I recently had the honor of playing violin with some ladies for special music at church. Two are fabulous musicians and music teachers and the other three are their respective daughters. While we were practicing, the two moms/teachers lamented the fact that neither has abundant time for individual practice anymore.
[Side note: I find it a little alarming to think that my dream of one day having oodles of time to invest however I choose when I am no longer changing countless diapers, fixing innumerable peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fetching cup after cup of ice water, is merely an illusion! But I digress.]
Both of these women are accomplished musicians. Over the course of their lives they’ve spent untold hours investing in their craft and would appear to be beyond the need for constant personal practice. Particularly as young adults in college, they had the time they needed to practice, learn, grow and be challenged. They had teachers who spent a great deal of time and effort helping them grow and mature as musicians. Now they spend their days teaching children to play and love music!
The determination and hard work of these musicians give Christian parents tremendous insight when it comes to discipling our children. Here are three things we can learn from them.
1. If you want to train your children to know and love Jesus, you must first know and love Jesus!
It would be very difficult for a music teacher to instill in her students a love for music and the ability to play if she didn’t know how to play the instrument she was instructing!
How is it that we best know and love Jesus?
We have to read. God saw fitting to leave us a book that tells us the story of our redemption in Jesus from beginning to end. We can’t and won’t know him apart from his Word. We are so bombarded with information and entertainment in our culture it makes sitting down and focusing on the written word nearly impossible but it is an absolute necessity. We cannot get around the fact that to know God we have to read his word. We can’t love what we don’t know.
2. If you want children to grow into adults who love and serve Jesus, you must invest countless hours in training them up to do so now.
No musician (or athlete for that matter, but I am much more the first than the second so that’s the illustration we’ll stick with here) has become what they are are without instruction, sacrifice, practice, diligence, and discipline. Why do we expect anything less for our responsibility to train our children in the way they should go? Why do we think we can invest all our (and their) time, effort and energy into other things (sports, music, gymnastics, dance, etc…busy-ness knows no bias) and ignore our children’s spiritual upbringing, but then expect them to flourish as followers of Jesus, especially when released into the world, (probably in college) when they have their first real taste of ‘freedom’?
3. It takes a normal daily rhythm of constant conversation.
I recently read an article that noted very few children and youth have regular ongoing conversations about faith, Jesus, and the Gospel with their parents. It’s definitely not a surprise then, that children often aren’t enraptured by the grace of Jesus and appear to leave the church as soon as they are given the freedom to do so.
Just as a musician doesn’t learn a new piece in one sitting, our children don’t learn about God’s love in one reading of His word, or one conversation with mom and dad, youth pastor or Sunday School teacher. There has to be daily (sometimes multiple times a day!) practice, putting other things aside to make room for the most important thing.
And finally, pray.
The more your kids hear you pray, the more they will want to talk to God for themselves.
Pray for their little hearts! You can do everything right, but only the Holy Spirit can transform hearts, so put your trust in Him and not in any form of good parenting. But don’t neglect your role in their upbringing as a Christian parent.
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9 ESV)
As you look to the new year, start the year with a fresh heart. Ask Jesus for help this year in discipling your children to know and love Him. For long after this year’s Christmas gifts are broken in a corner collecting dust, knowing Jesus is the greatest gift you can ever give them.