This article was written by Bill Yoh and published by Jesus Calling
There’s no greater compliment than receiving a positive remark about my children, especially if I was not present for the incident that spawned the remark. To me, how one’s children turn out—the good, the bad, and the ugly—is the overriding indication of how one parents. Matthew tells us, “You will know them by their fruits” (7:16, NKJV). Like trees bearing life-giving fruit, raising compassionate, faith-filled humans takes the right rootstock (that’s you, Mom and Dad), the right amount of time (it’s a marathon, not a sprint), and the right consistency (small daily actions).
Wary of giving parental advice
I’m wary of giving anything resembling parental advice since babies don’t come with instruction manuals. But the Word of God—the life of Jesus—gives us a recipe and a set of procedures.
Regarding the rootstock, God designed us to be together. Genesis 2:24 says, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh.” Raging hormones and the thrills of young love can make it difficult to truly discern if you and the person you’re dating should raise kids together.
Reflecting on our marriage journey, our shared commitment to faith, and our daily invitation of the Holy Spirit has formed the parental bonds Kelly and I have and guided our individual parental styles.
More is caught than taught
I was told once that if I wanted to raise my children to be good spouses, the most important thing I could do was to love and respect their mother, embodying the notion that “more is caught than taught.” I hope and pray that the times I’ve failed to display love and respect don’t cloud out a marital body of work from which our kids “caught” what being a good spouse looks like.
When it comes to consistency in raising Christ-centered children, teaching matters too.
Proverbs 22:6 tells us to “train children to live the right way, and when they are old, they will not stray from it” (NCV). My parents impressed God’s teachings on me, including having me attend Sunday School where I heard more than just their parental voice (it takes a village, right?). Kelly has gone and done likewise; she teaches religious education at our church. Few things about her have impressed me more than hearing her, during the lockdown portion of the pandemic, teach the Holy Trinity . . . on Zoom . . . to first graders!
Life has shown me that the spiritual seeds planted in each of us germinate at different times and in different ways. Among my siblings, we practice our faith in our own ways and in our own faith communities, spanning the continuum of public/private worship and the spectrum of denominational affiliation. When we once shared—along with our widowed father—a few one-word reasons to explain why we go to church, the answers were illuminating: peace, hope, education, nourishment, and happiness.
Faith has germinated differently in each of my children as well.
Kelly discovered that our oldest, when he was in high school, had privately started reading the Bible—one page per day—during the summer between middle school and high school as a way of coping with a broken back.
Children teach us
When she was younger, my daughter started showing explicit expressions of her homegrown faith by wearing cross earrings and including faith symbols on her social media accounts.
And as a sign that not all germinations are explicitly Christian, our youngest child, while on a recent family vacation, asked me to accompany him through various art galleries in the local shopping district. His curiosity and wonder for the works of art we saw was a powerful reminder of God’s curiosity, wonder and love for us as His own creations. Each story shows how God not only uses me to teach my children, but uses my children to teach me.
Fruits by which I want to be known
Finally, fellow parents know raising kids can be difficult and, at times, flat-out messy. Society produces such a cacophony of noise and messages about what is right and what is acceptable. Reconciling these inputs with scripture and with Christian ideals is challenging!
To this end, I offer Jesus of Nazareth as a role model. His ministry was largely about showing “the experts” of the time how their interpretations and application of scripture were misguided. His message was about recapturing and reorienting toward the past, and yet His earthly existence was also about a new future that had never existed and gave a possibility to the unity of all humankind and all creation.
Today, as parents, let us follow His model. Let us discern how to apply God’s ancient and sacred messages to how we parent today so that we, too, can help create a new future with new—and, to date, unknown—possibilities for unity, and compassion, and love.
Those are the fruits by which I want to be known.