Parents make many decisions. And I suppose one could argue that the most vital one is the answer to the question “Will we have children?” In former generations, that wasn’t really an option most of the time. When a man and woman married, they assumed that they would have children and usually welcomed the idea. But since the feminist movement popularized and promoted the concept of birth control, there are varying views on “having kids.” Some couples today choose not to have children at all or to wait until parenting fits in with their career paths. I am not focusing on all the angles of birth control today except to say that it seems wrong from a biblical perspective to separate the blessing of children from the marriage package. And of course, there is the other side of the coin where cohabiting couples bring children into an environment that isn’t really a biblical home, and the many ramifications of that have a decided effect. So, I am glad that my parents united in the covenant of marriage and then gave life to me and my two brothers.
Ours was a blessed childhood, almost idyllic in my memory. We were taught from our earliest days about the God of heaven and His plan of salvation and His constant watch-care of us. We were nurtured and mentored and disciplined and read to and instructed and encouraged. We were taught to respect our elders and use good manners and accept difficulties by leaning on God’s grace. We were not spoiled; my parents did not have the resources to do that and were not inclined to do so if they had. But we were part of an extended family that laughed and prayed and talked together and therefore were rich in relatives and wonderful togetherness. We always knew we could depend on our parents; their walk with Jesus was real and influenced everything they did as a couple and then influenced every nuance of our family life.
But there are three “big” decisions that I believe had a major impact on my brothers and me – our worldview, college and career choices and personal relationships as well as our desire to make our parents’ God our own.
- Honoring God’s House and God’s Day
My parents were ministering in traveling evangelism when I, the eldest in my family, was born and continued doing so until I was age twelve. So my brothers and I were literally “raised in church.” Those were the days of extended ten-day revival meetings and every two weeks, we were in a different location, in nightly services. This was our life for about six to seven months of the year. It must have been hard with small children but my parents did an amazing job of teaching us to respect God’s House, the church. We were never allowed to run or play in the sanctuary (though once my brother, Jim, and I initiated a new church where my parents were setting up by rolling under the pews from the back to the front of the church – quite sure that was not my parents’ idea!) We were taught that there was something special about the place where we worshipped, and it was to be respected. But my parents also showed us it was very important to honor God’s Day – Sunday. Even after our family stopped traveling and my father became a local pastor, Sunday rest and worship was the way we observed the “Sabbath.” Going to church twice on Sunday with family dinner and rest in the afternoon was a way of life and something we came to appreciate and then replicate in our own families. We always dressed in our best for Sunday and Sunday dinner was the best meal of the week. I believe this practice gave us a foundation for the way to order the week and taught us that one must offer to God one’s best, even in the clothing one chooses to wear to worship Him. And when one starts the new week by focusing on God and His Word and spending time around the noon meal together as a family, balance and proper priority is established.
Giving God the whole day and not just a part of the morning is not only good discipline, but is in keeping with the 4thCommandment which is still part of God’s Law for us to follow. Going to service twice may not be expressly stated in the Bible, but “not forsaking the assembling of yourselves” is mentioned (Hebrews 10:25) and I have observed that when one does not have structure for Sunday, it soon fills with other things. Going to evening service keeps one from filling God’s Day with other activities and puts the soul under still more instructive teaching and encouraging fellowship. Besides, there is a unique “aura” to Sunday evening service, different from Sunday morning worship. It is a gathering of God’s family, doing life together and supporting one another. As my husband used to say “Church is the Sunday night place to be.”
I believe that because my parents established these practices in their home and trained us to see it as good and natural, my brothers and I actually like going to church and see it as necessary for our spiritual welfare.
