When we sit down for dinner, part of our family conversation involves each person telling their high point and low point of the day and then answering the question, “How did you see God moving today?” At first, our kids didn’t know how to answer the question. They would usually reply, “pass”. One night, I remember my daughter Rhema bravely giving it a shot, “Today I saw the clouds moving, but I didn’t see God moving.” My husband and I laughed inside at her very literal perspective.
With time, as my husband and I shared how God was active in our day, through the encouragement of a friend or the power of His word to change us, our kids began to have a context for how God works in our daily lives. Just months into our endeavor, our kids were sharing about Him giving them peace when they felt nervous in a new situation or how He helped them have patience with a sibling when they felt frustrated.
The truth is that we cannot generate the fruit of the Spirit in the hearts of our kids. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is developed in our lives through relationship with God. It’s not the fruit of “try harder” or “be better.” He transforms us to bear His character. So while we don’t want to produce counterfeit fruit with mere outward obedience in our kids, I believe there are things we can do to point them towards authentic transformation.
The list of fruit noted in Galatians 5 starts with perhaps the most mysterious and elusive to us all, love.
God’s word tells us that God is love (1 John 4:16). So when we have relationship with God, we know love. When God is at work within us, we display His love.
But how do we help our kids learn to actually recognize God’s love at work?
We can help give our kids a framework: seeing what God’s love looks like in daily life.
It starts with our pursuit of the Holy Spirit. We want our children to recognize the work of Christ in our lives and want His work in their own. Our daily lives are the greatest witness to the transforming power of Christ. A recent study at Fuller Theological Seminary shows parents continue to be the single greatest influence on their child’s faith. That can be quite humbling when we think about our mess-ups, but our inadequacy is all the more reason to share Christ as our source. We don’t live under the pretense of perfection. Most nights at the dinner table, we also share a mistake we made that day. This isn’t a time to pile on shame, but actually the opposite. It creates a safe space to share our need for a Savior. We will stumble and fail to display God’s love in our lives, but we teach the Gospel message by speaking our continued dependence on Jesus. When we are open and share our struggles and mis-steps, our kids get to be first-hand witnesses to how God redeems through His perfect love.
We can give our kids vocabulary: hearing phrases and ideas that frame God’s love in daily life.
Our words can take the abstract and make God’s love real to our kids. Just like at the dinner table, the more we shared our experiences of God moving in our lives, the more our kids could see Him working in their own lives. We want to talk about God’s love to give our kids the vocabulary that will help them recognize His love in their lives and the lives of others.
This week, let’s be intentional to talk about and point out God’s love. It might sound like, “God’s love never fails” or “His love always pursues.”
God’s love cannot be measured. It is a never-ending source. In Ephesians, Paul prays that the church would know “how wide, and how long, and how high and how deep His love is.” He continues, “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.” This week we are writing on strips of paper the ways that we see God’s love in our lives. We are going to make them into a paper chain and keep adding to it all week. At the end of the week we will see how far it measures….and all of that was in only a week! Imagine God’s love for each person over his or her lifetime. When we celebrate God’s immeasurable love and ask Him to fill us with His Spirit, we can shift the atmosphere in our homes and help our children pursue relationship with Christ.
Robin Whitford serves on the Family Ministry Team at National Community Church where her husband Mike is a Campus Pastor. The California natives make their home on Capitol Hill with their children Michaela, Rhema and Caleb. Robin is sustained by Jesus and a stiff cup of joe.