Sometimes it is very difficult to have faith for what we cannot see, especially when it comes to our children! We get the privilege of helping to shape and be an example of that faith, and hope that they will be strengthened by it to be able to endure the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful things that will come their way as adults. Just like when you were a child, at some point your faith had to become your own - it’s true for our children as well!
While you are investing in your children, at times it can feel like lost time and energy or a hopeless and exhausting endeavor! Maybe you have trouble seeing their God-given potential as they transform into adults because all you can see is the here and now - which can be overwhelming! Don't give up, the best is yet to come...IF you don't give up!
If you are there, all is not lost! There are things that you can do now to help them not only survive but thrive, while maintaining your own sanity, the peace in your home, and build loving relationships that will take them into their future!
The first thing you can do is:
Choose to be the parent, they have plenty of friends but only one mom and one dad!
There will be a time and a place to be friends with your children but most importantly, they need engaged parents to love and protect them, teach and correct them, guide and counsel them, comfort and care for them.
The second second thing you can do is:
Make time everyday to spend some one on one time with each of your children.
I used to focus on this specifically at bedtime. I would sit down on the bed and we would start to talk about the things in their day.
If it was a hard day, I would ask them to talk about what made it hard for them; who may have upset them or whom did they upset; and what they thought they should do about it. Then I would ask them if I could pray for them. Sometimes I would hug them while I prayed for them and the people that were on their mind.
If there had been tension between me and them, I would work really hard to get to the place of understanding one another, forgiving each other, praying together and reminding them how much I love them - even with mistakes; and asking them to love me, even when I make mistakes. I would take them in my arms and tell them how much they are loved and thank God for how He was helping them to be all that He wanted them to be.
If it had been a good day, I would ask them what was their favorite part of the day and why. I would ask them about details, people, conversations, and the things that they got to do. I would hug them, thank God with them, pray for them, tell them I love them, and say good night.
This precious time was never wasted time because it did many things for my relationship with each of them:
1-They felt loved, valued and affirmed, that no matter what else happened in their world they knew that mom was for them!
2-They felt safe in knowing that as they shared and we talked that I would pray for them and help them get on the right side of things without embarrassing them.
3-They felt the presence of God in our conversations because I showed them that He was and is important and dependable, reassuring them that He loved them and was there for them because He wanted to be.
4-There was the presence of God’s amazing love and peace with each other and in our home when we did this.
When my kids were teenagers, I had the opportunity and the responsibility to take each of them aside when I saw some ugly things coming out of their lives - it was a time to confront! Now, we jokingly use the phrase made popular by Chris Farley as The Motivational Speaker on Saturday Night Live! We weren’t “LIVING in a van down by the river”, but we were “TALKING in a van down by the river”!
Around sunset, I would pick up some ice-cream for me and them and drive around for a bit just talking. Then we would go down to the parking lot by the boat ramp on the Mississippi River. I would lock the doors and tell them we won’t be getting out or going home until we had talked through these issues and were ok with each other. Sometimes it would get loud, sometimes there would be tears, and sometimes silence. But always, there was peace between us before we went home!
One time, Tara, my oldest daughter had come home from her job to a dark house, and everyone there was in bed but me and Nate. She called me to make sure everything was okay. I said, “Yes. I just picked Nate up from Bible Study, got some ice-cream, and now we are down by the river.” She said, “Uh oh, what did he do?” We laugh about that now but I firmly believe because I made the time to invest in them and intercede for them, I was able to influence them even in difficult confrontations!
My children gave me MANY beautiful handmade gifts, colorful pictures, fresh picked dandelions, hand drawn turkeys and so many things that will always be special memories from when they were little - and I treasure them! But now that they are adults and their faith has become their own, I can honestly tell you three of the BEST gifts that my children ever could have given me are absolutely priceless:
1. Is seeing them love God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength and watching them teach their children to do the same!
2. Is seeing them love and care for each other, knowing that they will love, respect and take care of each other both while I am here and when I move to heaven!
3. Is getting to have them not only as my children but to be my best friends!
You can invest in them; intercede for them, & influence them but you can’t choose whether they will follow Jesus, for them!
Their faith has to become their own!