“Why do you think God cares about being first in people’s hearts, and how we use his name, and stuff like that?”
My daughter had to think for a minute. Her lesson in kid’s ministry this weekend was on the first four of the Ten Commandments, and while she knew what they were, I was asking a harder question: why do they matter? I went a bit deeper with her as I explained:
“Think about it this way: God’s people are supposed to show the world something of what he is like, right? That means everything we do and say, says to the world, ‘God is like this.’ Does that make sense?”
She nodded her head, and thankfully not in an “approving so we can stop talking about this” kind of way.
“So, if we say we love God, but we are always putting other things first in our lives, or we’re saying things about him that aren’t true, are we telling the world what God is really like?”
She thought for a minute. “No. Because we’d be lying about him.”
This is an example of the teachable moments I get to have with my oldest child, and I am so grateful for every opportunity I have to openly and clearly teach her about Christianity and our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. But thinking back on our morning conversation, I can’t help but think of all the other opportunities that exist—and all the other lessons she’s learning from me about who God is and what he is like (and in many cases, what he isn’t).
About how imperfect a Christian parent I am.
When I am patient with my daughter, and helping her understand a difficult concept, I’m reflecting something of God to her. When I’m inconsistent with my disciplinary actions (whether in the actions themselves or in my failure to properly explain why whatever consequence is necessary and appropriate), I risk her wondering if God is similar.
This is why we’ve tried, from as early an age as possible, to make sure all our kids know I am not perfect.[1. This applies to Emily, too, of course, but I don’t want to put words in her mouth.] That I am going to get things wrong. That I am going to need to apologize to them (and probably do it a lot). I’m going to fail them and disappoint them at least some of the time. I want them to know their dad sins as much as anyone, and is as much in need of grace and forgiveness as they are. That all the things we about together—the good news of the gospel, the need for repentance, growing to be more like Jesus—apply to me, too.
I want them to know that even when I’m at my best, Jesus is better still—and that even when I fail, God never will.
And that might be the most important lesson I can ever teach them.