Do you ever get tired of being the driver in your home? Y’know–driving the homework. The dishes from their hands to the dishwasher. The manners and respect. The time with God. The self-control in conflicts. The propriety in dating.
I need to admit: I get tired of the lack of ownership of my kids in the values my husband and I care about–whether it’s peace, or order, or worship, or personal responsibility. And as my kids get older, in some ways, my control diminishes.
I’ve written lists and lists lately on fun ideas for spiritual disciplines for real families–fasting, prayer, hospitality, serving. And truthfully, the ways we can set our kids up for the “catch”–receiving God’s work in their lives–are far beyond what we could ever list.
But as many great ideas as I can cook up, or as many Pinterest searches as we can do or blogs we can read–there’s a reality that sometimes I can feel either (wrongly) crippled or (rightly) liberated by: Ultimately, it’s only God who awakens the Holy Spirit in our kids’ lives. (Or our own.)
Because there’s this finely tuned tension in motherhood, right? It lies somewhere between us doing all we can to create godly habits in our kids. Dorothy Day once said, “We have to create an environment where it is easier to be good.” And not just good–but walking-with-the-Spirit, from-the-inside-out good.
And yet–when I push too hard, I tend to push them away. To exasperate my kids, as Paul puts it (Ephesians 6:4), particularly the independent ones. Yes, I gain more ability to speak into their lives when I’m building into our relationship constantly. But even then, I’m cautious of pushing them into rebellion within the cloud of my terrific intentions.
In my experience, they’re more willing to receive my persuasion when the Holy Spirit’s already working there. Sometimes, I simply have to admit that if He’s working–it feels small, and not fast enough. I feel desperate–and sometimes, in my fear, I push harder. Control more. Sometimes, my godly responsibility is needed. But sometimes, I need to hit my knees more than I need to perform another internet search for how-tos, or slather my teenager in another lecture.
So I’m reminded of a few truths as I write to you today.
He works in our kids, willing them toward desire–and to action.
Philippians puts it this way: “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (2:12-13).
He finishes what He begins. So I don’t need to panic.
“I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
And “those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). He finishes every single thing He starts.
When I had preschoolers, I remember an older mom at the pool one day putting a hand on my (probably slumping) shoulder. “Think about how many times a day you tell them to say please or thank you.” Um. Well. Fifteen? Twenty? “Per year, if you tell them 20 times a day, that’s 7,300 times–and it still takes them till maybe five years old for them to get the gist until it’s automatic.” Yeah, as I counted it up–that’s around 36,000 times. Just for please and thank you, people. So that’s where this verse comes in for me: Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9). God works in our beleaguered repetition, of that same instruction to chew with your mouth open, speak kindly to your sister, and throw both socks in the hamper (as opposed to beside it, you turkey).
His timing is impeccable.
God determined allotted periods and the boundaries of [our] dwelling place (Acts 17:26). What I get from that: God determined my kids’ best when, and their best where. Even when it comes to spiritual stuff–which I assume would always be best to happen right now–I have to import a lesson from discipleship in Africa: Discipleship around the world is S-L-O-W. God doesn’t always work in sweeping earthquakes of the heart. Sometimes He works in whispers.
Consider it a forest–and remember how many immense things begin as seeds.
I recently read over the clockwork-like timing of Jesus’ death; the three specific feasts to coinciding perfectly that specific year with His death and resurrection (Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of Firstfruits—when Jesus, the first fruits of God’s harvest, rose from the dead). When Jesus was hung on the cross, at the time of morning sacrifice, thousands of fathers were leading their lambs to the slaughter in Jerusalem. He died at the time of the evening sacrifice. And when blood and water gushed from His chest, blood and water were sluicing down the channels within the Temple. When I compare God’s immaculate timing to the theories about the star over Jesus’ birthplace—all of which were set in place at the time of Creation, millennia before—well. Precise doesn’t even begin to cut it.
My prayers matter.
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15)…“I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy” (Psalm 116:1). No, God doesn’t promise us kids who will follow Him. But He is able to do all that He wills in our kids.
Today, pray with me that we’ll be 100% obedient as we motivate our kids forward to receiving God–and 100% driven ourselves by faith and peace, rather than fear.