“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2
“The best things your children will learn about God will be from watching you try to find out for yourself. Jesus said, ‘Seek and you will find.’ They will not
always do what you tell them to do, but they will be—good and bad—as they see you being. If your children see you seeking, they will seek—the finding part is up to God.” Polly Berrien Berends
- Open your Bible and read about how Jesus follows what His Father does in John 5:19-20. How does this passage help us understand our role with our
heavenly Father and our role as models for our children to follow?
Creating an Environment of Modeling
One of my favorite things about children is how they mimic almost anything or anyone with great precision. When my kids were little, I marveled at how they could imitate anyone from pop singers to cartoon characters. It was especially funny when one of them candidly imitated a family member, exposing their bad behavior and in effect, saying what we all wanted to say but couldn’t.
However, it wasn’t as funny when that child mimicked something unpleasant that I had modeled by my actions. Once, upon correction, my daughter reminded me she was only doing what she had just witnessed me doing. She was right. I had been caught.
I realized very quickly that raising children was like holding up a very large and animated mirror—and sometimes I didn’t like what I saw! You see, there are times when we don’t even realize the things we are passing down to our children just because they live among us and learn from us in every one of life’s situations.
Some of these things are commendable. For instance, my husband and I have passed down to our children an ability to interact with people of diverse ages, races, and cultures. I also modeled how to keep a clean room by making my bed every morning and picking up the house before going to bed. Yet other things I’ve modeled are not so praiseworthy. I seem to consistently run about five to ten minutes late. I don’t like this about myself, and today, I try to be prompt. But as a young mom I modeled being late and not making time a priority. As a result, my daughter has struggled with this same issue, and it pains me to see her dealing with something that has been hard for me. My husband has a tendency to deal impatiently with the imperfect drivers on the highway, and my son, when he acquired his own license to drive, seemed to share this same frustration. Perhaps this characteristic in children is why Paul said, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1). He knew the nature of children to imitate and desired that this would be our posture before our heavenly Father. Imitating God is always a good thing. He is perfect. I can’t fail when I choose to behave the way Christ modeled for us. Yet as a parent, I am a frail and tainted example of that. My children will mimic me. And whether I like it or not, I am the primary role model in their lives during the most formative years.
Understanding the role I play is critical to me as I model not only life here in this world, but also what it means to live for a world to come. I have to ask myself, “What kinds of things do I want my kids to imitate?” Even Jesus said, “I only do the things that I see my Father doing” in John 5:19. If Jesus chose to obey the Father and to follow in step with everything He saw His Father doing or being, we too ought to endeavor to live our lives in the same manner. When we do this, then we can say to our children what Paul said to his disciples, “You are to imitate me, just as I imitate Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1).
So how do we do these things? I believe we do them by abiding in Christ and allowing His Spirit to guide our lives. These are the two main processes of spiritual growth. In any relationship, as we grow to know and understand the person we love, we grow in our understanding of how to best respond to him/her. The Christian life is all about responding to God. From the moment we choose to surrender our lives to God and accept the gift of salvation offered through Jesus, we begin the journey of relational transformation. We learn about who God is through His Word, and we choose to follow Jesus’ example by praying and asking God’s Spirit to give us the strength to do what His Word says. This type of dependence in prayer, in the Bible, and upon His Spirit (instead of our own fortitude) gives us the ability to model a life that has been surrendered to God for His glory—not our own.
Blessings and Love,
Dr. Michelle Anthony
Questions to Ponder
- Many things are “caught” and not “taught.” What things are your children “catching” from watching you (both good and bad)?
- In what ways can you abide in Christ and learn from God’s Word in ways that will allow you to “mimic” your heavenly Father?
- Identify some practices and/or people that will encourage your dependence upon the Holy Spirit both in the posture of your heart and the actions you implement.
Here are some ideas that helped me as a mom to be the best role model for my children:
- Play games such as “Simon Says” or “Follow the Leader” with your children and then share with them how these games reflect how we are to always do what God says and that He will always be our leader to follow throughout all of our lives.
- Take out several Bibles or Bible apps on a smartphone or computer and model to your children how to look up verses in the Bible. Show them how to do several and then let them try to find a few on their own.