Several years ago, when I tried to read my oldest son a story from his first children’s Bible, he tried to eat the cover. And the pages. It was not surprising, since he was still drinking a bottle and not yet age 1.
He was still learning the concept of “books.”
But perhaps he was on to something and just took it too far. After all, Scripture does say that we are not to “live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
We give our children bread (food), and we are to feed them God’s Word, too. In fact, that’s what God told the Israelites. In Deuteronomy, God tells parents to teach children His Word “when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 11:19).
Parents, then, have the responsibility not just for their own spiritual condition, but for their children’s, too. Children’s Bible story books — also known as children’s Bibles — are a good start.
Perhaps I should have seen it coming. My 5-year-old son and I were getting on our bicycles, preparing to take a leisurely ride down the road, when he gave me an ultimatum.
“Dad, don’t get on your phone one bit.”
A dozen things entered my mind. Can I go 30 minutes without looking at my iPhone? What if, during one of our stops, I want to check my email or look at the latest news on Twitter, or even open the Weather Channel app when I see that dark cloud on the horizon?
“OK,” I said.
So for 30 minutes we rode down the road, had a pleasant time, and I survived.
Humans always have had distractions from the more important things in life, but I sometimes wonder if smartphones — through the marvel of technology – have compiled every distraction into one handy handheld device. They’re tiny portals into the entire world, with a seemingly infinite amount of possibilities.
Sometimes, the most humorous moments as a parent can be packed full of spiritual lessons.
For instance, recently my 19-month-old son stuck his hand in the toilet and was ready to lick his fingers, until I stopped him. He was as giddy as could be, giving me a big toothy smile. “No,” I told him, “You don’t play in the toilet. That’s icky.” But he was still grinning, ready to dive back in.
Weeks later, I placed him in a toddler swing, buckled him up, and proceeded gently to push him. He liked it for about half a second but began crying, and so I got him out. He then ran away from it.
I probably won’t ever forget that sequence of events: My son wanted that which could make him sick but rejected that which would bring him happiness. If you’re a parent, you’ve probably seen that sequence, too, in some form. Over and over.
I think God gives us situations like that to make us laugh, yes, but also to give us a picture of ourselves. After all, my youngest son is me. And you. Every day. Don’t we regularly want that which brings sickness and death (sin) and reject that which brings joy (God)?
One of the greatest moments as a father is walking into the house and seeing your smiling children jump in joy at your mere appearance. My youngest son, at 19 months, will blare out “Daaaaad!” at the top of his lungs, often winning the “loudest” and “biggest smile” contest. His brown-eyed twin sister, just as excited, will run to me, ponytail swaying back and forth, wanting me to pick her up and kiss her. And my eldest son will squeeze me tight, excitedly telling me about the frog he caught that day or the unidentified bug he trapped.
Those are the moments when you want to stop time and treasure, forever.
Then there are those not-so-great moments when you mess up as a father. Once, I sent my eldest son to his room when I misunderstood the situation and he in fact had done nothing wrong. Another time, I failed to follow through on a promise I had made to him. Still another time, I raised my voice when it wasn’t warranted.
As parents, we have several biblical roles. One is to rear our children in a loving home and to teach them to obey, thereby preparing them for a life of obeying a holy God who loves them even more. Another role, though, is to model for them the life of a Christian. That is, they should see in us not only their authority figure, but also a fellow sinner, and hopefully a fellow brother or sister in Christ. They should observe us praying to God and reading His Word, and they should see us serving others and living a life of obedience to our Creator.