The Part About Parenting I Didn’t Read In Any Parenting Book

I tend to be a fairly methodical person. When Shannon and I were dating, a close friend of mine asked her, “What does it feel like to have everything planned out three months in advance?” Yes, I’m one of those guys who likes to schedule his spontaneity.

And what does a methodical person do to prepare for parenthood? Why, read a small library of child training books, of course. (What a silly question.) After all, plenty of godly men and women have walked the path of parenting before us, so sitting down at their feet seemed like a no brainer.

To be sure, our reading proved enormously beneficial. We have discovered some great resources that we’ll return to in the years—heck, decades—to come. We’ve learned many wise principles and practices that will benefit our attempts at child training.

But after reading all those books, I decided to turn to the source of all that godly wisdom: the Bible itself. I wanted to compare the words of Scripture with the books we had read to see what was wheat and what was chaff.

While studying Scriptural passages on child training, I encountered a principle I hadn’t read before. Now, maybe there are books out there that have mentioned this principle and I just haven’t read them. I guess it’s even possible that the books we read did mention this principle and I just somehow missed it. Whatever the case, I was amazed that I hadn’t heard it before. I’m convinced it may be one of the most important tools in one’s parenting arsenal.

What is this hidden, or overlooked, parenting secret? Simply put: share your testimony with your children. This involves not just the story of how God brought you to saving faith, but also the countless instances where God delivered or strengthened or encouraged or provided for you.

The first several verses of Psalm 44 give us an example of how personal testimonies can affect the lives of future generations. This psalm is actually a lament (see the second half), but it begins with declarations of unwavering trust in the Lord, based largely on the writers’ knowledge of what “our fathers have told us” (v. 1). Stories from the “days of old” have led the sons of Korah to trust in God’s saving power and not their own strength.

Notice how often they point away from themselves and toward God: “the deeds You did” (v. 1), “You drove out” (v. 2), “Your hand” (v. 2), “You planted” (v. 2), “You afflicted” (v. 2), “Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your countenance” (v. 3), “You favored them” (v. 3), “through You” (v. 5), “through Your name” (v. 5), “I will not trust in my bow, nor shall my sword save me” (v. 6), “You have saved us” (v. 7). A parent’s testimony is a powerful means of grace for children, because it points to tangible expressions of God’s faithfulness.

Sharing one’s testimony isn’t a burden or a chore. It is a privilege and a joy. As C. S. Lewis has pointed out, an enjoyment of something often isn’t complete until that enjoyment is shared. You know you really enjoyed a movie or a book when you tell everyone else about it. The telling itself is the consummation of your enjoyment.

Consequently, the writer of Psalm 71 begs God not to let him depart until he has had the opportunity to declare God’s strength and power to the next generation: “Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come” (Ps. 71:16-18).

Sharing stories of how God has worked in our lives is a great way to help our children see the manifold effects of the gospel. It helps them see how mercifully and graciously God treats us, even as we struggle with our own sins and inabilities to live up to His perfect standards. The design of this God-centered focus is so that our children may set their hope in God—not in their own ability to obey Him.

As Psalm 145:4 puts it, “One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.” Or, as commentator Adam Clarke exposits, “Thy creating and redeeming acts are recorded in thy word; but thy wondrous providential dealings with mankind must be handed down by tradition, from generation to generation; for they are in continual occurrence, and consequently innumerable.” The narrative of our stories involves innumerable instances of God’s saving and sanctifying work.

This practice of sharing our testimony needn’t be turned into a legalistic pursuit, as if it’s up to us to save our children. Rather, our testimony is simply the story of what God has done; instructing our children is no more a “work” than me telling my wife about my day at dinnertime. Our testimony is all about who God is, what He has done, and what He has promised to do. It is the overflow of past grace that points us all toward future grace.

For our children’s benefit—as well as our own—may we remember and recount God’s faithful deeds to our children. May we vividly paint a picture of our Father’s awesome wonders in action. May our stories draw the hearts of our children toward God’s loving embrace. May we delight in His wondrous works so that we relish each and every opportunity to share them. And may our sharing be the consummation of our own delight in the Treasure of our souls: God Himself.

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