Parenting from the Vine

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As I have grown in my relationship with Christ, He will focus me on areas of my life that need some spiritual attention.  That spiritual attention is where most of my blog post come from.  They come not from my expertise in the area, but my need for growth.  Think of it like having the weighty girl teach your Zumba class.  She isn’t teaching it because she has mastered the art of exercise, but she is teaching it because she recognizes her need to become more active.  That’s me.  I recognize my needs and then I go after it, so to speak (and I usually have to go after it again and again because just like one Zumba class won’t make you physically fit, one well thought out blog post doesn’t indefinitely change my actions either.  I need reminders.)

Lately I have been burdened for my children. In recent years, I have seen the benefits of a relationship  – a true relationship, like we communicate back and forth – with Christ.  I don’t want my children to have to wait until their thirties to figure that out. I want them them to see the value and benefits growing up.  I want my walk with Christ to grow and encourage their walk with Christ.  But like with most areas, life just seems to get in the way.  The busyness of the days cloud the priorities of eternity.

So I have been praying and asking God to lead me in this area.  And I love how he reveled new wisdom in my favorite section of scripture.  He showed me how many of the keys to Godly parenting are found right in John 15.  He showed me how my continuous reliance on the Vine can provide the answers to my parenting desires.  

First, He reminded me that apart from the Vine, I can do nothing.

Parenting is hard.  Every child is different and there are no cookie cutter guidelines to show how to make successful children.  And then how are we even defining successful children?  By grades and academic performance? By their performance in a sport? By who they become as adults? By their character?  By living a life for Jesus? I know, I really want my children successful in it all.  But as parents, how do we do that?  How do we encourage and mold our children?  

Verse five reminds us, “Apart from me you can do nothing,” and if you have ever tried to do very much a part from God then you probably recognize how true this is.  Apart from Jesus, we cannot do anything.  Nothing!  

So before we even think about being Godly parents, we have got to go all the way back to the beginning.  Have we aligned every aspect of our lives to the vine?  Are you with the spouse God designed for you? Are you in the career God has chosen for you?  Are you attending the church  God designed to grow you?  Do you have friends that encourage your relationship with God?  Do you have a daily walk that aligns with that of Jesus?  I know some of these are heavy questions, maybe even questions you are scared to totally answer, but apart from Him we can do NOTHING!  Think of the time you are wasting and the consequences that are developing just because you are trying anyway (and this is just for you, we won’t even talk about how it is affecting your children).  A branch that is only partially connected to the vine will eventually die and be thrown into the fire.  Those branches cannot bear fruit. It is an all or nothing kind of thing.

And we would never settle for just good enough with our children.  We would never settle for just half way with them, in anything, so why do we settle for halfway in THE most important area of our lives, the area that will most greatly affect their lives?

Until we are fully connected to the Vine, until we recognize Him as our complete source of life, parenting troubles are likely to be one of our many problems.  But, when we realize abiding in Him is where we start and He will guide our actions from there, then we can begin to grow and influence our children, in the same way that Jesus grows us.  

Second, He says we must abide in the Word.

John 15:7 says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” I know you may be focused on the second part of that verse, because those verses always make us feel little bit like we just released the genie from the lamp, but you know that is not quite the way it works and even then, it is conditional.  First, His words have to abide in us. Abide, live, dwell, rest, roost, inhabit, whatever you want to call it. The scriptures need to be in us.  

Not just John 3:16 or Genesis 1:1.  No, the active and living word of God needs to be apart of our everyday thought process.  I admit, I don’t have near as many scriptures memorized as I should, and I can’t always tell you exactly where a scripture is from, but I have many, many phrases and verses from the word of God floating around in my heart and head, and it is priceless when they come out at just the right moment.

But, while abiding is a passive word, coming to a place where the Word abides in us takes a lot of action.  We have to be aggressive when it comes to abiding in the Word.  We have to be intentional.  Set a time in your schedule for daily Bible study.  Place scripture around areas you spend a lot of time.  Listen to podcasts and preaching that will increase your knowledge and understanding of the word.  Listen to music that helps you meditate on the Word.  The more you do that, then the harder the devil will work to make you stop, but keep going and get even more aggressive because when you resist, he will flee.

