I often, like many others, pray for a word for the new year as the old one draws to a close. Unlike most people I know who do this, I don't generally get my word before the year begins, LOL. Instead, mine seems to come the first time I go to church in the new year. Don't ask me why, but that's the pattern. ;-) This year, we were iced out of our first service of the year, so this past weekend was our first church of 2015. And lo and behold, on the drive in, it hit me.
This is an idea that has been coming at me from every direction in recent months. Our church is going from a branch church to a full member of our conference this year (hopefully), which requires that we examine our constitution and by-laws and make any changes we feel are necessary. As we spent hours pouring over this foundational document in recent months, there it was: be deliberate. We were engaged in a rather sacred endeavor, establishing how our church is to run until someone takes it upon themselves to change the constitution. We were setting up education, membership, and business practices. We had to be deliberate in how we did this, and where we wanted the focus to be. We had to be deliberate in giving the authority to whom it belongs. Ultimately God, and then those who follow Him.
It came up again in our Bible study that we have with friends. We're beginning a new study on parenting, were talking the other night about how we educate our children (those present on Friday were all homeschoolers). And it hit me again. Be deliberate.
What does that mean?
Well, it means that I'm not to be washed to and fro by the currents of the day. I'm not to just go with the flow. I'm not to do something just because it's how it's done. I'm not to call things "good enough" and leave them. I'm not to do things thoughtlessly, by rote.
In my world, there's a lot of routine, a lot of habit. All well and good...but not enough. Because I don't just want to be a leader, or a follower of God, or a writer, or a friend. I want to raise leaders. True followers of God. Focused and determined people. A man and a woman who know the value of friendship, of honesty, of sacrifice.
Will they learn just by observing? To a point...yes. But also no.
This is another something my husband and I were just discussing, as he reads the works of John Lake, a truly great evangelist whose teachings helped found several worldwide denominations. David had just gotten to the chapters where Lake was mourning the death of the movement he had helped begin. Where he was looking at these floundering church groups and realizing that there was no one to take up the mantle. That they had assumed, he and his colleagues, that others would follow like them, ready to lead and continue the work.
But there was no one.
I mused, as we spoke of this, that perhaps it was because great leaders are often so focused on their calling that they're not focused on raising up the next generation. Because they believe (idealistically--not badly, but not realistically) that just as they watched and were convicted and accepted a call, so will others be. They think they need to be always on the front lines, not behind them teaching those who come next.
We've been talking a lot about how to change a culture slip-sliding its way into decay. But you know what? No matter what answers we come to, they won't matter unless we also figure out how to keep it. Unless we figure out how to teach our kids that there's no such thing as "the way things are." There's just "the way things are going right now."
You can see it over and again in history--one generation feels a deep conviction, makes changes. They set up a society in a given way, and raise their children in it. But then, to those children, it's just the way it is. They don't remember the reasons. They live it, but they don't teach their children anything but the "facts" of their world...and so those children rebel. Go astray. Decide they'd rather taste this other way.
Because no one is deliberate.
We need to be! Oh, how we need to be. Because it doesn't take long--a generation, two at the most--for religion to take the place of faith. For prejudice and judgment to overcome us. For ideals to be overwhelmed by rules. It has happened countless times in the church, it has happened in society, it has happened in our schools. Good intentions slowly morph into legalism until the original intent is buried so far beneath the mountain of words no one can even remember what it is anymore.
I want to raise my children with deliberation. I want to raise them not to believe the lies of the world. The lies that say there's only so much we can do, so much we can change. The lies that things are what they are. NO. I want my kids to fully understand that the world, their culture, their lives are ever-changing and always able to be influenced. That their God is bigger than the enemy. That they can do all things through the strength of Christ. I want them to know that there's no such thing as second-generation faith. They need their own.
How to teach them this? Well not by a lesson in church every week and nothing else, that's for sure. Not just by setting an example. No, sorry--if I'm going to teach them these important life-lessons, then it's going to have to be through deliberate choices. Deliberate guidance. Deliberate words given at deliberate moments to usher them along their own path. Not mine. Theirs.
As a homeschooling mom, I'm not sure if this sacred charge is easier or harder. On the one hand, it's far more difficult because I'm with them every moment of every day--and it's hard to be deliberate 24/7. But then, it might be easier, because I know what they're being exposed to every moment of every day. I know what conversations to have when. There are no surprises when they get home from school and say, "Well Jake said that..."
When I pray for a word for the year, I don't always get one. But when I do, it's never just a word for the year. It's a word for my life, forever. Like "Shine"--I'm still living that one, working on it. "Deliberate" is going to have to be the same way.
Because if I want to be a woman of faith, I have to choose it every moment of every day. I have to make a conscious effort to listen to Him, to walk in His power and truth. If I want to be a mother who raises children who understand this, I have to deliberately foster them in their growth. I need to not accept pre-boxed, ready-made answers and instead encourage and help them in finding their own. I need to make sure they understand that faith is work.
I think a question for the ages might be "How do you overcome generational decay?" And I believe this is the answer: by not assuming our kids will understand what we've come to learn. By not thinking "just living it" is enough. No. We have to be deliberate--otherwise all we build will be forgotten.
Stone man photo credit: Travis S. via photopin cc
Winding road photo credit: bobarcpics via photopin cc