eyeballs in something really important and, out of the blue, they come and want to talk about things with an open door for gospel truth. But their questions and comments never come at convenient times.
I have also noted that if I ever ask my son or daughter what the sermon on Sunday was about, half the time they refuse to tell me. But interestingly, my son does periodically just come out with stuff that was said in the sermon in conversation. ‘It’s like what you were saying on Sunday, Dad!’ It seems asking the question is unwelcome, but he is more than happy to bring stuff up when he feels it is appropriate. Which is interesting.
And I suppose that leads me to the only point I have – and it’s not a particularly insightful one – is that we need to be ready in season and out of season. We need to be persistent in prayer with our children. We need to talk about the things of the Lord as a general part of our day. It’s not so much about the ‘big moments’ as the ongoing, unexciting, fairly pedestrian job of speaking about these things generally as though they are as ordinary as what we have for tea and what we’re doing for the day.
I have mentioned before how my family, growing up, never did family devotionals or anything like that. We didn’t have specific ‘family worship’ time. We were encouraged to do quiet times, but that was more a bedtime routine with our parents until we were old enough to do it on our own. We didn’t ever have a specified time where we altogether sat down as a family and read the Bible and did something formal like that at home. And all three of my parents children became believers and two of us ended up in some sort of ministry.
I suspect the reason for that isn’t that we didn’t do family worship. I’m not drawing a straight line between not doing it and belief, that would be absurd. Though I do maintain the Lord doesn’t insist you do it and I think there are enough examples of people who don’t to suggest there isn’t a straight line between doing it and belief either. The point is, my parents made talking about the Lord a normal part of everyday. The things of church were talked about as if we might talk about laying the table or doing our homework. The need to do evangelism was discussed as part of general conversation and then was seen to be done at other times. The same for most Christian stuff. There was nothing formal about it, but it was talked about and our involvement was expected. And I suspect, much like my own children, our questions and ideas about the Lord and his Word didn’t just pop up at opportune moments. But because these things were talked about all the time, that was okay. It was, in the end, just another thing to talk about.
And so, I wonder whether simply talking normally about the Lord, in normal ways, as part of normal life is what might pay dividends in the long run? I don’t know, I’ll maybe go an ask someone whose kids are much older than mine.