This past week our family was able to take a little trip to Kentucky. We had a great time visiting neat places and seeing incredible sights. While close by, I was really excited to take Elijah to a few places on and around the campus of the University of Kentucky. I am a lifelong Wildcat fan, as most who read this knows.
I have yet to be able to take Elijah to see the ‘Cats play on their home field or court just because it is so far away. But I was thrilled for him to get to at least see some of the facilities. I may have been more excited for him than he was as he walked around the football field to see what we could see. It was so fun to watch him experience this place for the first time. Every few seconds he was asking me to take another picture! It is a memory I will keep forever.
After we had returned home, I sat reading our sermon passage early Sunday morning, just spending some time still decompressing from our trip but also preparing my heart for worship. This past Sunday we worked through the second stanza of Psalm 119 (v. 9-16) as we continue to work through the whole chapter in the coming weeks. As I read those verses my mind returned to those moments at Kroger Field.
I was struck by the thought that Elijah has never lived in Kentucky. In fact, I have never lived in Kentucky, although I was born there! (My family lived just across the border in Tennessee at the time.) I did not attend UK, nor have I really spent any substantial time on that campus, or even in Lexington, for that matter. Yet, his eyes lit up as we walked around that field. Why?
He loves Kentucky because his dad loves Kentucky.
Over the years my passion has become his passion. He knows the names of players, positions, stats, outcomes, and standings. He pretends to be Wildcat players as he plays in the backyard. He counts down the minutes to watch the next game. Just like me. And this passion has developed despite my never really spending any time teaching him these things. In some ways I find that now sometimes his knowledge exceeds my own!
Why would I think about this while reading and praying through Psalm 119? Because in those moments I was struck by the reminder that the most powerful way we disciple is through our affections. I did not teach Elijah to love Kentucky sports in a technical, normative sense. I did not instruct him to love Kentucky sports. I didn’t make him. He simply loves what his dad loves.
I think most people are overwhelmed by the thought of discipling others. I also think this is especially true with parents regarding the discipleship of their children. I think this fear has to do primarily with an enormous sense of inadequacy because most feel ill-equipped to teach, or instruct others in the faith.
Now, don’t get me wrong, teaching is a central aspect of discipleship. But one of the most powerful ways we instruct is through our affections. The truth is, we are all producing disciples; we are always discipling. That is already taking place. The question is, what kind of disciples are we producing?
In those moments on Sunday morning I was struck by an incredibly convicting thought: Out of the affections I display and those things that I present out of the passions of my life that are supreme and of ultimate worth, what am I leading my children to love most? What if I lead my son to love and pursue Kentucky sports more than King Jesus? What if I lead my children to be more shaped in their identity by the things I love to do than the gospel?
You see, our affections are often much more powerful than even the lessons we set out to teach. Parents can take their children to church faithfully, bring them to student ministry, and even attempt to lead family worship at home here and there, and yet they will end up loving and holding up as supreme what their parents pour their lives into pursuing themselves…sometimes, and sadly, despite the lessons taught.
So, what are we leading our children to love?
It’s OK, and even great, that Elijah and I share a love for Kentucky sports. I hope to get the opportunity to take him back for games so that we can experience that love together. I look forward to continuing to share that love with him as time goes by. More than anything, though, I want him to embrace, treasure, and worship Jesus. I want him to swim more deeply in the waters of the gospel than in any other subject, hobby, or idea.
On Sunday morning I realized that one of the ways I can pursue that prayer is by modeling a deep love for God’s Word for my children to see. They need to see me more invested and more passionate about seeking to know God in the Word than me being engaged by by a bunch of 18-23 year-olds playing a sport.
The lessons I teach my children are important. Taking time to teach them the Scriptures and to discuss how the gospel applies to our lives is vital. But my life will ultimately aim their hearts toward what I deem to be of greatest worth by the investment of my time, talent, and treasure.
What are you leading your children to love?
What would they say you love most?
Here is encouragement and hope: Ask God to give you a deep and abiding love for knowing Him through his Word…and he will, through his Spirit’s work, equip and enable you to deeply disciple your children through both what you teach and what you seek.
9 [Beth] How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. 10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! 11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. 12 Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes! 13 With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. 14 In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. 15 I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. 16 I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.Psalm 119:9-16