The following is an excerpt from my ebook, 31 Days to a Heart of Hospitality. It’s the one you’ve emailed me most about so I thought I’d share it today. If you haven’t purchased the ebook, you can do so here. All the proceeds from any copies sold today will be donated to Blood:Water Mission’s campaign 40 Days of Water, as we help build wells in Uganda. See the other bloggers who are participating in 40 Days of Water here!
I wrote this post, not because I’ve somehow got it all figured out, but because even as a veteran mom, I’m still struggling. I’m right there with you, down in the trenches, waging war, as enemies attack these kids, our family, on every side. It’s hard because it’s supposed to be hard. But don’t lose heart. Our Father will take this struggle and transform it into beautiful. He is in the business of making all things new.
I think we are mistaken when we save our best efforts at hospitality for ‘company.’ And the subtle (or not so subtle) message that we communicate to those we love most is that they aren’t quite as important or deserving of our best. And what is that ‘best’ that we have to offer them? It’s a commitment to love them by discipling them.
Disciple means to teach. We are their first and most important teachers.
As modern Americans, we seem to have lost our way when it comes to our role in our children’s lives. We love them, of course, but we seem to have forsaken the role of being their primary mentors. In generations past, children were kept closer to home and were systematically taught the fundamental lessons in life at a much earlier age. They were expected to participate in the household economy by contributing in a meaningful way to family life. These days, as long as they’re ‘out of our hair’, we are happy and so are they. And trust me, as a homeschooler, the same thing can happen regardless of whether they’re with you all the time or not.
It’s hard to live with kids in a meaningful way. Some days, I give anything to send mine off somewhere, anywhere.
But the bottom line is this: parenting with intention is so difficult. Teaching your children how to live is a daunting task. It’s much easier to be a passive spectator and blame someone else for what’s wrong in our kids and families. Teaching and mentoring and discipling them well is a nearly impossible task. But the alternative is terrifying. Undisciplined, untrained, unloving and overindulged kids become adults. Welcome to every Walmart in America.
We’re a mess.
And our only hope is to repent.
We must admit that we haven’t been the parents we should have been. We’ve been lazy and apathetic. Or we’ve been too harsh and then overindulgent out of guilt. We have chosen our own comfort and our own pleasure at the expense of their proper training.
The next time your child does something you hate—and I know, because it happens to me all the time—-take a careful look. It’s probably some variation of your own sin and poor behavior.
And you hate it in them because you loathe it in yourself. But unless you’re willing to do the hard thing and deal with your very own sin and struggle, you will never rightly deal with theirs.
You’ll minimize them, or ignore them or worse yet, you’ll overreact out of anger toward them.
Our children are like small mirrors that let us see plainly into our own corrupt hearts.
It’s God’s way of tenderly showing us our sin in a way that just might bring us to repentance.
But we are children of Adam and we’re stubborn and hard-hearted. We don’t give up easy and not usually without a fight. So, why are we surprised to see the same seed-bed of rebellion in our kids? They have learned it from the masters—-you and I and every other adult in their lives.
The only answer I can find here is Christ.
We surrender to Him all our tired excuses, all our defenses, all our stubborn anger and rebellion and we beg Him to replace our stone heart with flesh.
We beg Him to make US over first.
Then, we will be able to rightly pray for and teach our children about this cycle of repentance that we all must learn to live in, daily.
I wish there were a formula for raising gracious, hospitable and kind children. The truth is—-the path is ancient and well-worn but it’s not easy. And it will require everything from you—the kind of sacrificial love that only comes from the supernatural grace of Christ. It looks like dying to self and rising to walk in His mercy and grace. And they will watch that cycle of dying and rising, of sin and repentance, and they will learn something beautiful about the rhythm of life as a child of God.
When they see Him dig out your rebellion and anger and false humility, they will know that this Christ that we serve is not a moralist or a goody two shoes or an angry God, out to get them.
They will see the living God, in the flesh of their parents.
His love will draw them and woo them and His powerful Word will transform them.
We want cheap, superficial, behavior modification for our children. Christ wants deep abiding peace and hope for them. We want little moralists who will always choose the politically correct path. Christ wants to circumcise their hearts and make them true disciples. We want them to fit in. He died to set them apart.
We think we love them. He really does.
And He loves them so much that He is not willing to leave them as He found them. He’s so intentional about this transformation that He doesn’t even leave it to us. He lived the sinless life, walked the narrow way, lived perfectly hospitable in their stead. And in ours. So that, ultimately, we have nothing left to do. We are free, now, to love our neighbor, because everything we need has been answered in Christ.
And when we learn to live from this gift, from this bounty, the teaching will become natural. Because we’ll be giving to them from the surplus of love and joy in our own hearts.
And when we fail in this task—and yes, I said WHEN we fail, we seek refuge in the cycle of dying and rising, of sinning and repenting—-to walk in newness of life. And those whom God has given to us to walk beside us will smile—not because they see perfect parents, but because they finally see the key to living in peace with others. And that key is forgiveness.
The forgiveness won for us on the cross and delivered to us in Word and Sacrament.
So, how do you raise hospitable children?
You teach them what you are learning by living a transparent life in front of them.
Jesus said, “Go make disciples, by baptizing and teaching.”
You teach them about Him. You teach the faith, once delivered to the saints. Give them His Word and bring them regularly to the Lord’s table, where they feast on the very Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world—-even the sins of children and parents.
The thing about parenting that scares me to death is that our children usually turn out like us.
Lord, have mercy.