Parenting: Children Through the Eyes of Jesus
- November 23, 2018
I was Jesus once. No, not in a dream or some fantasy game but in real life. It’s true. Work with me and don’t question my sanity too much, but for the very last weekend I served as Pastor at Northview Community Church in Abbotsford, I wrote and directed a drama for Easter. I know this is where you’ll think I’m crazy, but in the drama—I was JESUS. I guess you could say that I wanted to go out with a big finale.
Stay with me. I don’t want to tell you about the drama and how well it went; you already know the story. I want to tell you what happened in between the six services. At one point, someone wanted to talk to me so I was summoned out of the green room and into the concourse where many parents and children were walking by on their way in or heading back to their cars.
Remember, I was dressed as Jesus—no really. I LOOKED like Jesus. I had the full hair, the Hollywood style beard and makeup and the perfect white and baby blue long robes typical of all the conventional Sunday School pictures of our Lord. While it was rather fun to greet people as Jesus, it was seeing the children’s reaction as they walked by that caught my attention.
The double takes I got were astounding especially with the 2-4 year olds. To many – I was JESUS – right there in the hallway. I began to see the wonder on their faces. I saw them pull their mother’s dress and point at me. I saw their belief. The moment was too priceless for me to not roll with. So for those between service moments, I became Jesus…to them.
I began to wave and then bend down and call them over. They came. It stirred me. We talked. I spoke as gracious as I could, being very cognisant that I was Jesus and in this moment representing Him. Their trust was so deep. Down at their level, speaking soft and gentle words of encouragement, giving out safe and warm hugs, they took this moment with Jesus at face value. Some, as they walked away, would stop and look back as if to say, “did that just happen?” Others walked away in a matter of fact way, as if to say, “That’s right, I just saw Jesus in the hallway.”I learned so much feeling what it would have been like to have been Jesus to children.
I had the once in a lifetime experience of seeing children through the eyes of Jesus.
It might be fair to say that Jesus didn’t say much about children. The Bible says quite a lot about them but the Master, not so much. But what is powerful is what He did say and what He did do and the place he held for them in His kingdom. Let’s look at children through the eyes of Jesus.
I’m referring to the Biblical event where parents were trying to get their children near Jesus to have Him bless them and pray for them (Matt. 19, Mark 10 and Luke 18). Jesus was invariably addressing large crowds on some hillside when the commotion happened. The disciples in good intent thought they were doing Jesus a favour by shushing the mothers away with not a small rebuke. They must have conveyed that Jesus was too busy for children—that He had more important matters to tend to and couldn’t they see that? These parents and their kids were heading away, heads down and discouraged.
Jesus heard the commotion, perceived what was happening and got “choked” at the disciples. Scripture says He was indignant meaning irate, furious and outraged at the decision the disciples had made. Whatever level of rebuke they had had toward these moms, Jesus jacked up the emotion a notch or two higher. As He reproved the disciples, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Then He called the parents with their children back and took the time to interact with, bless and pray for each one. “And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them”. Wow. What a beautiful snapshot into the life of Jesus and His love and compassion for children.
In this event, we see six ways Jesus modeled how we should treat our little ones. We’d be wise to copy Him in how we approach our children and grandchildren…all children for that matter.
TIME CONFIRMS VALUE
Remember how frustrated and indignant Jesus was in this story. His reaction screams the value of children. He was saying, “I always have time for kids.” There’s room to grow here for most of us. Can we say to our children, “you are never an interruption?” Most of the time, we are finding ways to keep them busy so we can get something done. How many times do you catch yourself saying “go play” which to them is saying, “Go away.”
Slow down. Stop for a moment and take some time to enjoy life from your child’s perspective. To give your attention is to give your time and this always says I value YOU. I remember a few years back reading with my Grandson Kezek. He was two. From time to time, my phone would vibrate and I’d pick it up to check out who needed what. He got it already. Every time I reached for my phone, he’d push my hand away. He wanted me—my full attention.
Parents, while its important to coach their sports, watch their games, go on field trips, be at their recitals and show up at what ever they are doing, why not just put your stupid phone away??? Be with them when you are with them. Be present. Be engaged. Let your actions say I value you enough to shut down life for you.
