I still remember my oldest daughter and I having a conversation about connection when she was just a toddler. I used an object lesson to describe our connection to sin, things, habits, people, and God. We would either be in a knot or knit to healthy things, people, and God.
She had disobeyed in some manner (time helps us to forget these things), but I wanted her to understand why it mattered. Using a shoe, I showed her how the shoelaces were connected to the shoe and how tying that knot on the shoelaces kept the shoe in place. Undoing a knot is not an easy thing to do, and whatever we connect to we are binding ourselves to.
The principles in this lesson have been a foundation in my parenting and have helped to keep my children’s hearts close to mine. We don’t want to be bound in knots over sin, things, habits, or people. We want to knit our hearts close to God and those we love. This will require recognizing unhealthy connections that keep us from the connections that matter most.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Wavebreakmedia
1. Connected to Sin
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 ESV
Sin binds us just like a knot. We feel stuck and sometimes don’t realize that we are bound in sin. Being connected to sin hurts our relationships and connection with others. When my daughter was disobeying, she was choosing sin, and it bound her. By correcting sin, I freed her to be connected to me and to God as we reconciled, and her heart was set free.
I am pretty sure parents do not enjoy disciplining their children when they sin. We would rather avoid it than have to deal with it. But if we are not faithful to consistently deal with sin in the camp, we inhibit our connection with our child and their connection with God. Sin separates us from God and one another. We can still stay connected to our children by loving them when they are rebelling, and that might be what finally helps to turn their hearts around.
As my children are now all young adults, this is still an area that I speak into their lives. It looks different now, though. Each week as I interact with them, they might ask for counsel and then I speak into their lives. But sometimes they don’t ask, and they might still receive it. When I consider Eli the Priest and how God rebuked him for not correcting his adult sons’ sins (1 Samuel 2:12–36), or Aaron the Priest and their adult sons whom they did not correct (Leviticus 10:16–20), I am convicted that just because my children are adults does not mean I do not still play a role. Correcting sin in their lives keeps them connected to God and family.
2. Connected to Things
Things can also keep us bound and disconnected from others. Children have a way of delighting in things, and parents need to guard against letting movies, gadgets, or electronics babysit our children. When my children were little, I did not allow electronics that were too engaging, and I limited the amount of movie watching. I also only permitted movies that would encourage them in their faith.
But still, it was a battle to keep things from becoming first in their lives. And, if I am honest, in mine, too. Guarding our children’s hearts against idolatry is a worthy battle, and sometimes there are replacements that can help them to be more connected to us than to the things of this world. Participating with my children in things together, like playing games or being there for their activities, keeps our souls connected more than things ever could. This continues now in adulthood as we gather together and stay connected through family events that have to be intentionally planned around one another, not things.
3. Connected to Habits
“Jesus made a habit of keeping a regular schedule. “His habit at this time was to teach in the Temple by day, but to go out and spend the night on the Mount called the Oliveyard.” Luke 21:37 WNT
We are creatures of habit, but sometimes those habits can become the boss of us. Children especially like to stick to a routine, so we need to be careful what becomes a part of their routine. Helping our children to seek God first places a connection to God right at the beginning of their day. Infusing faith into the entire day through worship music, Scripture reading, Bible study, and family time helps to build a connection that is not easily torn down.
Habits are really hard to be consistent with. I used to have charts on the fridge when my children were growing up. We had a chore chart, a chart for our daily schedule, and friends; those charts changed constantly as I tweaked and tried to have a schedule or a chart that was finally the magic bullet. I finally realized that we did not have to be perfect in our execution. We just had to never give up trying to be consistent in our time with God and to cultivate habits that made way for connection, such as meals together, and being together as a family—no isolating in our bedrooms all by ourselves.
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4. Connected to People
“Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 ESV
People are who we are to be connected to, but we have to be careful about who we allow to influence our children while we can.
That day when my oldest daughter and I tied the knot together on that shoelace, I told her that I wanted our hearts to be knit together like that shoelace was and that I wanted her to be close to God, too. The smile on her face was beautiful, but over the years it has been a challenge to keep that connection healthy.
People of poor character can enter our children’s lives and parents can feel peer pressure to not “over parent”, but it might just save your children’s lives to speak into their lives and relationships.
5. Connected to God
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 ESV
The foundation we lay for our children’s faith will determine the course of their lives. As we introduce them to their Savior, we need to help them build that connection. My children have never been lacking in devotional materials. I confess I *might* have overdone it with devotions, but I love to learn and love to spend time in devotion with God, and I wanted my children to have this same love. But I realize now that this is something they must choose.
But we can help our children to be connected to God by living out loud our connection to God and exhibiting character that is attractive to those around us who are seeking God. Loving unconditionally and relying on God’s word helps us to be connected to the One we want our children to be connected to.
Connection is messy with imperfect people. But when we never give up and pursue their hearts, our children know that we and God are their home no matter how far they may travel.
Originally published Monday, 16 May 2022.