There is much that shapes and influences the life and personality of a child. There are times I can tell who my child has spent time with because of the way he speaks and acts.
A child’s view of God is shaped in much the same way.
As a parent, or even a teacher, my child learns more about God by the atmosphere I create in my home or classroom than by the truth I actually teach. My interactions with him are absorbed into his heart and mind and reflected back in his behavior. It’s true when they say, “A child becomes what he beholds.”
My child learns about God by the way I discipline him, the way I speak to him, what I require of him, whether I prioritize the rules or our relationship, and whether he feels safe to be honest with me.
What a sobering thought.
The desire of any believing parent or teacher is to accurately portray God to the children He has entrusted to us. God is multi-faceted. We can (and will) spend our entire lives searching out and, in turn, communicating the character of God.
It’s impossible to summarize God’s character in a single verse, but here is one God is using right now in my life to help guide my interactions with my child.
This verse is found EVERYWHERE in the Old Testament – multiple places in the Psalms, as God describes Himself to Moses, in Nehemiah and Joel, and in Jonah’s description of God. This verse clearly shows who God is!
This then leads me to consider:
If my child learns about God by the atmosphere I create and the way I interact with him …
- Am I merciful and tender?
- Am I gracious and kind?
- Am I not easily angered?
- Am I immense in love?
- Do I never, never quit?
How God’s Character is Exhibited in Me
This seems like an impossible list of qualities to exhibit day in and day out. And yet it’s what our children need. And what God desires to work in us.
The beauty of these qualities is that they don’t depend on me. I don’t focus on them or on how to exhibit them. Instead, I focus on who God is. I think about how He interacts with me in these ways. I receive these gifts from Him.
And do you know what happens quite naturally along the way? My heart is changed. These qualities begin to characterize my life too. I am filled with them, and they can’t help but spill over and influence my child.
Contemplate God’s Character
Pause and consider how God interacts with you in these ways every day.
God gives new mercy every. single. moment. He never grows weary of you.
Moment by moment God again extends His favor towards you, He again holds back what you deserve, He again has sorrow for the suffering in your life. No matter how much you provoke Him, He never grows weary of you. He never reaches His limit.
Lamentations 3:22-23 – “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.”
When you live in this place of receiving mercy, of understanding its depth, of allowing gratefulness and wonder to fill you as you consider God interacting with you in this way, you can then give mercy to your child.
Because God has tenderly interacted with you, you can put aside your agenda and desires and meet your child where he is. Even if he’s asking a question for the 100th time in the span of an hour!
2. God advocates in support of you. He doesn’t condemn you.
Isn’t this what grace is all about? Seeing who you are becoming and speaking to your true identity? What grace! What kindness!
This is what Jesus does on your behalf day in day out. Satan accuses you before the Father – pointing out your weakness, judging, criticizing and condemning. As we read in I John 2, Jesus speaks up on your behalf over and over again. He points out your true identity and asks for mercy on your behalf.
Jesus sees past your behavior to who you really are. He believes in you, supports you and fights for you.
Psalm 118:6a, “The Lord is on my side.”
When you live in this place of knowing God is gracious and kind towards you, you can advocate for your child instead of focusing on his faults or quirks.
Because God looks past your behavior, you can look past your child’s behavior, attitude, and personality to his heart. You can see him as an image-bearer of God. You can let your child know you are on his side no matter how he acts.
3. God expects your humanness and is never angry because of it.
Relationship with God happens regardless of our growth or lack thereof. The Christian life will never be one of constant uphill growth. And God knows that. He doesn’t expect the impossible. He’s not disappointed or angry when we fail yet again.
No, He is always there to pick us up. To hold our hand. To catch our tears. To encourage us to try one more time. To love us. To accept our frailty.
Psalm 103:14 – “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”
When you know your humanity is accepted, you too can expect failure from your child without letting it impact your love for him.
Children are going to mess up most every day (or even hour!). Spills, messes, meltdowns, defiance, selfishness, lack of respect, whining, complaining – all of these are normal, human deeds. Anger in these situations occurs when you focus on how these things impact you instead of loving your child in spite of his actions.
4. God cares for your broken heart. He never trivializes your hurt.
God’s immense love and compassion are constant. Not just when there is real, actual suffering, but when your broken heart is caused by something that wasn’t even good for you. God draws close to you even when you’re upset because you didn’t get your way or when you’re hurt over something petty or superficial.
God never tells you to simply get over it. He doesn’t roll His eyes and sigh at how silly you’re being. He doesn’t send you away until you can compose yourself. No, He comes close, enters your pain. He deigns to view life from your perspective and hold you close through your hurt.
Psalm 34:18 – “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”
When you understand and experience God’s immense love when you hurt, you can care about what concerns your child, even if it seems insignificant to you.
Being close to your broken-hearted child means entering his world, acknowledging his pain without trivializing it and being present with him in it. Sometimes this looks like holding your sobbing child while he mourns the loss of his favorite hornworm caterpillar. (The same hornworm caterpillar you wanted dead from the get go after it sabotaged your almost fully ripened peppers – true story!)
5. God reaches out to you and helps you. He doesn’t wait for you.
God never quits pursuing you. He never quits drawing alongside and helping you. Think of the parable of the Prodigal Son. The father shows us a picture of God – watching, running, accepting, welcoming, helping.
You don’t have to try harder, confess one more time to clear the air, take the initiative. God does these things. He will never quit doing them. He has been doing them since before the foundation of the world.
Romans 5:8 ,“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
When you live in this place of accepting God’s initiative, knowing He will never stop helping you, you can then take the initiative to reach out and help your child.
Think about the sense of relief you feel when someone steps in to help you. Children need this same relief – maybe even more than adults. Navigating toddlerhood or the teenage years can be overwhelming. There are myriads of emotions, responsibilities, desires and physical changes bombarding children throughout every day.
You can be their breath of fresh air! They can learn to depend on your help knowing you will never quit reaching out to them.
Receive In Order to Give
Creating a positive atmosphere for your children depends less on you trying to do so and more on you receiving God’s character into your heart and soul first.
As you receive these graces into your life as gifts, your thoughts, emotions and attitudes change. These in turn influence and change your behavior.
- You exhibit more patience.
- Your tone of voice is different.
- You can give from the overflow of what you are experiencing.
- You are more accepting.
- You are more resilient – you never give up.
- You are kinder and more tender.
So, don’t focus on what you need to change or what you need to do to practically live out Psalm 86:15. Instead…
Meditate on Psalm 86:15
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Spend time with each truth. Ask yourself
When did God relate to me in that way?
What feelings or reactions fill my heart as I think of God relating to me in this way?
What do I want to say to God in response?
Do this for a few months. Then reflect on the changes.
You’ll be surprised at what God accomplishes in your heart and what starts to spill out to your child as you internalize His word and truth. God’s Word really is living and active, changing me, changing you, and even shaping your child’s view of God!
This post was originally published at findingrhythmsenjoyinglife.com, published with permission.