Swing and miss. “Tommy, look them over. Choose your pitch!” the coach urged from the sideline as Tommy swung, once again, at a ball that bounced on the plate. Pop! It’s a hit and the ball shot up the field between second and third base, with the players making dodges, passing one, then two, then three until it rolled to a stop in the outfield. Once retrieved, the ball was thrown towards first, wide and high. The guy in left field got distracted by a worm. “Coach, there is worm here.” All the while, the coach kept up a constant stream of correction and ‘atta boys’ from his place in the middle of all those uniforms.
Yes, they were just little boys, 7 and 8 years of age, learning to play baseball. They adjusted their hats, kicked up the dirt, and held gloves at the ready – just like the players they watch on TV- but their skills are just being developed. If I see some of those same boys playing in 10 years in high school, it will be different!
Watching those little guys play ball, I was thinking about larger issues of life. We do so well giving our children things, feeding their bodies, and even taking them to baseball games. What are we teaching them about being human, about relating to others, about the value of things, about how to cope with stress, how to endure hard times, about being productive, about what life means? Do we think that they will just somehow absorb the skills they need for life by watching us?
Are we intentionally coaching them, teaching them, urging them to try, letting them ‘fail’ enough, and commending their efforts to learn how to live best? The transfer of values, life skills, and love for God to the next generation must be our priority. Moses counseled the people of Israel with these practical words. “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, NLT)
The Word says that of first importance is our own love for God. If we hope to instill devotion and develop disciples, we must be what we teach. If we profess to love God but chase stuff, success, and happiness with our full energies, our children will ignore the words and imitate the choices we make. “Commit yourselves wholehearted to the commands!”
We also must be unafraid to actually talk about the things of God. “Jerry, I do not want to preach to my kids.” Who said anything about preaching? Moses said that we bring God into everyday life – at home, on the road, at bedtime! Our true values creep into conversations, they don’t have to forced. Be intentional with those teachable moments. Invite the hard questions and if you do not know the answer, admit it. Coach your children with conversations that allow a topic to develop rather than handing out an edict or a simplistic answer. Love for others is never simple or easy. Knowing how to honor God is not an easy thing for an adult to discern. It is no different for your child. And remember, they deal with a sin nature and temptation, just like you do! Some days they will do better than others so teach them love, grace, and forgiveness. Knowing how to recover is a skill we all need, right?
Pray with your child, not just for him. “Pray all the time, about everything,” Paul says.
Are they frustrated by a bully at school? Invite them to pray with you about that.
Are they anxious about a test? Pray about it with them.
As the day closes, are they feeling guilt about some mistake? Listen to their ‘confession,’ and go with them to the Throne of Grace to find mercy.
Cover their day by taking a moment to pray out loud with them before they head out the door.
Yes, I mean it! Let them hear you talk to the Lord about them. I heard my Mom to talk to God about me and even now, though I am 60 years of age, those prayers echo in my memory, powerful reminders of the immediacy of her faith.
Here is a word from the Word. Inspire us with wisdom to make disciples of our children.
“Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness.
Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power.” (Psalm 145:3-4, NLT)
“Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.
But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.” (Matthew 19:13-15, NIV)