And then think of the example you will set for your children.  When they see the choices you make with your time, when they see the hunger you have for the Word, they are going to be interested too.  One day I was studying my Bible at the kitchen table and here comes Isla with her toddler Bible and two colored pencils.  She sat down beside me and I caught her just before she colored in her Bible.  But if she had, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.  That was one example that I was proud to set.  

But also, as you learn more of the Word and understand more of the Word, the Word will naturally come out of you.  You will see scripture that will help your children.  You will want them to have the comfort of the scripture just like you do.  You can have discussions with your children about scripture.  Talk to them about what certain things mean.  Let them ask questions.  Show them some of your favorite scriptures. When they have a problem, go to the scriptures for answers.  Model how you would find answers for your problems in the Word and help them find answers for theirs from the Word.

The Word is active and living and when we make it a priority to have the scripture abiding in us, then it will also come out of us.

Third, we must abide in love.

I know this one should be an obvious one, because of course we love our children.  And I know we love our children unconditionally, but we still have a human love for them, an imperfect, broken love.  As much as we love our children, I bet we don’t always love them as Christ loves us.  Now yes, it is impossible to do that all the time because we are sinners, but it is something we must continually strive to do.  Our natural reactions usually come from our sin nature, so when our children make a mistake or intentionally do something wrong, we may have to stop and make sure that we react out of love, and not just any love, but God’s love.

In the scripture, it tells us to abide in God’s love and if we abide in His love, then we will have His love abiding in us.  That is where we must start when it comes to loving our children.  We must first understand God’s love for us.  We must first understand that sacrificial love, that unconditional, unending, undeserved love that God just showers on us.  Until we understand that love for ourselves, we cannot really love our children the way they need to be loved.  We have to accept that we are loved no matter what, before we can show our children that same love.  If we are constantly trying to earn that love, or feel as if God’s love is lessing at times, then our children will feel that too, no matter how you try to stop it of fake it.  They will know.

But, imagine if our ups and downs of life are surrounded totally by God’s love.  Each time we face something difficult and each time we have reason to rejoice, we turn to God’s love.  If we can abide in God’s love like that, if we learn to really live in His love, then our children won’t be able to miss it.  They will be surrounded in His love too, just because they are near us.  They will be witnesses to many amazing things that God’s love can accomplish.  God’s love will just be apart of who they are and what a wonder thing is that.  

I mean, really, when we think about it, we don’t need to try to love our children.  We need to let God’s love for our children show through us.  If we are a reflection of His love, that will be more than enough.

So through the scripture we learn that we can do nothing without God.  We must abide in His Word, and we must abide in his love, in order to be the parents God designed for us to be.  Jesus must be our true source of life to provide the life our children need.  And what does the scripture say will happen if we do these things…

…He it is that bears much fruit (John 15:5).

Isn’t that what we want our children to be? Good fruit.  We want them to be offspring that continues to abide in Jesus and then bear good fruit of their own.  We want them to continue this cycle of love that Jesus has so graciously placed around us.

As Christian parents, I would say this is our ultimate goal for our children. Honestly, I don’t worry so much about my child’s success as an adult.  I just want each of my children to discover God’s will in their lives and live that out daily.  Because I know if they do that, then everything else will fall into place. But I also know that I have to be the branch – the extension of the vine – that will show them the way, that will show them how to discover God’s will in their lives and continually live it out as they grow up and grow old.

When the scripture talks about bearing good fruit, it can mean so many things, but as parents, our children definitely fall into this category.  Now, I realize children will grow and have free will of their own, but I do have faith that God recognizes who we are as the branch.  And I also have faith that if we realize He is our source of everything, if we abide in His Word – really make it a part of who we are, and if we abide in His love – learn to make that our place of refuge and our place of celebration, then our children will become good fruit that connects back to the vine and then bear fruit of their own.  And that is all we really want.

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