We received another question regarding the spiritual disciplines and children:
“At what age did you and C.J. really start encouraging your children to be having quiet times on their own?
From the time our children began to read comfortably, we taught them to make a quiet time part of their morning routine. They had to read the Bible or a Bible study book, even if it was just for five minutes a day. As young children, they received most of their biblical intake and instruction from C.J. and me on a daily and weekly basis. The primary reason for insisting they have a quiet time was to train them to make the spiritual disciplines a part of their daily life. Chad, who is twelve years old has a quiet time every day, and two times a week, C.J. has devotions with him.
At some point, when our girls became teenagers, their quiet times became something they pursued themselves, although we sought to encourage and provide direction for their study. Each of my girls have said that helping them make the spiritual disciplines a habit at a young age assisted them in eventually taking full responsibility for their own pursuit of godliness.
A mother of school age children wrote to ask: “Would you be able to provide a sample conversation that you might have with your child when they have done something wrong? There is a phrase that I often hear said, “showing them their need for a Savior.” How do you go about doing/saying that exactly?”
When our child sins—and sin they will—it’s an opportunity to teach them about the gospel. To do so, we must not simply correct them for disobeying Daddy and Mommy in the particular situation. We need to point them to their bigger problem: their inclination, and their pattern of sin against a holy God. They haven’t just disobeyed their parents. They’ve disobeyed God. This particular sin is simply another piece of evidence that they need a Savior—just like Mommy needs a Savior. But the good news, the best news, is that God has provided just such a Savior for Mommies and their children in His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. We must tell our children that if they repent from this sin, and from all other rebellion against God, and trust in Christ as their salvation, they will be forgiven from all their sin and disobedience.
So you see that what can often begin as an unpleasant situation caused by our child’s sin can be transformed into an ideal moment to “show them their need for a Savior.”
In short, there are three essential points we are trying to communicate to our children:
1. God – He is the Creator of the world, and because He is perfect, holy, and pure, He cannot tolerate sin (Ps. 5:4-5).
2. Sin –All human beings are sinful from birth and our inclination is to evil all the time (Gen. 6:5, Jer. 17:9, Rom. 3:23).
3. Cross – Because of His love, God sent Jesus Christ to earth, to live a perfect life and die in our place that we might be forgiven from our sins and reconciled to God (John 3:16, 1 Cor. 15:3-4).
How can we weave these three points into a real-life conversation? The following is one possible way. But let me issue a disclaimer: this is not a script! This is merely a sample of how a mother might apply the gospel in a situation where a child has sinned. It will sound different EVERY time and for every age group! But let’s just say, for example, that our child is disrespecful:
Mom: Do you realize that you were disrespectful towards Mommy?
Mom: Do you know what the Bible has to say about what you have done?
Mom: God says in His Word that disrespect toward parents is a sin against Him. It isn’t just breaking Mommy’s rules. It’s breaking God’s commands. But this isn’t your biggest problem. You and Mommy both have a bigger problem. Do you know what it is?
Mom: Well, God says that if we break His law even once, we deserve death. But you and Mommy, we haven’t just broken God’s law once, have we? We’ve sinned many times. In fact, the Bible says that we were born sinful, and that because of our sin, we deserve the judgment of God. This is a big problem, isn’t it?
Mom: But what do you think God did about our problem?
Child: He sent His son Jesus to die for us.
Mom: That’s right. Jesus lived a perfect life. He was never disrespectful toward His parents! But that’s not all. Jesus died on the cross. He took the punishment that we deserved for our sin. He endured God’s wrath for our sin. And then He rose again from the dead. That’s good news, isn’t it?
Mom: You and Mommy both need a Savior. But God has provided a Savior! So what do you think God would want us to do?
Mom: Yes, God says if we repent from our sin—not just disrespect, but all sin, He will forgive us. So would you like to pray to God and ask Him to forgive you?
In the preceding conversation, I am assuming that the child is demonstrating a humble, responsive posture to the correction and teaching. But this is not always the case with our children, is it? That is why each conversation with each child will sound different. But if we keep the main objective in our minds of showing them their need for a Savior, we can practice gospel-centered mothering.
One of our “Philly Friends,” Jeanne Welch, wrote to congratulate me on being “found” last week. She related an experience we thought you all should hear about—just in case any of my fellow tired moms go missing!
“I am so glad you found Kristin,” she wrote. “Once, when my boys were little, I fell asleep on the floor of my bedroom and ended up UNDER my bed, sound asleep. Next time you lose her check there….”
So, if you can’t find Mom, make sure to check under the bed!
Looks like we found Kristin.
She’s right where I thought she would be, taking great care of her kiddos (my nephews!).
You’re the best, Kess!
Where am I, Janelle?
Here’s where I am…
I’m in our bedroom, trying to stay awake during morning devotions.
I’m in the kitchen, pouring bowls of Rice Krispies.
I’m in the car, running errands to the soundtrack of my children’s worship cd.
I’m at the mall, and Liam is hitting Owen with his shoe.
I’m in the candy store, endeavoring to buy some peace and quiet.
I’m at the townhouse, unpacking all our stuff from the move.
I’m in the playroom, picking up Legos and army men.
I’m at the changing table, disposing of another stinky diaper.
I’m in the kitchen again, preparing cheese and watermelon for lunch.
I’m on my hands and knees, wiping up Andrew’s spilt milk.
I’m on the bed, catching a nap while the boys sleep.
I’m at the park, running after Liam who is trying to escape.
I’m on the couch, comforting Owen who fell and bumped his head.
I’m in the living room, trying to keep Liam’s dirty feet off the furniture.
I’m back in the playroom, picking up more Legos.
I’m in the kitchen, making dinner.
I’m on the phone, arranging a play-date with another mom.
I’m at eye level with Andrew, correcting him for complaining, and reminding him that he needs a Savior.
I’m in the bathroom, giving three cute boys a bath.
I’m in the boy’s room, reading The Gospel for Children. (I’m thankful it’s for mommies too.)
I’m in bed, wondering how many hours of sleep I’ll get tonight.
I’m in the laundry room, changing wet sheets. It’s 1:00 a.m.
Where am I? I’m in the middle of motherhood.
And there’s no place else I’d rather be!
If you’re in the middle of motherhood, I hope this quote my Mom passed along to me encourages you too.
“A mother…by her planning and industry night and day, by her willfulness of love, by her fidelity, she brings up her children. Do not read to me the campaigns of Caesar and tell me nothing about Napoleon’s wonderful exploits. For I tell you that, as God and the angels look down upon the silent history of that woman’s administration, and upon those men-building processes which went on in her heart and mind through a score of years;—nothing exterior, no outward development of kingdoms, no empire-building, can compare with what mother has done. Nothing can compare in beauty, and wonder, and admirableness, and divinity itself, to the silent work in obscure dwellings of faithful women bringing their children to honor and virtue and piety.” Henry Ward Beecher
Gene Fedele, ed. Golden Thoughts of Mother, Home & Heaven , (Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos, 2003), pp.75-76.