I have been thinking recently about some of the marriage and parenting conferences/retreats we have attended over the years. Often a speaker will get up and share Godly principles, wisdom from life experiences, and most often – how wonderful their many years of marriage/parenting have been. Often it is very good, even inspiring. God can speak to us through those uplifting testimonies.
It is rare to hear speakers share the reality of the hard times – the times when they had to “hang in there” by faith because the circumstances were grim or even tragic. Who stands up and shares about the “all nighters” with a vomiting, pooping baby and the crabby way we deal with our children the next day because we’re so tired? Yes, God is faithful even on those days we KNOW we don’t deserve it. We must hang in there – and sometimes it feels like we are hanging by a thread.
I remember sitting at a Parenting Retreat and thinking “I am going to write an article called “Least We Forget”. This article will tell about the REALITY of having four children under 5 years old and what a REAL evening meal is like. The family meal shared with the whole family is important and certainly a goal to attain. So are family devotions. Yet when should this take place? Do you suggest we do this before the food is put on the table so that the two-year old isn’t eating the rolls? (or crying until she gets one?) Or after the meal when the one year old wants down and the three-year old needs to use the bathroom NOW? I remember the reality of fussing at our children for not sitting quietly while daddy reads from the Bible and the children ending up in tears. How much of a blessing is that to our family and even more importantly to God? It is SO EASY to forget when the children are older just how challenging meal times are with little ones.
Again – the answer I believe is “hanging in there”. Find what works for your family. There are many variables – but having meals together as a family is a blessing because so much can be shared at that time. If it is not possible every evening – plan for times when it will work for your family.
Try having devotions before bedtime when children are very small. Food is not an issue and the quiet before bed is a special time to talk about the day. Meal time is difficult enough when children are small so devotions may make it more stressful. As children get older and develop patience to wait for food, or to wait at the table after a meal is finished, devotions around mealtime can be a great time for family fellowship. Once our children learned to read, we took turns reading the short, simply worded devotion. ( we did not use My Utmost for His Highest at this time!) This encouraged participation as well as supporting the child’s developing reading skills. ( I smile when I remember our children asking their dad the questions at the end of the devotion. They wanted to test him as he had tested them so many times before!) The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes by Ken Taylor is very well written and has three short questions at the end of each devotional and Scripture.
Remember – having some meals together is better than none. The same applies to devotions. Hang in there even when it doesn’t work out for a while or is interrupted. Illness, travel, vacations, all can disrupt schedules. The important thing is to resume the pattern again when possible. Creating family patterns that build relationships and share Godly truth are so valuable.
2 Timothy 4:7-9 (NIV)
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.
Here Paul is saying that he fought, he finished, he kept the faith. He doesn’t say he was first in the race, but that he finished. He also says he kept the faith – he hung in there. The result is a crown of righteousness – not because we deserve it – but because God is faithful. So, hang in there!