By Javan Rowe
God refers to himself as our Father, indicating something vital and unique about the relationship between parent and child. This is highlighted in the Gospels, where we witness the special relationship between Father and Son, as Jesus is called the Son of God.
Our relationships with our own children can be invaluable. I have seen my relationship with God strengthened through observing and interacting with my kids. They cause me to think deeper about my beliefs and consider how my faith impacts daily life. They also enable me to simplify my faith through their innocent statements—sometimes comical, other times quite serious.
Focus on God
One way my two children have inspired me is in the way they take in their surroundings. When my son was around 6, he made this simple but poignant statement about God when we were walking through the woods: “He did a really good job!”
It may have been easy to laugh this off as a cute child’s phrase, but there was so much truth to it. God really did do a good job. This plain expression motivates me to take the time to appreciate God and his wonders.
Nothing is too small when it comes to focusing on God. When my son was even younger—around 5—I heard him talking in the backseat. I asked him what he was doing. He said he was praying for the sucker he was about to eat.
Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” James 1:17 similarly says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” If we let them, our children can teach us to take time out to notice God’s amazing works, regardless how small.
Have Concern for Others
People tend to be self-centered, particularly when they are totally dependent infants. Despite this shared tendency, there have been a number of occasions when my kids have stepped outside of their selfish desires to care for others.
My daughter has been known to create treats for me from various foods from the fridge (which can make one nervous if the chef is only 8). I have also endearingly referred to her as the note ninja because she confiscates my work notepad and writes illustrated “I love you Daddy!” notes, which I later discover.
Though my children fight like any siblings, they also demonstrate concern for each other. My daughter used to get nervous in elevators, so one time my son proceeded to protect her by getting her into a headlock where she couldn’t breathe. Though she was not appreciative of his “help,” my wife and I were touched by the heart behind his action.
Perhaps the greatest illustration of showing concern was demonstrated by my son at age 5. While at his great-grandma’s house, he asked what happed to her husband. When she explained that he had died, my son responded, “That’s so sad,” and later made her a card.
My children have, at times, risen above their natural draw toward self-centeredness. This has taught me to also take time to do simple, nice things for others. I am encouraged to live out Paul’s command: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Ask Tough Questions
Some Christians believe that asking questions demonstrates lack of faith. The Bible counters this by permitting us to ask: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). Whenever Jesus was questioned, he responded, even when the asker should have known the answer.
Both of my kids tend to use bedtime as an opportunity to ask questions. Maybe it’s a stalling tactic. Or perhaps it’s only when their bodies are stilled that their minds are free. Regardless, I have always encouraged discussion. The following are examples of their questions:
• “How do you know God says yes or no to prayers when you can’t hear him? When I prayed to take away bad dreams, he must have said no because they didn’t go away—why?”
• “Didn’t God create everything? There’s a lot of bad things in the world. Why did God create bad things?”
• “Does Jesus know everything? If he knows the future then why does he let us make our own decisions? How can we make a decision if he knows what the decision’s going to be? Wouldn’t that make us not choosing but God choosing for us?”
Even though I may not always have suitable answers, the discussions are always meaningful. I realize we can likewise go to God with questions, without fear of reprimand.
Recognize Shared Traits
An amazing part of child-rearing is discovering traits our kids share with my wife and me that serve as reminders. But not all shared traits are positive. Believe it or not, my children are not always well-behaved sages of wisdom. The humbling part of parenting is recognizing that our children reflect the issues and sins we tend to struggle with.
Though I said kids can step outside their selfishness, the truth is that selfishness is still among our top shared traits. I recall sitting and rocking my son, exhausted. Upon stopping and attempting to place him into bed, he would cry out, “Rock one more minute!” His tendency, like all of us, is to have his needs met first.
My daughter had a frequent phrase throughout toddlerhood: “I do it.” She even developed a method of comforting herself with two of her fingers in her mouth rather than a pacifier (a habit that was near impossible to break her of because you cannot throw out her fingers). She has always demonstrated self-sufficiency—the close cousin to selfishness.
I mention selfishness and self-sufficiency because these are perhaps the greatest vices that distance us from the Lord. We either concentrate solely on our wants or we believe we can do life without God’s help. However, despite our behavior that displeases God, we can be assured he loves us unconditionally, just as we love our little sinners.
Sharing traits means our children are imitators, whether or not it is intentional. This is not only true biologically, but also mentally and emotionally. Our children look to us regarding how to do life. We have imitators, which should motivate us to be the greatest possible role models.
We are reminded in Ephesians 5:1 that as our kids imitate us, we are to “be imitators of God” (New American Standard Bible). We were created as image bearers of God. This means we are to imitate the characteristics we discover about God in his Word, just as our children imitate us by observing us.
Our relationship with God is full of mystery, but parenting can uncover clues. It is through my children’s disobedience that I see my shortcomings. And when I am proud of my kids, I realize the benefits that come from being a child of God. As my children desire approval from their parents, I anticipate the day when I hear “Well done!” from my Father.
Javan Rowe is a freelance writer in Columbus, Ohio (www.eyesonthekingdom.com).