Johnny Cash sang the story of a boy who shined shoes. He said that the boy was doing hard work, not for a lot of money, but he was visibly happy. Johnny wanted to know how in the world this boy could be so happy when he was working so hard and the boy replied, “Get rhythm when you get the blues. Come on, get rhythm when you get the blues. Get a rock ‘n’ roll feelin’ in your bones. Put taps on your toes and get gone. Get rhythm when you get the blues.” This boy said that he got a rhythm and it made the work not only easier but enjoyable. Parenting is hard. It’s tiring and rarely do the hardest moments happen when you are well rested, financially in a great spot, or your job is at an easy point. Life happens so fast which is why developing rhythms is that much more important. You need things in your family and in your household that are dependable and consistent for your sake and your children’s sake.
Last week we talked about the rhythm of having faith talks. Faith talks are intentional and consistent opportunities of speaking God’s Word, God’s wisdom, and God’s ways into the heart and mind of your child. We looked at what that looks like with young children, teenagers, and older children. This week I want us to consider the rhythm of faith walks. Dr. Timothy Paul Jones in his book, Family Ministry Field Guide, teaches about family rhythms. He defines family rhythm as, “a category to describe conversations about God that unfold in the context of your day-by-day life.” Faith walks may be the easiest rhythm to develop because it’s literally just utilizing what happens at any point in your life to teach your children about God. To develop these rhythms takes intentionality and flexibility. It may be one of the most important avenues that you have to teach your child about God and His presence in their lives.
Children must grow to realize that they need to trust Jesus to save them from their sins. It’s hard to stare at a precious newborn and think about that, but within a few years that toddler will be screaming “mine” intensely, will be biting other children in the nursery, and will find their way to something that you love and will drop it on the hardwood floor destroying it. Children don’t become sinners, they are born sinners. Therefore, they need their parents to be intentionally shaping their hearts and pointing their eyes towards Jesus. As a parent, God gives unique opportunities to teach your children. To teach them about sin, to teach them about Jesus, and to teach them about grace. The challenge to parents is to be looking for those opportunities and utilizing them, prayerfully, to form faith in the heart of your child. As children grow into teens, the faith forming process continues. Parents should use every situation they can to point their teens towards their need for their great Savior. It doesn’t always have to be deep, theological conversation but it should utilize little moments to teach the eternal. These faith walks start with faith forming conversations because we want our children to be saved and to know Jesus.
One very memorable faith walk from my childhood happened on a Sunday morning. We had been rushing to get everyone dressed, in the car, and to church on time. My dad came out to help my mom unload all of us and to get us to our Sunday school classes. As we were walking from the parking lot into the church my dad noticed a bush that was completely covered in a huge spider’s web. He pointed out the bush and explained that sin covers our hearts like that web covered the bush. I am horribly, terrified of spiders so the image really stood out to me. Analogous to the spider web, my heart and my life are covered with sin apart from the substitutionary work of Jesus that removes my sin. My dad hadn’t planned that and it wasn’t a deep study, but I haven’t forgotten those words. How can you take time this week to speak the message of the Gospel into the hearts of your children?
When God saves your children, the conversation moves from faith-forming conversation to faith-informing conversation. Parents are to be the disciple-makers of their children. The Lord has blessed you by giving you children, not for you to idolize them, but for you to train them and send them out to the world with His power and for His mission. Faith walks with children who are saved means discipleship. You can utilize every situation in your life, and in their life, to help them grow in their knowledge of God’s Word and in their trust of God’s plan. Again, this isn’t about the depth of the conversation but about your presence and intentionality. The Lord has prepared you to be a disciple-maker by bringing you through the unique situations of your life. You can share with your child as they go through situations that you have gone through. You can share how God led you, grew you and used you. If your child is going through something you have not been through and cannot relate to, you have friends, family, and a local church you can pull wisdom from. The point is to teach them that God is there, and that He is working. You are also helping them to understand that God’s Word has something to say about their lives. This is a great reason to be growing relationally with your child so that you can speak God’s Word into their lives.
I went through a very painful season a little over a year ago. I found myself in a place I never thought I would be and I had no clue what to do. I had moved to California to help plant a church and 10 months in the guy I was planting with decided that we could no longer work well together and he asked me to leave. I was afraid, hurt, depressed, and lost. My mom would call me, text me, and email me regularly to speak hope and truth into my heart. She knew me well so she would text me John Piper quotes. She would call to just listen and would ask my insightful questions so she could listen more closely. She would send care packages for my boys, Rachael, and I to keep us upbeat. She walked with me through the hard places and sought to keep my eyes on God and not my situation. She informed my faith in such practical ways that I can look back and see how God radically grew me and used me in that season. How can you walk with your children and inform their faith today?
Life with God is all about growing in Christ-likeness. There are two ways in which that happens, obedience or discipline. We obey God and find His ways to be better or, we disobey, thinking our own ways better and the Lord disciplines us. Discipline can come in the form of consequences, lost joy and peace, a brother or sister in Christ confronting us, or a church confronting us. The purpose of that pain is our transformation. Sometimes as a parent, a faith walk looks like a confrontation. If your child is in sin, you confront them and discipline them because you love them and you know that God loves them. Discipline should always flow from love and not anger. Dr. Jim Hamilton once encouraged me that if you are going to spank your child it should be on the first infraction of your rules so that it is instructive and not on the fifth infraction of your rules when you are disciplining them out of frustration. Love is should always be the motivation for discipline. As life happens, and it will, your child will rebel against you and ultimately against God. You need to have faith walks in those moments. It is crucial for their sanctification.
I have many examples of these situations that I could share, but one specific faith transforming moment in my past happened when I was 17. I was having dinner with my parents and some family friends, including their daughter, who was close to my age. She and I decided to go back to my house to watch a movie and left the restaurant a few minutes before my parents did. When we got to the house we went upstairs towards the family room and wound up in my room. Nothing happened, but when my parents came home a few minutes later they found us in my room. My parents confronted me right then about breaking their rules. One major rule growing up, especially in high school, was no girls were allowed in my bedroom. My parents not only confronted me, but took the time to explain why this rule was so important. On a surface level, it didn’t look good for either of us and it only takes one rumor, one comment for reputations to be destroyed. On another level, we were setting ourselves up for temptation to take control. My parents could have sent her home, grounded me, or any number of scenarios but they took the time to talk to us both and helped us grow through that situation. How can you use a discipline scenario this week to have a faith transforming moment?
Faith walks require you to be active as a parent. They require you to know your child and their heart. If your child is not a believer, you should be seeking opportunities to teach them about their need for Jesus and what He has done for them. If they are believers you are to edify them, which means you are to encourage and teach them. Speak God’s Word into their lives and over their lives. As a parent, you will have to discipline your child but you can do so in such a way that you are actually helping them to grow in their walk with God and in their sanctification. You need to develop the rhythm of faith walks because it will transform your house and your interactions with your children to press them and point them towards Jesus. Develop the rhythm of faith walks. In the words of Johnny Cash, “Get some rhythm.”