I love the verse from Matthew 22:37 “Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… 'Love your neighbour as yourself.” Or as the disciple-shape tool showed us. Love God with your head, heart and hands. That is the teaching, there's nothing new there. The reality is, there does come a time when this is significantly hard. What do you do when you have a baby, and a toddler, and another on the way. What does it mean then to love God with your head, heart and hands? How do we apply this teaching in this season of life?
I am a Pastor of a small church in Denmark and most of the people in my congregation are families with small children. So, I ask myself this question a lot: “how do we live as disciples in this season of life?”
One way to live as a disciple with our heads is to have rhythms that help stimulate our thoughts. It might be a daily ritual, maybe a weekly or monthly meeting. In this season of life, it might be necessary to scale back on some things, since the children and work and everything else takes up so much time. But I still think it's possible to have non-negotiables in your life. It might be gathered church service on Sunday, it might be a weekly prayer meeting, it might be a simple discipline at home like kneeling in prayer for a second, first thing in the morning, or drawing the cross with your fingers in the air in the evening.
What you must think about here is the cumulative effect. It’s like an investment-fund in the bank. It gathers interest year after year and the real effect might not be visible day to day, but decade-to-decade it will change your life.
A great way to live in discipleship with your kids is to celebrate the liturgical festivals. I know my Lutheran background shines through here. But most churches celebrate Christmas, Easter and Pentecost as special days, if you celebrate more that is just a bonus here.
The point I’m making is one I have learnt from Moses. He said to the people of God that they should remember to celebrate the festivals, because when we do, we create a moment where the kids will say: “Why do we do this?” (Exodus 13,14) and we can use those moments as opportunities to tell the Jesus-story, every time they ask, “Why do we do this?"
When it comes to discipling our hearts, one place to start is to make church (Family) a place you love to be. Which means church needs to be ready for crying babies and we need to be ready to make a commitment to others. Church is our extended Jesus Family not a building we attend.
We must as a whole family make church a place families and kids love to be. Church members as well as families need to work on this together because it matters for the next generation. As parents, involve yourself in your church. Help by volunteering for anything you can make fit. Make church a place you love to be, so that your kids will grow up and see parents who are on fire for God and his people. It might be one of the most important things you do for your kids.
Christians love eating together; it's a biblical image of family. In my church we often have a meal together after the church service and I love it when the whole family help each other prepare the meal for the church.
Similarly, I have seen families who send a father and a son out to collect donations for charities, or families who create an event for the neighbourhood, so that disadvantaged children can make good memories in their holidays, even if they don’t have the money to travel. Kids, in my experience often love to be part of the preparation for church services and other events. Doing life with the kids creates a strong, valued and connected family.
Lastly, cut yourself some slack.
Maybe this blogpost is a bit overwhelming. How can you add all of the aforementioned things into your already full life? If that is the case for you, then I encourage you to maybe look for the things you can do with a different attitude. Maybe look for the things that you might have to cut out of your life in this season and look for the small changes that will make a big difference.
Be realistic in this, you do not honour yourself, God or your children by talking a high game and doing nothing. Just begin small and cut yourself some slack. No one is able to do all the things they want, as well as they want and you are in a season of life where your priorities are changing - that is all part of the natural process of becoming parents.
If Jesus met you today, you would probably be challenged to do some things differently but more than anything you would be stunned by the grace he would show you. God is cheering you on in your role as parents. He meets you with grace and patience and that is why you can embrace yourself with the same attitude in your continued discipleship journey.