When our children are babies, it’s normal for mothers to delight in their first words, coax them in their first steps and brag on their first dance or piano recital. We watch with a bit of anxiety as their interests and occupations spread beyond the confines of our home, rejoicing as they find their place in the world and well aware of all the pitfalls and heartaches that will entail.
Few mothers realize at the beginning of their children’s lives that, just as they labored to give that child physical birth, they will also be called upon to labor in giving their son or daughter spiritual birth. Both labors require everything that a mom has to give and both require they she is ready to die to herself in order to give new life. In a culture which marginalizes the eternal truths in favor of the passing reality, this statement doesn’t make any sense. So I’ll be more specific:
- Our children aren’t created to glorify their parents, they are created to glorify God. As much as we hope that their lives are a credit to us and our family, in the end, it is their life, not ours. It is common, especially for mothers, for build an altar in their hearts to their child and worship there everyday and demand that everyone else worship there as well. God forbid that a teacher or another family member say anything negative about the child. When moms fly to the defensive position immediately, it often indicates that, in the parent’s perception, the child has become an extension of the parent’s self-image. That perception has to die. For two reasons: God will have no strange gods before him, even our own kids, and it places an undue burden on any child to take God’s place.
2. Just as a baby doesn’t know not to drink poison, so adolescents and young people are usually unaware of the subtle poison that the culture of death offers them daily. As a mother’s physical influence over her child necessarily wanes as the child grows older, her spiritual influence should increase.
This spiritual influence is manifested in two ways that used to be self-evident but aren’t anymore: First, mothers need to speak up unapologetically when her children’s spiritual health is threatened. This might mean insisting on weekly Mass attendance, refusing to accept a live-in lover or being laughed at for her old-fashioned beliefs in modesty in dress or conversation. Secondly, and maybe more importantly, mothers must conscientiously fast and pray for each child (and grandchild) everyday. The type of fasting and prayer depends on the mother’s circumstances and reality of her daily life but is essential to the spiritual growth of her children and can’t be neglected.
3. John 15:5. “…Apart from me you can do nothing”, Jesus tells us but few of us really believe him. We’re pretty self-confident in our ability to handle daily life, raise our families and function in a socially acceptable way. Our default position is usually something like, “I’ll stick God on the shelf and, if I need help, I’ll pray.” We’re generally oblivious to the fact that we ‘need help’ for every breath, every word and every step we take. So beginning the process of nurturing the spiritual growth of our children entails admitting to the Lord on the front end that we are helpless parents without his daily direction and sustenance in our lives. This last step is a good first step in ensuring that we will be able to enjoy our precious children not just for a few years here on earth but for all eternity in heaven.