One of my favorite memory verses comes from the Book of Proverbs: “Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Seems simple enough to raise your children to love the Lord, right? Well, how do you do it? Taking them to church every Sunday when they’re little? Making them go when they’re teens? Shaking your finger at them because they’re not going when they’re in their 20s?
It’s not easy — even when you’re setting a good example by going to church on Sunday, cleaning the church on Monday, doing the books on Tuesday, going to choir rehearsal on Wednesday, going to bible study on Thursday, and taking a Bingo break on Friday. You can’t miss Bingo. Then on Saturday you do all those things around the house that got neglected during the week, and you start cooking your Sunday dinner because you’re planning to rest on the Sabbath. God did it, so I better do it too.
What you have shown your children through this example is that loving the Lord is exhausting. That may not have been your intention, but that’s the message you’re sending without realizing it.
“I’ve been working for Jesus a long time, and I’m not tired yet.” ~Mississippi Mass Choir
At least that was my experience growing up. I watched my family and church family work hard to build their church. Sundays were very long days. Somehow, it seemed like the only day of the week that lasted longer than 24 hours. Though I wasn’t the one working for Jesus, I was exhausted just by watching all of them. That, in part, caused me to convert from one religion to another when I was 17. That was my first adult decision, and at the time, I think it was a good one. I joined the United States Air Force shortly thereafter, and my name, social security number, and my religion were stamped on my dog tags.
I didn’t realize that religion was so important to folks back then. After one full week of running, jumping, drilling, shining, and nearly passing out from the Texas heat, I looked forward to Sunday morning and the opportunity to get some of that old time religion. Even those who claimed to be Atheists were attending a service of some kind. During those first few weeks of basic training, they beat us down before they started to build us back up. I found it was necessary for all of us to put some salve on our scrapes and talk to Jesus about healing our homesickness and anything else that ailed us.
I admit that I knew very little about the Lord back then. I went to church, paid my tithes, and served here and there, but I didn’t have much of a relationship with him at 17. That came with time, love, loss, adversity, and triumph. If I could have a conversation with my 17 year old self, I’d say quite a few things to set her straight and to encourage her at the same time.
You’re not as smart as you think you are. Your mother is much smarter. Learn to listen more than you talk. You’ll have some tough days ahead, Michelle. Get to know the source of your help. You’re going to need him early in the morning, late at night, and every waking moment in between. Some of your lowest days are coming, and just when you think you can’t take much more, God will rescue you and prove to you that he has heard your silent cries, that he has felt your pain, that he is ready to heal your broken heart, but you’ll still have a mighty cross to bear. Don’t worry about the cross. Yes, it is heavy, but God will use you to help others. He will surround you with good people and command his angels to guard you in all your ways. All you have to do is listen and obey. Listen and obey. No buts, Michelle Leigh. Get rid of all the distractions in your life, and keep your mind stayed on Jesus. Repeat after me. All I need is you. Again! This time open your mouth. All I need is you. Louder, Michelle! All I need is you.
We need to show our teens that it’s cool to love the Lord. If your church leaders haven’t implemented a strategy for engaging the young people in the congregation, you will lose them. No worries though. Many will explore other options just like I did and eventually end up on the right path. It might not be the path you intended them to take, but they’ll find their way. Remember who goes before them.
NOTE – All this week I will highlight a different contemporary Christian artist, and I invite you to do the same in the comments. Lecrae is a talented rapper and Dove Award winner. Your teens and older kids will be able to relate to him. Take care, and God bless.