TONE CONVEYS WELCOME
After Jesus had chewed out the disciples to get the record straight, He called the children back. He said, “let the children come…” He called to them, “Hey—hold it. You kids… come back here!” It went from being a rebuke to the adults to a warm welcome to the kids. This welcome tone was soft, gentle and inviting.
TONE. This is a biggie. What does your tone say to your kids? Are they hearing frustration? Disappointment? Impatience? Anger? Do they hear, “Hurry up, we’re late. Why are you being so difficult? Can’t you do anything right? How many times have I told you?” Your tone says way more than your words—by far. Can they sense your warmth, feel your excitement and recognize your acceptance? When they feel your love in your voice and in your face, they respond back in big ways.
Here’s how you know they feel it. At the last birthday lunch with my Grandson Axton, my consistent welcome of him during his young life has obviously sunk deep into his 6 year old heart. When I entered the door at the fast food place, he sprinted across the room and leaped up into my arms into one of his notorious huge hugs!
Tone is so powerful. Karen, one of the amazing therapists at our care centre, is amazing with kids. Even those who have only seen her once are walking into their second visit like she’s their best and life-long friend. But you can hear it in her tone in the hallway; you don’t even need to hear the words. It’s her tone. She’s warm, excited, upbeat and engaged. I call her the “Child Whisperer” she’s so good with children.
TOUCH CONVINCES LOVE
Remember, Jesus took these children in His arms, placed His hands on them and blessed them. He picked them up. He put them on His lap. The human spirit longs to be touched, longs to be cherished, and longs to connect. Jesus knew that and did that. Gently touch your children to confirm they are loved. Squeeze them tight. Caress their faces. Scratch their backs. Tickle them playfully. Connect face to face. Look at them with pride! Embrace them warmly, safely and appropriately.
Rough treatment, harsh discipline and hitting must be out. I remember years ago while living in North Chicago in a low-income housing area, I witnessed a disturbingly violent abuse of a child. As I walked by a lower apartment window, a live-in boyfriend of a young mother, in an angry rage, threw her three-year-old son 15–20 feet across the room landing him on a couch. All violence against children must stop. And yes, I confronted him and helped the single mom with a plan.
And though it should not have to be said, it still does. There simply can’t be any sexual exploitation of our little ones. Sadly, it happens too often. I’ve counselled over 300 adults who are victims of childhood sexual abuse. Stop.
It’s simple if you start here. Don’t ever discipline your children in anger. If needed, take a time out for yourself before you react out of frustration, disappointment or rage. Let your spouse confirm that you are calm and that your approach on any correction needed is wise, redemptive and appropriate. Good discipline always conveys respect. The best discipline says, “there’s nothing you’ll ever do to make me quit loving you.”
To increase the best kind of touch, I challenge parents and grandparents, especially men, to plan on “carpet time!” Get on the floor with your children, rolling, playing, wrestling, tickling, piggybacking, play-fighting, dancing, whatever. Engage warmly and hug freely.
TALK COMMUNICATES APPROVAL
Again, the event we are referencing about Jesus and children from the Gospels had Him putting His hands on the children, likely on their heads and blessing them. Remember that a blessing in Scripture was usually words of encouragement. Share your love. Actually say, “I love you.” Children need to hear those words often. Don’t leave them wondering and doubting only to later need to be looking for love in all the wrong places. Speak out your affirmation. Constructively, build them up. Words of blessing do the most to convey your utmost approval.
It’s like your kids come into your world as a blank slate. As parents, you write on their hearts every day and the sum total of the message you’ve conveyed is who the child believes they are. By your words, you shape who they will become. I see it almost daily. People, in their 40’s and 50’s are still carrying the negative voices of the critical harsh things said or done to them as children. Sad. Here’s why. Sociological research of the family maintains that for every negative comment a child receives from a parent, these kids need to receive 4–6 times as many positive statements of affirmation to bring their self-worth back to equilibrium. Most of us don’t encourage more than we criticize.
Have you said words to your children this week that convey, “I love you. I believe in you. I bless you”? You need to do that. And no, it’s never too late even with adult children to get this said. That’s why I have done and will continue to create and give “blessing cards”. This is where I write in a card to each child, 5 to 6 positive affirmations about who they are. Start with this line, “Dear ______, I want to take this opportunity to tell you how much I love you and why thus giving you my blessing.” Then go on and share all that you appreciate about them. It would be an ideal Christmas or Birthday gift.
