Discipling Leah – Motherhood and Discipleship

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holding hands with Leah

Being new to this whole parenting thing, I’ve thought a lot about what makes me a good mom.  I’ve been overwhelmed by all the things I need to teach Leah. I need to teach her good manners, have her memorize Scripture, show her how to walk and eventually how to cook and clean a house.

And maybe it’s a new mom thing, but I’m constantly questioning myself: Did she eat enough vegetables? Am I forgetting to teach her a skill she should be learning? Why did I get impatient with her just now? Did I read a book to her today? How am I going to home school her?

But you know, as overwhelming as all these thoughts are, they are not what really concerns me. I know that my single, most important job is to teach my little girl about Jesus. To disciple her. I can teach her all the “things” that would make her a “good little Christian.” You know, read your Bible, pray, don’t swear, don’t lie, or cheat or steal. But that’s not what makes you a follower of Jesus. I don’t want to teach her religion; I want to teach her how to have a relationship. I want to teach her that the things we read about in the Bible are real, not just nice stories. I have to model a Christ-like life to her. A real, spirit-filled life that actually lines up with the Bible. I have to be. like. Jesus.

And, well, THAT is what really concerns me. It shakes me to the core. It scares me that the behavior I model every day has the potential to drive her either to or away from Christ. You see, I might not know how to teach Leah some of the things I mentioned earlier. But I can learn. However,  if being a good mom really means being like Jesus . . . I will fail every time.

Discipling does not equal perfection

The good news is, I don’t have to be perfect to disciple others. Even the apostle Paul openly admitted his faults to believers, yet in the same letter, encouraged them to follow his godly example. We’ve all been around someone whose very presence exudes the spirit of Christ. Take my husband for example. He has had both professing believers and non believers ask him why his behavior was so different from others. And you guys, as amazing as he is, he does have his faults. I’ve also been around other Christians and sensed that they were fellow believers without them having to utter a word about Jesus.

The difficulty in discipling those within your own household is that the ones closest to you unfortunately get to witness many, if not all, of your faults. They’re going to really notice when your words don’t line up with your actions. Children especially are great observers and imitators. But there’s a flip side to this. They are usually better at forgiving you too. So I think the key here is to be sincere. Be willing to admit when you are wrong. Don’t hold your children to a higher standard than yourself. Get down to their level, ask forgiveness, and try again.

My other thought is that you need to actually be with Christ. Be quiet before Him. Spend time in his presence. Love him. I like to think of the story of Moses whose face is radiant when he comes down the mountain after communing with God. If I really love God, people won’t be able to help but notice a difference in the way I live. Christ-like actions will pour effortlessly out of a believer whose heart is totally consumed with love for her God. As Paul says, if we walk with the Spirit, we will not satisfy the desires of our sinful nature (Galatians 5:16).

If our children see that we really love God and are living for Him and pouring our lives out for others instead of our own desires and wishes, I can’t help but think that will make an impression on them. Ultimately we can’t make them choose to follow Christ. We can invite them on our mission to serve others. We can make a Christ-filled life attractive to them. But the decision of who or what they will commit their lives to is theirs alone to make.

Prayer is everything

Deuteronomy chapter 6 gives us some instructions on how we should disciple our children. Besides loving the Lord with all of our hearts, it tells us to get the words of God inside us so we can teach our children, and that we are to talk about Him constantly throughout the day – like when we get up in the morning, as we do laundry and dishes, while we eat, and before we go to bed at night. To make sure we don’t forget his commands, we can even place physical reminders before our eyes.

. . . Is it just me, or does it seem like with everything that goes into being a godly parent, somehow it’s all too easy to forget the most important piece of our “job” – and that is to pray? Unless I ask for God’s help, it’s simply impossible for me to keep going without burning out and to have the wisdom to respond to each situation that arises. And here’s another really sobering thought: according to the Bible, not everyone one will be saved. So we should be praying diligently for our children’s souls. Pray without ceasing. And pray for specific needs in accordance with God’s will.

In her book, Set Apart Motherhood, Leslie Ludy tells the story of how Hudson Taylor’s mother wrestled in prayer for him one night until she was certain that his soul had been saved. Hudson later came to tell her that he had made the decision to follow Christ. He went on to become the famous missionary to China that many know of today. This story is encouraging to me, because Hudson’s mother is a wonderful relatable example of how “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

We may not be able to make our children choose Christ, but we can pray for them until they do!

As I write this, my little girl is just eighteen months old. I’ve already seen her personality begin to emerge as she enters this stage of toddlerhood. I’m sad to see my “baby” start to grow up, though she’s still one in my mind, but excited to see how independent she is becoming. At times, her stubborn, willful attitude amazes and shocks me – I’m not quite sure how to discipline this child, much less disciple her! But mostly, I imagine what an awesome, strong and capable woman of God she will become once she chooses to follow Him. I pray that I will remain faithful and fulfill the part I have been given to play in her life. As mothers we get to shape future men and women for Christ. People who will change the world! I mean, what a blessing it is to be called to motherhood! I pray that these words will challenge you and encourage you in your own journey as you disciple your children. As always, feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.

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