I am not the perfect parent. For those who know me—especially my family—that is not a surprising statement. God blessed my wife and I with twins nearly nineteen years ago. It has been our desire to shepherd their hearts towards the Lord throughout their lives. Now as sophomores in college, we are still shepherding them and greatly enjoying these years as a family.
Looking back there are three general values we have held for parenting. We did not purposefully determine these, nor write them down, but they are what we strived for. By God’s grace, our children are saved, baptized, members of our church, serving in a variety of ways, and preparing to serve the Lord more in their adult lives. They see many of the problems within general Christianity that we do, and it concerns them greatly. They do not think identically to us, but it seems that they are following the general spiritual path we have tried to forge for them. And for that, we are thankful.
We Value Love
This may seem a rather mundane and unexciting value, but it is more profound than you may think. A loving home for children does not begin with loving the child, but with loving one another as husband and wife. We have been married for over twenty four years, and by God’s grace we have never yelled at one another. Divorce is not in our marriage vocabulary. We do not espouse the predominant view of the world that arguing and fighting in marriage is not only inevitable, but normal. We have chosen to love one another, discuss issues and situations as Christian adults should, and work towards a conclusion that would honor the Lord, not belittle one another.
God commands us all to love our neighbors as ourselves, and our spouses are our closest neighbors. We commit ourselves to one another and our desire is to model that kind of love to our children, so that they will not only see it in us, but also know how to be a godly spouse someday for the glory of God.
Love is modeled, but it is also verbally expressed. It is important that we express our love for one another in the home regularly and frequently. We express this love not only by our words, but by our actions towards one another. We help one another; we care for one another; we look out for one another; we even take initiative in doing things around the house that need to be done. As parents we never really had a “chore chart,” we just taught our children that we all live together in this home and that we all take part in keeping it clean. This is part of loving our neighbors as ourselves.
We Value Peace
Peace in our home does not mean there are not conflicts or problems to address or sin issues to confront. But it does mean that in those times, we deal with them in a way that would honor God and foster better peace in our homes.
Conflicts between siblings does not have to erupt into loud shouting matches. We taught our kids to handle conflicts with each other in a biblical, peaceful, and loving way, without shouting and fighting. Repentance is practiced; forgiveness is extended; peaceful relations are restored.
We taught our children that we can have a peaceful time around the dinner table. We taught them manners in how to eat, how to talk, and how to sit still during meals. It took time and repetition and patience, but it was well worth it. While we are now all on different schedules for breakfasts and lunches, our dinner times together are a joyful and peaceful time. We enjoy having good conversations, laughing together, discussing spiritual issues faced at work or at school, or talking about the sermon preached that day.
Peace in our home extends to our normal living. It is not unusual for classical music to be playing throughout the house while we go about our daily tasks, sit together in the living room, or play a game together. We love that our home is free from bickering, arguing, or chaos.
Peace in the home is something that begins with a peaceful marriage. It is part of the fruit of the Spirit, as is love. As husband and wife practice and teach peaceful living, it will catch on with the children.
We Value Service
Serving takes humility (which could be a fourth important value). Husbands and wives serve one another, and we are to teach our children to serve as well. This is a kind of loving service rather than a forced slavish labor. We serve one another in the home, but we also have valued serving the Lord together in our local church. From the time our children were about 2 or 3 years old, we taught them things they could do to help clean the church. They were involved in ministry opportunities. We went to nursing homes as a family. We helped fold or stuff bulletins as a family. We did music together as a family. And so much more.
Our family is a musical family, and my children have taken music lessons since they were about 6 years old. From the very beginning, we taught them that their musical abilities were to be used for the Lord’s glory, not merely for their own personal benefit or enjoyment. So, they play their instruments in church, accompany other instrumentalists, and sing in various musical groups. They have seen the dearth of musicians (particularly pianists) in New England and realize that they may be the only pianist in a church someday. God will use those talents that they have cultivated for his glory.
We have gone many times as a family and served in other area churches, doing a variety of music and then I will preach. This has not only served as an opportunity for ministry for my family, but also to expose my children to the need for faithful servants in small local churches, particularly in New England.
The point is that we have valued the biblical notion of service in our marriage and have sought to instill that same value into our children.
Love, peace, and service are all values that God honors. Cultivating these things into a family with children takes time, concerted effort, and patience. But it is worth it. They should be cultivated into your marriage before children come into being. If you want your children to value these kinds of things, then you must value them even before your children are born. By God’s grace, your children will not only adopt these same values, but understand that they need Christ to enable them to do so, and be saved. Seek to value what God values. Do not settle for the world’s values that are tainted by the corruption of sin. God’s desire for your family and your home is so much better than anything the world can give. Embrace these kinds of values into your life, your marriage, and your home. Do it for the glory of God.