by Sherry Ward

  As morning arrived, I lay in bed nursing the baby until she fell back to  sleep; then came the sensitive task of switching her back from the edge of  the bed to the space between her father and me, where she often ends up spending  the remainder of the ``night.''  This morning, as she rested safely between  us, the title of a newly-released remake of an old Disney movie came to mind:   The Parent Trap.  I haven't seen the new version, but the one with  Hayley Mills and Brian Keith I have seen nearly enough times to have the dialogue memorized.  In the movie, it is the job of  two children to bring their parents back into a loving relationship, and they succeed beautifully after several trials and setbacks.  You could say that as parents, we have a similar job, to unite our children with our Heavenly Father and Brother.  Like the girls in the movie, we have a rival for the affections of our children and many other obstacles to be overcome along the path to union and love.

The Purpose of Family

      To begin at the begining, we know that God commanded Adam and Eve to  marry and to be ``fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue  it.''(Gen. 1:28)  God wanted more than just caretakers for the earth to come from this union; as we read in Mal. 2:15, the purpose for creating a man and a woman and making them one flesh was simply ``...because He was seeking a Godly offspring....'' In other words, God gave us marriage and the family so that we would raise children who would love God.  Jesus repeats this desire for a relationship with our children in Matt 19:22:  ``Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not!''

    I Cor. 7:14 tells us that when we as parents enter into a relationship  with God, He in His love opens a door also to our children, setting them apart  and making it easier for them to come to Him.  This is a great blessing that  God has given to us and our children, and it is up to us as Christian parents  to truly value this gift and to teach our children to value it.

But How?

              We live in an evil world. Very few, even non-Christians, would  deny that sentiment.  The world is filled with poverty-not only of purse, but more importantly of soul and purpose-and each man, as the book of Judges states many times, ``does what is right in his own eyes.''  The end result is a world which provides easy excuses to our children to avoid holiness, and frankly, many of us as parents raised in this world have bought into the idea that we have little or no say in the outcome of our children's lives.  The Bible disagrees. Prov.22:6 says, ``Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.''  We practice this every day in the physical focus  of our child rearing-we teach our children to eat and dress and walk and read, and we would be utterly shocked if when they became adults they turned around and ``forgot'' how to do these things-yet when it  comes to spiritual matters, we fully expect our children to forget our teachings.

      Many of us as parents have been subtly influenced by the god of  this world and have fallen for a subtle but persuasive deceit: that we neither  can nor have the right to expect to influence our children in their relationship  with God.  This is false.  In fact, we will help to determine much of our  children's relationship with God by either actively encouraging them to seek  God or passively persuading them that their relationship with Him is their  own business and of no major importance to us.  The latter would be a sad  legacy indeed!  We have both the right and the need to train our children to follow God, and if we doour part, God will bring them to Himself just as He brought us to Himself.

God's Little Handbook For Parents and Teens

       God has not left us to our own devices in trying to raise holy children.   He has given us the whole Bible to help guide us, and one particular book-the  book of Proverbs-is written from a parent to a growing child and offers many  keys to teaching holiness to our children.  In the opening words of this book, the purpose is clearly laid out: ``for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair;...''(Prov. 1:2-3)

     This book is very appealing to teens; I know it was to me.  Even  when I was not disciplined enough to read all the rest of the Bible, this book was my daily companion.  One thing that God gives teens in abundance is a desire for justice and ``fair play''-not always to practice it, but always to understand it.  This book provides a short form for learning these important Godly characteristics.  A child who is learning the wisdom contained in the Proverbs will not easily forget it, even if,for a time, he or she chooses not to practice it.

      In my early teens, I spent many hours with the book of Proverbs.   It was important to me to learn how to be a good Christian woman, and so,  of course, I spent a lot of time with Proverbs 31.  I learned much from the  traditional interpretation of this chapter, but I remember once doing an in-depth word study on every part of that woman's life that changed my own life forever.  I learned to have respect for what God could do through me as a woman, despite growing up in a religious culture that at times saw women as another male appendage.Beyond this, I found a wealth of information in Proverbs that taught me to be, and to choose, a good friend.  In this day and age it is important for our children to know how to choose Godly companions.

Final Thoughts

      An excuse often repeated among us parents is the simple fact that we  live in times far worse than any we have ever known before, and it just being  ``realistic'' to accept that our children may never have a right relationship  with God.  I think that this will not hold water with God.  In 1 Cor. 10:13,  Paul tells us that no temptation has come upon us except what is common to  all men.  We do live in unholy times:  awful music, no morality in our political  officials, indecency in all its forms is the style of the day.  Gay rights,  abortion rights, neo-Nazis and gangs.... The world seems so full of terrors  and enemies that our job as parents seems overwhelming at times, but it isn't.   These conditions are not new; they  have been with us since the world began.   Imagine being a Christian in the court of  Nero, or during the Inquisition,  or, for less traumatic times, during the Gold Rush days.  It has never been  easy to be a Christian or to raise holy offspring, but God has always made it possible.  In the second part of  I Cor. 10:13, Paul tells us that whenever we are in temptation, God makes a way of escape.  This is also true for our children, but they must know God in order to find the right path to walk. In his book Right From Wrong   1 , Josh McDowell describes events in Israel as running in cycles: first there would be crisis, then deliverance and peace, and then new crisis.  He identifies the problem, both then and now,as a problem of teaching and child rearing.  In each crisis, Israel turned to God, and He delivered them. That generation would diligently teach God and His law and salvation to their children, who would grow up inpeace and prosperity.  In the next generation, many times, belief abounded, but the focus of the people was on prosperity and its continuance, not on holiness.  That is what the next generation learned to value, because holiness was not actively taught to them.  Their children would not know God, and the next crisis would come along and start the cycle over again.

     This can be true in Christian families.  It often happens that our  children do not follow God because we focus on teaching them how to earn a  living more than on how to really live!  Then our grandchildren suffer crisis  and have to come back to a God they never knew.  This is sad because it does  not have to happen, but we often choose it.

     We can break that cycle, though.  We can use the gentleness of  The Parent Trap while we still have our children's attention and lead them into a right relationship with God- one that when they are old, they will not turn from.

  About the Author: Sherry Ward is the mother of four children:  Tim(15), Rebekah(12), Andrew(9) and Emily(1.7).  Her time is divided pretty  equally between homeschooling the children and biblical studies and discussions.   As a child of the WCG, she has a vested interest in celebrating the blessings  and culture of the only church home she has known since the age of five.  Sherry currently lives in  Oxford, Ohio, with her husband Doug, her children and two dogs. When not writing and teaching, she can be found in the water at the Miami University Recreational Sports Center, where she enjoys aqua-aerobics.   Sherry was baptized into the Body of Christ by way of the WCG in 1977 and  currently attends the Cincinnati West congregation.


1 Chapter 4, ``From Generationto Generation to Generation,'' pp. 45-52.


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