"But Jesus said, "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
I pondered all the verses that were in the New Testament when Jesus was with children. "Do not hinder them from coming to me."
I wondered, what would hinder a child from coming to Jesus--since I am the picture of Jesus in my home? Fear would--fear of harshness, fear of condemnation, fear of anger. Guilt prevented Adam and Eve from coming to God. Perhaps raising a child with constant condemnation or anger could turn little children away--at least it would turn me away if it was the atmosphere in my home.
In my quiet time one memorable day, I read the words that Jesus said, "Woe to the one who causes the least of these little ones to stumble."
Jesus takes very seriously our role with children. And so I keep searching His words, His heart.
"Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life."
After he washed the feet of his disciples, "If I did this to you, you should also do this to one another."
And then, "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:35
"By this, Sally, your children will know that you are my disciple, if you love one another--love Clay, love them, love your neighbors and friends. Love is the foundation for my laying down my life. Love must be your foundation. " He spoke to me gently in my quiet times.
Teaching my children, then, to love is the goal. To love generously, lavishly, undeservedly, as Jesus loved the disciples, as Jesus loves me.
And how did He teach them to love? By instructing, by modeling love to them, by laying down his life to serve the meek and lowly, by dying to himself and giving up all for their sake.
I know my limitations--I did not know how to love in a mature way when my children were given into my hands. I did not know how to be unselfish.
Jesus knows that I am sometimes impatient, that I am selfish, that I am still learning to be mature, but that one of the places where Jesus teaches me to be mature is in my home, as I learn to practice love, practice patience--to practice gracious, forgiving sort of loving, to practice laying down my life as I get up one more time at night, wash one more dish, correct one more attitude.
My home and what I practice there becomes my sanctification, my story of His life through mine--this home He designed, was for my own character training, because as a Father, He knows I need practice in becoming like Him.
--He has used my sweet children to make me more like Him. Learning to love them and learning how to love my husband has taught me more about his own unconditional love, than any other assignment He has given to me. So I said I wanted to be mature, and He gave me a marriage and children and He humbled me and brought me to my knees.
Now, I receive His grace and forgiveness with a more grateful heart--because I see my selfishness, my sin more clearly as I live in front of my children and am grateful that He is patient with me---
that He gives me one more chance to obey--over and over
and that does not reject me.
And so in the messy living of life, pondering Him, seeking to model Him, learning to love and model love, parenting becomes even more meaningful because I realize I cannot separate my service of Him from authentic serving of those He has placed into my hands in my home.
So, as I learn this philosophy of love by pondering Him, I teach my children how to love.
Loving them means training them, correcting them, discipling them, teaching them, so that they can learn a healthy way of life. Loving them also means practicing long suffering as Jesus did. Practicing serving as Jesus did. Teaching over and over again and forgiving---just as Jesus did.
Loving them means rocking them and singing gentle love songs.
Serving them delicious meals with joy and touching them with gentle affection.
Loving them teaches, "You may not say those unkind words, it is not the loving way of Jesus. How could you have said that in a way that gives grace?"
When a toddler throws a toy or hits a child, I grab him into my arms and say very seriously, "You may never, never hit another as that is hateful. You may only use your hands to bless and to give love. Tell him you are sorry--you must ask him for forgive you."
Loving them means helping them to recognize the roots of sin in their hearts that will bring death. And I look deeply at the heart--I correct the heart attitudes of pride, selfishness, anger, critical spirit--with the words, the truth of Jesus. I lead them to love, teach them to love, show them how to love, bring them with me in serving love in my home, to others, in my ministry.
And in loving them and instructing them and bringing them with me in this life where I am living and learning love, their hearts are softened and they in turn become lovers, they learn to forgive as they have been shown grace, they learn to lay down their lives as it has been modeled to them.
As Paul also follows the pattern of Jesus and says, "Through love, serve one another." " Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ," He also learned that to lead means to love and wrote I Cor. 13.
And Paul, the great discipler, because He loved Jesus said, "But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children."
Jesus wanted children to freely come into His presence, to know the touch of his arms wrapped around them. To know that because he designed them--their personality, their body, hair, eyes, that he would look upon them with love, listen to their jokes and antics and laugh with them. He would tenderly care for them, as he said, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep."
And so ... His word, His life, pondering Him, seeking Him, gave me a pattern, that has served to reach way down into the hearts of my children--a way to follow, and in this form of parenting, my own heart has been transformed, filled, affirmed. I will forever be different by practicing being Jesus in my home.