Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
This morning I heard a message that challenged me to my core.
If my children follow in my footsteps. If they pattern their lives after what they see me do, will it lead them to live holy before God or instead on a path to destruction?
As a wife and mother, life gets busy. It’s challenging to balance working, taking care of my family, and taking care of myself. When I was single, I had so much freedom and flexibility with my time. I remember being given the key to my church just so I could go pray. I did this for years. Whether others came and sat with me, or if I was alone, I remember those intimate moments, when just sitting before the Lord, away from the distractions of my world, I found myself lost in God’s presence. Those 30-40 minutes, or sometimes entire nights, of just talking to my Abba Father gave me such strength and humility.
Today, that no longer exists. And while I am concerned not just for my own personal walk, this morning I was even more concerned for my daughter’s.
Yes, she will learn that serving in the church is important. Yes, she will understand that worship and Bible study are imperative. Yes, she will know that mommy and daddy love Jesus.
But will she learn the power of prayer? Will I be able to teach her that her intimacy with God is what will carry her through her toughest trials?
If she doesn’t see me consult God about my deepest concerns. if she doesn’t hear me confess and lay my weaknesses at the feet of Jesus, if she doesn’t have the opportunity to sit with me in stillness and quietness before the King, how will she ever know how vital prayer and being still before God is to her life?
Will she know that without her own intimate relationship with Christ, she’s defeated before she’s even begun?
This morning’s message reminded me that I can’t just train her to do the tangible, external duties of a “good” Christian. But rather if I teach her how to grasp the internal, intangible attitudes and posture of a Christ-follower, all the external duties will result.
1 Samuel 16:7 says, “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
I know that an intimate, consistent prayer life is vital to a successful Christian walk. Not only must we know the Word of God, and worship and fellowship with other believers, we must ruthlessly pursue the heart of God by spending time alone with Him. We must allow the life of Christ to be lived through us by yielding to the ways of the Holy Spirit. We must do this not only for ourselves, but to also set an example for the next generation.
In spite of all our godly ambition. regardless of how solid of an emotional foundation or educational head start we give her, my husband and I will have failed her if she doesn’t first receive a spiritual foundation that can’t be taught in Children’s Church or Sunday School. It can only, and should only, be provided at home in those teachable moments I have with her. If she’s going to follow in my footsteps, I want to be sure they only lead her on the path of righteousness.
Diera Shaw-Mendez is a minister and youth leader at New Beginnings Worship Center, Pennsauken, NJ, and works full-time for an educational nonprofit in Philadelphia. She is wife to Chaplain Juan Mendez and mama to Olivia Joy. She spends her “spare time” running an online invitation design shop on Etsy. Diera is a God-fearing, Starbucks loving, tech junkie (…in that order!) who simply wants to remind women of God’s unchanging, healing love.