2. Sacrificing to Give Us a Christian Education
When I was still quite young, my parents heard a presentation by Attorney David Gibbs, Jr. on the important of Christian education. He made a statement that one could not give a child “a Christian heart and a pagan mind” and expect him or her not to struggle later in life. My parents saw the truth of that statement and made Christian education a nonnegotiable in our family. It cost them much. It cost them in convenience during our traveling days by the long hours spent on our homeschooling. It cost them in finances; they had a lot less than they might have otherwise. And my mother had to go to work to make the tuition payments to the Christian school we attended when we were home. She spent weary hours every week cleaning other people’s houses so that we could be students at Victory Christian Academy in Shelbyville, Tennessee. It cost them in miles driven when other couples’ kids were picked up by the bus.
But I am oh, so grateful. The value of a Christian worldview cannot be overstated. It comes through in so many aspects of education – origins of life, historical perspective, literature requirements, attitude toward winning and much more. Because we attended a Christian school which was well-run and was oriented toward shaping Christian character, we emerged after graduation with not only an excellent education but also a grasp of Scripture and life that continues to benefit us.
I firmly believe that many Christian teens depart from their faith because of the pagan way of thinking that they develop while they are surrounded many hours a day by an educational system and by other students who do not honor God. Often, the influence of the students is as much to blame as the curriculum. Christian teachers in public schools can do a tremendous amount of good but they cannot totally nullify the effect of the other factors.
And because we have seen the positive results in our own lives, my brother and I have also chosen to put our children in Christian education. Talking with someone the other day about this choice, I stated that “when you want certain kind of children, you raise them in certain ways.” And that is the philosophy that guided my parents in their decision. You look at the outcome you desire and then make your decisions accordingly.
The pastor of the church which ran the Christian school we attended once gave Ecclesiastes 3:12 as an illustration of the importance of Christian education – “. . . .a threefold cord is not easily broken.” When a child has a godly home, godly church and godly school, he or she will not be as easily swayed by Satan’s schemes.
3. Choosing Not to Have a Television
This is always a controversial issue, but since I am speaking of my own childhood, I will give my opinion from that perspective.
I benefitted from not having a television in the home where I was raised. You have heard this before but yes, we were more creative, more inclined to read, more inclined to play out of doors and less inclined to waste time sitting inside. And we were not overly exposed to the philosophies of the media and the secular marketplace. For, no matter how careful one is in guarding the television programming, there is no way I know of to ascertain which commercial will be playing in the next break. And oft as not, it will be using sex to sell something or embracing an anti-biblical mindset toward fashion and possessions. And then there is the problem of the “theology” one picks up from reality shows and “Oprah-like” shows which is usually not of the biblical persuasion and contributes greatly to the erroneous beliefs of our generation. My husband calls this conglomerate belief system “folk theology” and it is rampant today. People today have pieced together a philosophy about God and salvation that sounds good to them, but is often false.
From my exposure to television programming (not including Christian stations, though many of them teach a prosperity–type gospel which also is in contradiction to the Bible), it is very difficult to assimilate the offerings of television with the doctrine and principles of the Bible. The power of the visual images is great and a young impressionable child is very much affected by the philosophies that are hidden in every program.
Now, I know this is not quite so much a “black and white” matter (pun intended!) as it used to be. Seriously, with the technological developments of our time, television does not refer only to “the set” but to matter available on the Internet from a great many devices. It is more difficult today. But no matter, it is still urgent that parents make thoughtful and careful decisions about what viewing is offered to their children. I, for one, am glad that my parents chose not to make television programming accessible to me and my brothers. There were less ungodly voices speaking into my life and heart and less false messages for me to offset in other ways. And it was much easier to face these pagan ideas as a young adult because I had been so carefully molded as a child.
Yes, parents must often make difficult decisions. And these decisions may be very unpopular with their children. But parents are not called to be their children’s buddies, but their guides, mentors, caretakers. Later in life, parents may be their children’s friends if they have first taken their other roles seriously. My parents understood that they were responsible before God for the way they raised my brothers and me. They wanted to steward their duty well, and they proved it by the tough decisions they made. I have illustrated just three of them but there were many. Today, I rise up to call them blessed. They were and are faithful parents who reflect the Heavenly Father well. I want the same to be said of me.