Saturday, February 5, 2011

A parent's influence on faith...

Not too long ago, I received a request to post about my parent's influence on my faith.

Wow. How long do you have?

Many things come to mind. Examples of things I believe my parents did exceptionally well (that I have every intention of implementing into my own parenting should the Lord bring that season to me), and even examples they'd readily confess as mistakes. God uses it all for good.

Asking for a testimony and input are different. But. I'm going to do both-- my input is free and is void of experience. So, take it with a grain of salt. (I don't really know where that expression came from...but...maybe take it with LOTS of salt.)

Two things come to mind that scream stronger than even the examples I could give of my parent's influence on me. I'm not a parent. But this is my counsel:

1. Pray and trust God.
2. Be faithful.

Only God can save souls. We must believe and live this-- there is freedom in it. My personal perspective is that children should be taught at a young age that they are unbelievers and need to be changed by Jesus. We can't care about a Saviour we don't know our need for! I see how discipline can function as the "law" in that it reveals sin. We need to see our sin in order to be able to repent for it, receive forgiveness, and be changed.

I see and hear often in the American culture an "including" of kids as Believers in a parent's speech-- "Us as Christians" or "Because we're a Christian family." Oh it pains my heart to wonder how many "Christians" in America have false assurance influenced by their parents. May God give us wisdom as to how to communicate with children not-yet saved about His love for them, and their need for Him.

My parents trusted God. Even in my rebellious years in High School. They sought the Lord diligently as to how to deal with me...even in my rebellion, I knew this. I knew they were praying.

One night I will never forget- I was somewhere I shouldn't've been, with people I shouldn't've been with, doing things they shouldn't've been doing and my mom called. Asked where I was. Wasn't comfortable with my answer and asked me to please come home. I put up a fight. She insisted, but offered to stay up as late as I wanted and said I could invite my best friend and boyfriend at the time over to be at our house.

I took full advantage of that opportunity and kept her up until 3am. She sat in our living room. Reading her Bible and praying the entire time. I will never forget that.

At the time, I didn't care. I thought her time was worthless-- oh, it grieves me to say that. But I actually did. I don't even think I thanked her. And it is so humbling to consider the depth of forgiveness and mercy she has extended to me over the years. I am a Christian because Jesus saved me, yes. I am also a Christian, because God chose to use the prayers of my faithful mother to soften my heart and draw me to Himself. My soul soars with gratitude.

Pray for your children. Entrust them to God.

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it" Proverbs promises us. There is training involved. Yes.

My parents excelled in this. From taking advantage of opportunities to shelter us from worldly influences, to other opportunities to TEACH us discernment-- engaging with us in the culture and drawing our attention to how to interact with sin or unbelievers while keeping our hearts away from temptation. Showing us how to be in the world...but not of it.

My dad viewed our childhood as preparation for adulthood. I hated it. I always had to do hard things none of my friends ever had to do. I bought my own clothes. Got a job at 15. We didn't get allowance-- my dad always said, "People give their kids allowance to teach them how to manage money. You can't manage money if you don't know how to make it." :) I'm not dogging allowance. We did get it one time (and laugh/mock my parents about it now!) But in hindsight, I so appreciate the perspective.

At almost 25 (gulp! I feel old!) I attribute much of my life experience and I guess you could say, worldly "accomplishments" to the faithful training of my parents. When strangers marvel that I've lived overseas and have my own business so young, I immediately talk about my parents. Don't give me credit for this. They're the ones who've taught me. This is grace on my life. They've taught me how to take initiative, be make my faith my own. Challenging me, encouraging me, asking me hard questions...all the while lavishing me with love even when I KNOW they disagreed with my decisions.

I know what it looks like to trust God because I've watched my mom. She faithfully has risen early to read and pray. She prays like no other soul I've ever encountered. She prays for people she's never met, but only heard about...and at times is properly burdened for them. Losing sleep because she is up at night- praying because she feels prompted to. Unbelievable.

My dad gets excited about what God is doing. He is a man of faith. This "excitement" has totally rubbed off on me. I don't know if its part of our personality (I'm a lot like my dad) or if I've been trained by his example, but my dad is always buzzing about a new book he's read or some new truth he's discovered.

As we've gotten older, our parents have transitioned from "authority" to being our friends. I talk to my mom almost every day. She knows my life like no one else on this earth. She has taken the time to learn and "study" my relationships-- she knows people all over the world by name, and has never seen their faces...just from listening to me and my life. (These are some of the people she prays for!) My parents are my biggest supporters. They think the world of me (as all parents do of their children) and tell each of us time and again how proud they are of us. Not just of our accomplishments (though my dad genuinely thinks I could own a salon in sweet) but they tell us how proud of US they are. WHO we are. What we've become.

They will be the first to tell you: IT IS ALL OF GRACE. I will echo their song.

Grace covers sin. Even sin in parenting. We will fail. Grace is bigger than sin. Let us rejoice!