My need for grace is best learned through my relationship with my wife and my children. There are some days when I think I’ve nailed it—work was productive, I came home and spent quality time with my family, we had meaningful conversations, there were opportunities to serve, lead, and love before bedtime, and everything is prepped and ready for the new day before I close my eyes to sleep.
However, at the end of most days I know that I didn’t measure up. These crazy, lackluster days make me wonder whose idea it was for me to raise children or be the spiritual leader in a marriage. Not only do I have to do the normal, everyday tasks—go to work, mow the lawn, help cook, clean the dishes, change a diaper or two, plan and lead church activities, answer a phone call or two about church and work and deal with the problems on the other end of the line, pay bills, etc.—but somewhere in the mix I have to spend some valuable time with my wife and children and leave a legacy for generations to come.
How is this even possible? Where do I begin?
I have found that one of the most important tasks I’m faced with is to be a living example of grace to my children each day by teaching the Word to them and making sure I live it out in front of them.
Julie and I have three children: Eli, Lydia, and Ezra. Lately I have been trying to teach my oldest son that he is always supposed to take care of his sister. If she needs help with something, he should willingly help her. When they walk to the car, he needs to open the car door for her. If someone is hurting her, it’s his job to take up for her. (Ok, so maybe I told him to punch them in the nose until I come to get him off of them, but she’s my little girl!)
These may seem like insignificant tasks right now in his Ninja Turtle / Lego / Mario / wrestling / dance maniac little boy life, but I pray that this childhood experience caring for his sister will help prepare him for his role as a husband and father one day. I yearn for him to know that he should lay down his life for his own wife and children and fight for them.
Funny how the lessons we teach our children are most often the lessons we need to learn ourselves. And I was about to find out just how closely Eli was listening.
One night not long after we began discussing these new responsibilities, we were eating supper at the table, and I told Julie that since I cooked the dinner she was going to clean the dishes. (I know, I’m laughing right now, too.) That was actually all right with her, as long as I put up the clothes that she had just finished folding. I let her know quickly that I was the one who had washed them. Suddenly our nice, quiet, family dinner became a competition to determine who does more around our house.
Keep in mind that with three kids in the mix we don’t always know who did what; in fact, we are just glad that something gets done. We know that this type of game should never be played. We know that nothing is to be gained from making demands or being prideful, but that did not stop us that night.
Right in the middle of our contest, Eli stormed in between us and said, “HEY! Daddy, I thought you said we are always supposed take care of the girl and lay our life down for her. Doesn’t that mean dishes too?”
WHAT? Did he really just say that? Who has been brainwashing this boy?
I could not respond. I just stood there hanging my head in shame. Right then, I had a decision to make. Would I continue in my pride, or would I use this opportunity to teach Eli a lesson that he would never forget?
In the stillness of that moment, I heard God speak to my heart, “Sound familiar? You can just leave this hanging, or you can do the right thing. I think you know my choice for you.” I knew exactly what He meant.
I spent the next few moments showing Eli how to make this right. I got down on my knee by the kitchen table, asked for forgiveness, and kissed my bride.
Life lessons don’t take place by simply reading the Bible or by telling your children how to act. The best lessons are the ones they see you live on a daily basis.
How we respond to life and how we love people speaks volumes to our children. My wife and I are definitely not experts on marriage and parenting, but God is. May we all look to the Father of Lights (James 1:17) as He guides us out of the darkness of our self-made messes and into His marvelous light.
“You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:15 (NLT)
What lessons have your kids Jesus juked you about? Start a conversation with your friends by sharing one of these quotes: