We sat on the floor, the three of us, staring at each other while I tried to figure out what to say. At 10 and 12, my sons were struggling in their relationship. They had gotten into a heated argument and used their words to hurt each other.
In the past I might have reacted to their quarrel in anger, but this time I asked God to help me get to the heart of the matter. I prayed out loud, asking the Holy Spirit to convict my boys of their sin and give each the courage to tell me the truth. Then I began gently asking questions and explaining the biblical concepts of love and kindness, until their whole story tumbled out.
As we talked, both boys felt conviction. And at the end of our time together, two brothers who really do love each other hugged and asked each other for forgiveness. The outcome of this altercation was different from many past experiences where I had simply reacted instead of inviting God into the process. Through them, God started teaching me to be a Gospel-centered mom.
I don’t want to paint a picture for you that communicates perfection. My family is far from perfect! But over the years, as I have searched the Scriptures and applied what I’ve found there to my life, I’ve come upon some guidance that helps me reach the hearts of my kids with the truth of the Gospel message — that in the midst of their sin which leads to death, God reaches out to them through Christ’s death and resurrection so that they can live. Here are five ways I practice being a Gospel-centered mom”
I pray the Word for my children daily
Early on in my parenting, I struggled to be the kind of godly mom I wanted to be. Two important truths about God’s Word inspired me:
- “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
- “It [My Word] shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).
If those two verses are true — and I believe they are — then it made sense that there could be no better thing to pray for my children than God’s Word itself.
So I began searching the Scriptures for things I wanted God to accomplish in my sons’ hearts, crafting those verses into prayers and praying them back to Him. Prayer is one of the most important, but overlooked, ingredients of Christian parenting today. If you’re not praying, start now.
I present the Word as their reality and standard for excellence
That night in the dark, in a moment when I really didn’t know what to do to move us forward, I simply fell back on the Word of God. Ever since my children were old enough to understand, I’ve tried to teach them basic truths from the Bible. (For example, the job of the Holy Spirit is to tell you when you’ve sinned.)
Not long ago, as I corrected my youngest son, I found myself thinking, He’s just being a normal little boy. Should I let this behavior go? And then the Holy Spirit reminded me that I’m not called to raise normal little boys. I’m called to raise men who will follow hard after Christ.
Our children don’t need less of God’s Word. They need more. They will fall short, but it’s the falling short that will teach them about their great need for Jesus. Frame Scripture verses and hang them in your home. Write the Word on index cards and place it in their lunchboxes. Talk about it often, and do your best to help your children understand their lives through its lens.
I know the Word for myself and strive to live it
Moms often ask me if it’s really necessary for them to be students of God’s Word. They say, “I’m not a preacher, or a teacher, or a seminarian. I’m just a mom. Why do I need to be that concerned with what the Bible says?”
My answer is that we always live what we believe. In today’s world, there are far too many misleading messages that are popular, but not true. We desperately need to know what God’s Word says about the important issues in our culture and our lives.
As Gospel-centered moms, we must be strong, intelligent and competent Christians, not only knowing what the Word of God says, but allowing it to change who we are, how we live and how we parent. When our children watch us submit to God’s truth, it will affect their hearts, too.
I protect my time
Before a recent move, my husband told me he was convinced a change in location would bring a slower pace to our lives. That didn’t happen. Our lives are busier now than they’ve ever been. Between sports, church, homework and work, a spare moment is hard to find.
Living the Word is difficult if you’re overcommitted. I regularly take a look at our primary goals as a family and whether our current schedule is allowing us to accomplish them. Are you spending too much time driving places to be able to give your time when a need arises? Are you so taxed for time that you can’t give attention to ministry needs in your church or community? Today’s American family is way too busy (mine included). Living a life dedicated to the Lord can get pushed to the side if we’re not careful and strategic about our time.
I ask for forgiveness
I once had a mom tell me she would never consider asking her children for forgiveness. “I,” she said, “am their authority. Asking for forgiveness teaches them I don’t deserve their respect.”
I couldn’t disagree more. In fact, one of my personal goals for my kids is that they know that I need Jesus just as much as they do. I will mess up. I will sin against them. You will, too. No one is above needing the grace and forgiveness of Jesus when they sin, not even those in authority. Asking your child for forgiveness shows humility and creates an atmosphere of safety that demonstrates how amazing forgiveness really is.
As I continue to seek the Lord through His Word, He is teaching me to be a Gospel-centered mom — a mom who helps her children see their need for a Savior and the wonders His grace can accomplish. As I know and live His Word first, only then can I offer it to my children.