TRUSTING THEM TO GOD CREATES DEPENDENCE
Recall that these people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and to pray for them. You should too. Pray for them. Pray with them for them. Teach them how to pray. Promise them you’ll pray for them. TRUST them to GOD daily.
I needed some serious help here. Though I was a pastor in my early 40’s, I was very far from being a prayer warrior. Maybe a novice. At the time, it came really clear to me that I didn’t pray enough for my children. I also knew that the oldest would be gone right at age 18 because she’d be on a basketball scholarship somewhere. I was losing my time to influence. So I set and responded to daily phone alarms on my watch—reminders to pray for each kids at a certain time each day. Those alarms went off for 6 years straight – every day, every year. I learned to pray for my kids.
And these prayers can start early. Donalyn and I had our own private dedication of our children to the Lord at home by going in one night when our newborn was sleeping, we laid our hands on them and prayed over them thanking God for this new life He has entrusted to us and that He would bless and use their life for great things.
Then we realized that the prayers for children could start even earlier. As a family we prayed for each newly conceived child – our grandchildren – by gathering together after the announcement laying hands on the expecting mother and praying for the coming child. These were very rich times as a family.
The power of a praying parent is so significant. Jesus prayed for children. Why not make this your next serious life change? Commit to pray more consistently and more comprehensively for your kids.
TRACKS CLARIFY DIRECTION
The Matthew account of this event adds that when Jesus was done blessing and praying for the children that “He went on from there.” Though not a profound statement, His direction was clear to all. The simple point is this – the path you leave for your children must be clear, consistent and uncompromising.Jesus said to many, “Follow me.” His example was clear. It is essential that you model the lifestyle you want your children to embrace.
Set the direction for your family. Let your life speak. 1 Corinthians 11:1 says, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.” That’s the best way to lead your family. Or bravely embrace the Parent’s Prayer (my designation) from Philippians 4:9 by praying that you can actually say to your children with Paul, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
In all my years of coaching parents, I have come to see this very clearly. You have a fighting chance of your children becoming like who you are but very little chance at your children becoming what you say. They are far more likely to do as you do not as you say. And the more genuine the walk, the more willing they are to listen to the talk.
Who you are within the four walls of your home is who you really are. And remember, that’s the you your kids see 24-7.
The Greater the Relationship—The Greater the Influence!
The more your follow Jesus’ example of loving children, the more you will end up genuinely connected to them. And in turn, the greater your life and lips will have an impact on them.
A Deathly Stern Warning…
God’s heart for children is so magnormous that through Jesus he left an incredibly serious forewarning. Within a chapter of this recorded event in each of the Gospels, Jesus said this. “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). Let me explain millstone death. The Lord was referring to a common form of Roman capital punishment His listeners would be all too familiar with right there in the Sea of Galilee. The convicted criminal for his death sentence would have a rope tied around his neck and the other end tied around a large grinding stone weighing anywhere between 200 and 1600 pounds. The convict and the millstone would be thrown over the side of a boat and he would be pulled to the bottom in a brutal drowning execution. Not pretty. Jesus was saying, “Don’t hurt one of these little ones…It would be better for you if you’d experience this cruel and public drowning form of execution with no burial.” Ouch. Point? Don’t mess with His kids even if you call them yours.
So let me remind you. Love children like the Saviour did. Give Your TIME—that’s your undivided attention. They’re never an interruption! Be with them. Change Your TONE—Welcome them warmly engaging with interest and conveying acceptance. No guilt or rejection. Soften your TOUCH—Hold, hug, tickle, cuddle and carry them gently and lovingly without harshness or hurt. Change Your TALK—Encourage them conveying your love by giving affirmation and hope. Tell them you love them. Display your TRUST in GOD—Pray with them and for them daily. Lift them to Jesus. Put reminders on your phone. Watch your TRACKS—Let your life and path be clear. Be the example God wants you to be. They are likely to follow you.
I’d love to hear from you at www.doingfamilyright.com. Our team of therapists is willing and available to help you with any of the challenges you are facing with your little ones.
© Dr. Dave Currie – November 2018
Feature image used with permission by pexels.com