One of your children’s most beloved books in your home might soon be your high school yearbook. Your children know you as a responsible (or somewhat responsible) adult fully equipped with bills, a job, and a minivan, yet before they ever knew you, a lot of your life had already been lived. Seeing your extracurricular activities, fashion statements, and funny hairdos in your yearbook open up an entire new world to them concerning your life.
Most parents became followers of Christ before their children were around. Even if you became a Christian later in life, your personal testimony is not information that they inherently receive.
The greatest story you will ever tell your children will be God’s story of how he brought redemption to mankind. The 2nd greatest story will be how your story intersected with God’s story – the story of your salvation.
As your children grow, they will have different levels of doubt concerning the Christian faith. You might even experience a child arguing with you concerning your personal beliefs. While they may resort to arguments, they can’t argue with results. One of the greatest ways to teach your children concerning salvation and walking with Christ is by sharing your personal testimony with them.
If you have truly been changed by the gospel, they can’t argue with the fact that Jesus changed you. Depending upon the age, you will use different wording or select different portions of your story to tell, but you can’t begin too early sharing with your children how Christ made all things new in your life.
Tell the Coming Generation
The psalmist showed in Psalm 78 the need for parents to speak to their children concerning three things: 1) the faithfulness of God, 2) the frailties of that generation, and 3) the potential of the next generation.
78:1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
2 I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
3 things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
5 He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
6 that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
7 so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
8 and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God.
This psalm teaches parents that if they can only share their personal shortcomings, possibly their children could bypass some of those mistakes. By no means do I recommend sharing all the gory details of your past. Details are not needed.
You want to equip your children with lessons to protect them from mistakes, not scar them for life with war stories of your own. Share with your children the big picture of how life can get off track if you don’t keep him first.
While it is ideal to be able to teach children to imitate their parents (1 Cor. 11:1), sometimes that isn’t a smart option. Maybe there are things in your past that you don’t want them to repeat. Don’t ignore it or just hope there won’t be a repeat.
You might need to tell your children to do as you say if they don’t need to do what you did.
While it is ideal for parents to teach their children the goodness of God and frailty of mankind earlier in a child’s life rather than later, unfortunately, that is not what usually happens. Realistically, many parents are faced with a crisis in a child’s life that brings about guilt and regret. In those moments, many parents wish they would have been more forthright with their children than what they were.
History (Can) Repeat Itself
As a minister, I normally have plenty of words to share in a counseling session, but one particular meeting with some parents left me near speechless. This couple had come to see me for guidance in dealing with their collegiate daughter. Enjoying to the hilt all that college could provide, her appetite never seemed fully quenched. She was bouncing from guy to guy, dropping classes like it was her hobby, and partying at a dangerous level.
These concerned parents came to me to see what I could do to make their daughter change her life. Her latest escapade had collected quite the array of consequences to accompany her behavior, and they were seeking assistance to get her back on the right track. Mortified by her choices, these parents were bewildered by how she got herself into this situation. The pacifist in me wanted to encourage them and lead them in prayer. The Spirit of God in me had another idea. I was beckoned to speak the truth in love to this couple (Eph 4:15).
Why were we shocked that this young lady had committed the same sin that her parents had committed when they were her age? Why was everyone scratching their heads as to why this girl would succumb to temptation after temptation when her parents had lived that same lifestyle before they straightened up? Everyone was wondering how such a “nice, Christian girl” could get in such a dilemma, and yet her parents never warned her concerning the dead-end of that already trodden path.
The Best for Your Children
Parents want the best for their children.
Would you be willing to give the best to your children if it included getting intentional and personal?
Once again, your children do not need to hear every sordid detail, but hearing the stories of your positive and negative choices could spare them from repeating the same mistakes and living through some of the same consequences you had to endure.
Sometimes teaching your kids to follow God means that you must tell them that they shouldn’t follow your example.
The greatest admission to your children might be that you have not been perfect but how we are all in need of God’s grace daily. Provide that voice in the back of the raft showing the next generation the way. As you share with them the mistakes you have made, do not neglect to remind them concerning the faithfulness and grace of our God which has kept you to this day and can keep them as well.