In our parenting, Vince and I view one thing to have priority over all other things: teaching our children about God. In other words, teaching them "theology."
I want our kids to think God is awesome, because He is.
I want them to see Him everywhere they look. In a spider's web. In their fingertip. In the flavor of their favorite food. Even in the darkness of their room.
We make it a habit to talk about God often in our house. I want to teach my children theology.
But often times, I find myself learning theology from them. This sometimes happens in subtle ways, and sometimes in obvious ways.
Israel has an especially soft heart towards the Lord, for a 3-year old. He says and does the neatest things sometimes.
The other day, I felt sad. I was crying. He was rambling on about how he wanted to watch Cat in the Hat. But as soon as he noticed how I was feeling, he cuddled himself up to me and loved me.
"What's wrong, mommy?" he asked.
"Mommy feels sad," I responded.
"Mommy, don't be sad. Jesus loves you and He lives in your heart."
It sounds so simple, but it truly was just the reminder I needed in that moment...
One night several weeks ago, there was a loud thunderstorm outside as I was putting Israel down for bed. He was afraid. I read him Psalm 56:3: "When I am afraid, I put my trust in You." I told him that Jesus made the thunder, and He made the darkness. He didn't need to be afraid because Jesus loved him.
"Jesus will be with you all night in your bed tonight, keeping you safe. So you don't need to be afraid," I told him.
"Jesus gonna sleep in here with me?!" he seemed a little surprised. I didn't hear a peep out of him all night, despite the continuing storm. In the morning he came running into our bedroom.
"Mommy, Jesus slept with me in my bed! I wasn't afraid. See? And Jesus slept in Gracie's bed, too."
Yes... Jesus is everywhere, and we don't need to be afraid of life's storms.
Sometimes, Israel thinks Jesus is his imaginary friend. I'll catch him "playing" with Jesus. It may sound a little funny. But, I really want my kids to feel close to God and feel His presence with them. So I decided it's a good thing. And, Israel knows God is real, so why WOULDN'T they play together?
Israel also has much to teach me about the human condition. Mainly, how self-centered we all are. He is definitely at the age where he truly believes the world exists for him. Quickly, he is learning that it doesn't. He was upset the other day about not being able to listen to his little kid music in the car.
Vince said, "Israel, the world doesn't revolve around you."
Israel adamantly responded with, "Yes it DOES revolve around me! It does!"
And really, if we are honest with ourselves, my 3 year old little boy basically said what each of us grown adults really WANTS to say, or think silently to ourselves, whether it's worded that way or otherwise. And, our "default" mode of living as human beings is definitely that we are in the center of the world. It takes a great power to change that attitude in us, a power greater than ourselves. It takes Jesus living in our hearts.
Paul David Tripp, my favorite counselor and a beloved theologian, says that a primary goal we should have in our parenting is to empty our children from their self-centeredness. Of course, we cannot ultimately do this- but the gospel can. And I find it just as true that in parenting, we are also emptied more and more of our self-centeredness as we sacrifice for our children and our sin is exposed in the process. Then, as we reach out for help only God can give, He changes us.
I am humbled at the way God uses my kids to do that in my life.
And, I'm humbled at the privilege to be able to see the gospel at work in Israel's life. In so many little ways, I can see Jesus working His way into his heart and transforming it. I rejoice at that. And while I can't take credit for any of it, I am so honored to be someone God uses to draw my children to Himself.
One more little conversation, from today. I was cooking dinner, chopping an onion.
Israel: "Mommy, I want to listen to my Veggie Tales music. The Christmas one."
Me: "No, Israel, we aren't listening to that again right now."
Israel: (has a screaming fit) No! No! NOOOOO!!!! You put it on, right now!
Me: "You're being very disrespectful to mommy! You have selfishness in your heart. You need to go sit on your bed and ask Jesus to help you stop being selfish."
Israel: (after being in his room for a little while, he comes running in the kitchen): "Mommy, I think that thing with Jesus really happened."
Me: (not thinking I heard him right... did he really say that?? And I bent down to listen to him.) "What?"
Israel: "That thing with Jesus really happened. Jesus came, and he died on the cross. He died for that onion."
(I laughed pretty hard. So close!)