I have been thinking a lot about the raising of our kids. Partially because it is going so fast, and partially because it is so hard. Many times we treat the raising and leading our children as inconveniences on our schedules, emotions, or time. I believe that every situation we find ourselves in has the opportunity to form us more into the image of God, including motherhood.
We are told in Matthew to love our neighbor as ourselves. In addition to loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind; all the commandments hang on these two instructions. Do we realize our children (and those who live in our house with us) are our closest neighbors? Are my kids image bearers now or later? The obvious answer would be now. They have opportunities to be influenced by the gospel this week, today, this minute. Am I living in a way that shows them an example of the love of the Gospel?
Because of the fact that we know even now, they can be influenced by the Gospel, it is important what we show our children. When I act annoyed or inconvenienced by having to stay up 10 minutes later discussing (again!) why we can’t throw a ball in the house, I am showing my kids that I care more about focusing on my time than helping them. (I know, I know: but I need ME time!) I’m not discounting the fact that we need to take care of our emotional or physical state, but what I am emphasizing is that if we act as though we are the more important, we are teaching our kids to do the same.
I struggle with this constantly, while trying to intentionally be aware of it. I have had to make choices that aren’t natural to me to help foster this “loving my neighbor” relationship with my kids. When they have a day off from school and I am dreading the day of listening to arguing between all three of them, I remind myself that it’s an opportunity to love them. I have made a conscious choice to never say “I wish they had school today” or “I really just need me time on that day.” Because we all are members of this household. We all belong here at this moment.
When I realize my kids are some of my closest neighbors, I also don’t down play or discount their relationship with God and the church. I don’t drop my kids off to children’s church because “I need a break so I can focus on the real church.” Their children’s church is an opportunity for my kids to be reached by the Gospel. When I treat children’s church as an alternative to the “real” thing, I also discount those volunteers who have given their time, prayers, and energy to giving the Gospel to children.
I want to be clear: I am the parent. My kids know sometimes they will have to do things they don’t understand or don’t like, but they also know my jobs are to teach them about God and to keep them safe. I will implement rules as needed to achieve those two tasks, even if they don’t fully understand it. While we all are members of this house, and as such will never be made to feel as an inconvenience while in this house. But we also all contribute to this house in some way. Obviously they don’t contribute monetarily, but we all have duties in the house.
Treating your children as “neighbors” doesn’t discount the fact that you are the parent, but it also doesn’t negate the fact that they have opportunities to see and show others the Gospel today, not 10 years from now when they are adults and out of your house. I think we do a disservice by teaching our children to not be thinkers and individuals who learn how to discern. We expect them to entertain us, like what we like, and do as we say just because we say- without showing them the Gospel in our actions. Then we get confused when they are teens or adults and don’t know how to make decisions according to the truths of the Bible.
One last thing on this subject, God uses motherhood to help daily change us to be more into the image of God as well. The other night I lost my temper and raised my voice every time one of my children spoke to me. Crazy T asked me a question, I yelled my answer in response, and he responded “why did I deserve that yelling?” Guys, don’t miss opportunities to be convicted because of your pride. I could have said, “I’m the mom, I can do what I want.” But I can’t do whatever I want when I’m trying to love my children as myself, when I’m trying to live in the Gospel truths myself. So I swallowed my pride, and told that little boy “You’re right. I’m sorry I yelled and you didn’t deserve that.” He said okay and moved on. THESE are my closest neighbors and I don’t want to neglect the opportunities I have to show the Gospel to them, just because it’s easier to do so.