Summer is now well under way and all too soon we’ll be turning our focus to preparing for a new academic year. Even if your children are not yet school age, Fall brings a pattern of new beginnings: moms’ groups, Bible studies, AWANA, and sports. Then it seems we no sooner adjust to those new commitments becoming fixtures in our schedules that we are thrust into pre-holiday preparations….and by now you’re thinking, Whoa! The AC is still on and I don’t want to start thinking about snow and Christmas!
So before jumping ahead into all of that, let’s stop and reflect on our scripture, picking up with how Jesus grew in favor with God. How we do we focus on a relationship with God with our children’s own spiritual development in mind?
How do we keep our sights looking up and pressing forward?
How does the idea of “growing in favor with God” translate to us today?
How can we make the best use of our summer activities to continue our child’s spiritual journey?
Have you ever thought that we really are truly blessed in not having much information about Jesus’ childhood or His own personal spiritual journey? Can you imagine what His relationship with His parents, siblings, cousins and neighbors must have been like? God, in His wisdom, guided Luke by the power of the Holy Spirit to share only that Jesus grew in wisdom, stature and FAVOR WITH GOD and man.
Favor with God in Jesus’ day meant that He was being prepared for His Bar Mitzvah (‘son of the commandment’ or ‘son of the law’), which included being tutored by the local Rabbis. The Bar Mitzvah occurs at the age 13 when a Jewish boy is counted as a man and begins to be personally responsible personally for his spiritual growth. However, it would be safe to say that, prior to the account of Jesus in the temple and his discussions with the Rabbis, Mary and Joseph also were teaching Jesus the Talmud and Torah. Further, we know that the “teachers” were all impressed with His responses. Already He had found favor. Jesus’ parents were on track with His spiritual markers.
We can be encouraged by the fact that there was evidently measurable growth that took place in Jesus’ life, guided lovingly by Joseph and Mary. As parents, we can glean that it is probably a good idea to check our parenting pulse from time to time, which is done by evaluating and making sure we are still “beginning as we mean to go.” For those with several children in various seasons of life, ask yourself, “Am I requiring and expecting as much from my youngest as I was from older siblings at the same age?” So often our focus as parents seems to be on the older children as they are preparing for high school or college. Our gaze is on their finish line and we forget or neglect the need to teach and train the younger ones.
One mom shared that it was this very thing had been the undoing of her youngest sibling. As her sibling grew, her parents’ expectations and responsibilities did not grow with him. They evidently grew weary in making the same investment into his life as they had with her as the oldest, sadly and to the detriment of her younger sibling. However, God did use this real life lesson in her own life as a parent. She recognized that she and her husband needed to stay vigilant, checking in with one another and asking themselves, “Would we have allowed our first born the same level of freedoms that our youngest has today?” If the answer was “NO WAY!” then back down into the funnel he went. They would also ask themselves, “Is he carrying the same level of responsibilities as his siblings at the same age?” Whether looking at practical skills such as household chores or spiritual markers like scripture memorization and personal Bible study, they found it a good practice in keeping their parenting consistent.
Do we see ourselves as “disciplers” of our children? Do we set goals with the end in mind, preparing each child for the world they will enter as adults? Will they be prepared emotionally, physically and especially spiritually? Are they too growing in favor with God? Jesus grew in favor as he faithfully lived for God.
So let’s get practical for a moment; how can we be intentionally discipling our children this summer?
Are you involved in Vacation Bible School? Try to make the VBS theme the theme in your home all week long; go out of your way to help them see practical applications of the scriptures they are learning.
Is there a skill or character trait that the whole family needs to work on shoring up? Say being thorough and orderly? Set up age appropriate skills for every member of the family. Have teams (mom with the boys and dad with the girls or parents vs. kids) tackle a specific task such as a garage to be cleaned out or a garden space to be cleared. Accomplish your goals using daily or weekly time segments and rejoice together in the progress made!
Memorization keeps the brain limber and truths hidden in the heart. Whether Scripture or poetry there are many reasons to take on a memorization challenge this summer. Here are a few of the reasons and some suggestions:
1) the Word hidden in the heart through memorization is eternal
2) even non-readers can do it
3) once done there is the satisfaction of accomplishment
4) it is a great brain exercise
5) as lines/words/phrases are repeated new insights are gained (what is the author really saying?), a play on words is understood
6) practice may not make perfect…but practice will make better
Try memorizing an entire chapter of the Bible such as Psalm 1 or James 3. Memorizing the whole chapter instead of a verse or two will provide understanding, flow and context. For poetry, consider Lord Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (a battle scene boys will love), and the “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll which is comical in its use of words. Have a competition between friends or other family members. Make it FUN!
Take a moment, sit down with your spouse or a good friend, and set up some spiritual goals for you and your children this summer. Make them realistic and attainable. Remember that, since you are training a new skill, “rewards” are a good thing. God has entrusted your children into your care as He entrusted the care and training of His Son into the hands of Joseph and Mary. With God’s help they can all “grow in favor with God.”