Few things in life are more nerve-racking and anxiety-causing than becoming a parent for the first time. All of a sudden, you are entrusted with the responsibility of raising a child and you are responsible for the development of that child – physically, intellectually, socially and spiritually.
Recently, I was conversing with someone who is about to become a parent for the first time and he was asking my advice.
“What’s the most important thing I need to know as a parent?” he asked.
How would you answer that question? What would you say? What is the most important thing that a person needs to know before entering parenthood? How to change diapers? How to drive a car and break up a sibling fight simultaneously? Where to get cheap babysitting? What?
While all of those things are important, my answer would be different. If I had to give just one piece of advice to all the parents out there, I’d say this: HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF.
It’s that simple. History repeats itself. For the most part, what you are is what you can expect your kids to become. In other words – to break it down into language that everyone can understand: monkey-see, monkey-do. History repeats itself.
This lesson comes across so clearly in God’s Word in Genesis 22. Abraham is asked by God to do the most difficult thing ever, to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. Abraham is called to slay his son in order to prove his faith in God and his love for God. Abraham, despite all the pain he must have felt, accepted God’s will and set forth up the mountain to slay Isaac.
Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
2Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
3So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son…”
One question that came to my mind was this: why did Isaac go with his father?
Why did he accept this? Abraham was an old man. By now he was more than 100 years old. Isaac was a young man at the time – in the physical prime of his life. He would have easily been able to overpower his father if he wanted or at least run away from him. He didn’t have to do it. He could have escaped.
But he didn’t. He accepted to be tied to an altar and was ready to be slain. Why? Why did he accept this?
Simple… because he learned obedience from his father – not from his father’s words, but from his father’s deeds.
By watching his father obey God, even when it was difficult, he learned to obey. By watching his father submit his will to God’s will, he learned to do the same with his own. Isaac learned from his father, even though his father never opened his mouth and taught him this lesson. History repeats itself in our children.
The same is true for you. Who do you want your kids to be? What do you want them to look like when they are parents? I have news for you. If you are not willing to live that life yourself, then you have no right to expect your children to live it either. This one is not easy to swallow. We sometimes have an attitude of “do as I say, not as I do.” You may believe that that’s happening, but it’s simply not true.
Children are LEARNERS! They are constantly watching and learning from you, even if you don’t realize it.
By watching you, they are learning how to treat their future spouse, how to obey authority figures, and how to handle disappointment and failure. By watching you, they are learning how to deal with anger and pain, and how to celebrate when they are happy. Most importantly, by watching you, your children are learning how important God is in their lives and how much they need Him in their own lives. We cannot expect our children to become something that we are not.
That is why the most important verse in the Bible for parents is John 17:19“For their sakes I sanctify Myself.” Can we as parents do the same thing? Can I improve myself so that my kids will be improved in the process? What are you teaching YOUR children?
For discussion: what’s an example from your own life about how children learn by watching, not by hearing?