(Today’s guest post comes from my dear friend Emily, who is the adoring wife of her husband and Pastor, Matt. They are from chilly, but beautiful Canada and have four children! I know you will be both challenged and encouraged by her today! )
I have been a parent for just over 9 years now. Before I had children, and even now, I love to read good biblically based books on parenting. I suppose I enjoy it so much because it helps me not feel so alone in my feelings and struggles. Its nice to know I am not the only mom who has gone to her bedroom and cried (or screamed into her pillow) out of pure frustration. Its encouraging to know that I am not the only mother who has yelled at her children. Its helpful to hear from moms who have made their way “through the trenches” and come out on the other side with wonderful words of wisdom and advice that they have learned throughout the years.
I pick up these books and expect that I will learn something from them. That’s the whole purpose of reading them – to glean knowledge from others. What I don’t always expect is what I would learn from my own children. That is something that always seems to take me off guard, but always has great impact on my heart and life. Let me give you an example.
We have a bedtime routine that we try to stick to in our home. As with anything, it doesn’t always go the same way, but for the most part, we try to go through that routine each night. After supper, the kids usually have a little time to play, then its bath/shower time. Once all that is done, we gather in our family room and have song and prayer time. During this time, we try to go over what we had studied in our devotions from that morning, and then we sing a few Bible songs and pray. Then its off to bed (and the half-hour to hour long process that seems to take! Whew! 🙂 )
A couple months ago, my hubby was gone at a meeting (he is a pastor so this is not a rare occurrence) so I was on my own with our bedtime routine. The kids were all bathed and in their PJs and we had just finished singing. This particular night all four children wanted to pray, so we went down the row. I always love to hear my children pray. I feel it gives me a little glimpse into their hearts and what is important to them. Sometimes they pray for silly things, and sometimes they pray for things I didn’t even know was heavy on their hearts.
When it came time for the three-year-old to pray, she started with her typical, “Dear Jesus, thank you for this day. Thank you for our family…” More often than not, her prayers are pretty much the same each time. But this night she added a little something that has stuck with me and been mulling over and over in my head for months now. Here was her whole prayer:
“Dear Jesus. Thank you for this day. Thank you for our family.
Help me to learn to obey. Help mommy and daddy to learn to obey.
Help us to have a good night. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
When she came to the part about “mommy and daddy to learn to obey” I kind of snickered to myself and thought that was funny and cute. We finished prayer time and I got all the kids in bed. Then, later that night, when I was getting ready for bed, I thought back on her prayer and was immediately convicted in my heart. I had laughed off the fact that she prayed for me and daddy to learn to obey. She hears me pray for my children all the time to learn to obey, usually thinking specifically of learning to obey ME. 🙂 But as adults, we don’t need to learn that, right? But that’s not true. Not exactly.
Oh, I don’t “have” to obey my parents anymore. I am grown and moved on and my husband and I make our own rules and decisions in our home. I no longer answer to my parents. But that doesn’t exclude me from having to obey God. I will never outgrow that one. And that is one I haven’t quite gotten a handle on, either.
Don’t get me wrong – sometimes its very easy to obey God. Sometimes it is pretty easy to obey. I don’t even have to think about it. I say, “Sure, Lord! I’ll do that!” responding just like my kids do to my instruction – sometimes. But what about the other times when God asks me to obey – to do some “harder” things. Do I obey Him then?
God has commanded me to be submissive to my husband. Sometimes that is easy peasy. Sometimes, I plain don’t want to. God has commanded me to love my neighbour as myself. But I will admit – there are some people in the world I have trouble loving and I certainly have no trouble loving myself. God has commanded me to put nothing and no one before Him. But its super easy for me to put kids, family, and friends before Him. These are things God tells me to do EVERY DAY and I struggle with them EVERY DAY.
Sometimes, there are bigger things God may ask me to do. Have I learned to obey Him? Eight years ago God called my husband to pastor a small country church in New Brunswick, Canada. My husband surrendered to God’s leading, and we went. But even as we were moving, I refused to agree with God. I did not want to move there and I was mad at Him and my husband. I hadn’t obeyed so well then.
I have had many health issues in my life. Sometimes God asks me to go through some difficult and painful things. And I don’t always willing obey. I don’t want to obey and I get upset. I wonder “why me” and stomp my figurative spiritual foot with my arms crossed. I don’t really obey then either. Even now, God has been impressing some things that I need to do and change in my life and heart. But it scares me and I don’t want to obey.
When I tell my children to do something, it almost never is just for the fun of it. I tell them to clean their room so they can learn responsibility and to learn to take care of the things they have been blessed with (and to keep our house from becoming a huge disaster area! 🙂 ) When I tell them to hold my hand in a parking lot, it is for their safety because they don’t always pay attention to the things around them. When I tell them to be kind or to think of others, it is to teach them that other people matter and they need to think of others’ needs and feelings. When I tell them to share it is to show them that they are not the centre of the universe and that they need to be aware of other people.
Everything I tell them to do has a purpose. I have a goal in mind to help mold them into descent, kind, giving, and God-honouring human beings.
And I believe it is the same with God. He doesn’t tell us to do something so He can get a laugh out of it. He doesn’t ask us to obey even when we don’t want to just so He can show us whose boss. He has an ultimate goal, a purpose, and a plan for not only our individual lives but for the whole world. That is why it is so important for us to learn to obey.
So you see, it may have been a sweet, simple, innocent prayer said off-the-cuff by my 3-year-old. But it was a sermon straight to the heart for me and a lesson I needed to hear. I need to learn to obey. I need to learn to obey God so I can become the person that He wants me to be – the person that He designed and created me to be. Obeying is for my own good.
And now I often think back on that prayer and ask myself one question: What is God telling me to do today that I need to obey?
I am so thankful that I have wonderful books to read that help me in my parenting journey. But I am also very thankful for the four little ones God has blessed me with to constantly teach me more about myself and my God.
Ps: If you have been encouraged by this post, please feel free to share it with others!