“We may tell them that spiritual matters come first, but they learn the truth by observing our lives. To influence your child to accept godly values, you will have to live out those values before him day in and day out. You cannot merely declare that something is important; you have to prove it by your actions. Values are caught rather than taught.” These are the words of David Rosales, the author of the book Raising Right-Hearted Kids in a Wrong-Way World! I agree with him. Our actions speak louder than our words, whether we are witnessing about our faith to strangers or to family members. But before I attempt to evangelize my neighbours, I believe that I need to be a “lamp on a lamp stand” first and foremost in my own home.
I have actively evangelized the people around me since I became a renewed Catholic on my first year in college. Twenty years have passed since then. I thank the Lord for the grace to remain steadfast and zealous in sharing my faith to anyone and everyone around me. Now that I’m a parent, I continue to share my faith at every opportunity I have. I write and talk about my faith and how God has been working in my life. But I bear in mind that my primary ministry is in my home. And my son is my most important audience. God has called me to write reflections and give talks every once in a while to evangelize people. Every day though, He calls me to talk to my son about my faith and my relationship with Him; and to walk my talk by applying my faith in our day-to-day activities. It is no easy task to raise a child. What more to raise a godly child!
It’s true what some people say that sometimes it is easier to witness to those whom you do not know very well. That’s because you don’t interact with them very often or everyday. Witnessing becomes extra challenging when you live with the people you are trying to evangelize. They see you every day as you put your faith in action. They see you make mistakes. They see you get angry or get hurt. They witness how you handle difficulties and trials in life. They get to observe the many choices that you make each day, both big and small. The great thing about it is that they also get to see how you learn from your mistakes and rise up to overcome them. They see how God’s Holy Spirit and grace sustain you in your troubles and empower you to be victorious. They see how prayer, service and the sacraments transform you to become more Christlike everyday, moment by moment. They learn how you arrive at your decisions and why you make those difficult choices. That is my ardent wish and prayer. That my son would be brought close to God by my teachings and by the way I live my life. That is also why I chose to be a stay-at-home mom while my son is in his formative years. I believe that training my son early would bear fruits that he can enjoy not only in his lifetime but also for all eternity.
I agree with David Rosales that as parents, our children need to see us practice the godly values that we teach them. It’s not enough that we tell our children that God is our first priority. They need to see that our time with God is sacred and that we protect those times that we set aside to commune with Him and nourish our relationship with Him. They need to see that prayer is an integral part of our daily lives. If we want to raise children who love the Lord and who are obedient to His Word, as parents, we need to model to them how to love God and be obedient to Him. If we want to teach our children that we can turn to God for our needs, then we need to show our children that we indeed bring to God our needs and expect God to provide for them. In short, if we want our children to have the Light of God in their hearts, we first need to be ablaze so our children can catch the fire of our devotion for God.
All these can be overwhelming even to Christian parents. I commit a lot of mistakes everyday as I strive to witness to my son. It’s so easy to sometimes let my emotions rule or get the better of me. Thank God for His grace to recognize my shortcomings and failings and for the resolve to do better next time. I was encouraged by the words that I read in the book Raising Right-Hearted Kids in a Wrong-Way World! The author David said that if we struggle to demonstrate patience and kindness to our children, as we yield our lives to the Holy Spirit, God will make up for whatever we lack. Those words comfort me. I am not a perfect parent and I know that it will take my entire lifetime to become one. But thanks be to God for His mercy and grace who supplies our every need – be it material or spiritual. He is the perfect parent indeed! I pray for grace everyday to look to God and learn from Him so I can be the parent that He wants me to be to my son.
David Rosales further says in his book, “God is dealing with us as much as He is dealing with our kids. By testing our patience and proving our character, He refines us into vessels of honor. Once yielded, we are usable tools in the Lord’s hand to mold the hearts of our children. God begins the heart-shaping lesson of obedience in us first, so that we will lead by our godly example.”
Our son is slowly catching the fire of our devotion to God. He talks to Jesus every day. He even considers Jesus one of his best friends and playmates. He looks forward to going to church. He participates actively during the mass by singing the songs that he already knows. He dances with abandon and sings his heart out at prayer meetings. He likes to “read” the Bible and the devotionals that I use. In fact, he learned to read JESUS, GOD, OUR DAILY BREAD and BO SANCHEZ by reading these books with me. He prays to Jesus for his concerns. He is quick to pray a prayer of intercession when you share an intention with him. He loves to watch and listen to stories about Jesus. He sings a lot of praise songs repeatedly during the day. He says “Praise the Lord!” when something good happens. All these and so much more bring joy to my heart as a first-time parent. There is still much that I’d like to share to Him. I’m taking it one day at a time. I simply choose to make the most of every opportunity to pass on the faith to Him.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words I command you today shall be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
I pray for the grace to diligently teach my son to love the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might. I pray that he would grow to have a strong faith and personal relationship with God. I would be very happy and at peace even if these would be the only things he would remember from me. For armed with these values, I know that he can overcome any storm and accomplish great things, even impossible things with grace of God.