As I watched Great Britain's royal wedding, I was drawn into a story that was both familiar and distant. The world of royalty and celebrity rarely touches the simple life of a ministry couple out for dinner in Oxford (that would be us). And yet, as I listened to Harry and Meghan exchange vows I was struck by the common tradition of Christian marriage we share with the new couple. All believing couples stand on the same ground, beginning a life together with the same commitment expressed in two simple couplets: "Do you" and "I do." They are words of faith and will.
What does that have to do with parenting, you may be asking? It just seemed so timely and serendipitous to me how those couplets parallel the two heartbeats of parental lifegiving that Sally and I discuss in this week's podcast: strengthening your child's faith, and shaping your child's will. The vows of Christian marriage are a metaphor of the vows we are preparing our children to take with Jesus. "Do you take Me to be your Lord" is a matter of faith, believing in what is being promised. "Yes, I do" is a matter of will, choosing to follow with all one's life.
As parents, we are in effect giving God's life to our children by helping them flesh out the words of the old hymn: "Trust and obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to truth and obey." Strengthening your child's faith and shaping your child's will is the path for them to finding their life in Christ, just as every marriage begins with belief and willingness. Let the short paragraphs below from the book prime your heart for this week's podcast.
From "Strengthening Your Child's Faith":
"God sees a valid and even vibrant faith in children of all ages--in your children! As lifegiving parents, make it your commitment to look for that faith in your children, acknowledging and affirming it whenever you can. It probably won't sound like adult faith, and that's as it should be. It's an innocent and seedling kind of faith that should be watered, cultivated, and tended. It's possible you'll be tempted to correct its immature or misdirected expressions or, perhaps worse, to just ignore it; but resist either urge. Instead, engage your children's faith and draw it out. Give them room to grow, and help give their faith even more expression. Since you'll be following Jesus' teachings on children, there should be no better way to bring the life of God into your home."
From "Shaping Your Child's Will":
"For a lifegiving parent, shaping your children's wills is about influencing their hearts to want to do the will of God. You don't shape your children's wills just so they'll be good decision makers; you shape their wills so they will be prepared to do God's will when it is clearly known and act on other biblical principles when it is not. It's never just an impersonal or logical process; it's about a personal and spiritual relationship with the Lord. That's why shaping your children's wills is a heartbeat of lifegiving parenting--you are connecting them with the living God."