From Birth to 5 Years Old.
My wife Dawn and I were married way back in September 1992. After our honeymoon, we moved into our new home which was just about finished, or as finished as we could afford at the time. We had a kitchen, half a bathroom and a lot of cement floors and walls. The curtains in our living room window were made from four pieces of golden-brown velvet off cuts and it felt like completing a massive jigsaw puzzle every evening as we closed the curtains to get some privacy. Money was in short supply, but we were happy.
Dawn sat me down one evening when I arrived home from work and placed my ‘dinner’ in front of me. I wondered why she had my plate covered with another plate, but assumed it was just some fancy recipe she was trying out, but underneath the plate was the tiniest pair of lemon-coloured booties. After only six months of marriage we were pregnant, and ok we had become experts at closing the jigsaw curtains, but concrete was still the main theme of our décor, and the bathroom was still half finished. The nine-month countdown had begun, and we had a lot to do.
Luke was born, after a long delivery, on the 6th December 1993. He took his time. Labour lasted for 8 hours, but at the end of a really hard day’s work (for Dawn) we were handed this little life, and were expected to look after it. I can remember our house was full of baths, basins, bags, and buckets all full of ointments, creams, and lotions. We had (and needed) at least four different outfits a day for Luke to wear. We couldn’t leave the house until he was bathed, changed and fed and almost every time as we were about to leave, he would either be sick or need a nappy change. In a really bad case of either, the whole bath, change and feed process would have to be repeated. Having children isn’t easy!
After Luke was born we were blessed with two more children. Erin was born in 1995 and Elliot followed in 1998, and Dawn and I both thank God for His grace as all three are walking with Him today.
One song that takes me back to those days is a song by The Proclaimers called ‘Your Childhood’. The song is taken from a dad’s thoughts as he sings to his new born baby and it maps out the stages of childhood.
The chorus goes –
“From birth to five, you’re learning
From five to ten, you’re playing
By the time you’re fifteen you’re never wrong
But you turn around and it’s all gone, your childhood.”
I can remember listening to that song and dreaming about the day when nappies would be a thing of the past. But the lyrics ring true, and not just for the child. Before too long, you (the parent), turn around and your son or daughter’s childhood is over, they’re all grown up, they’re finished with Nursery school they have sailed through Primary school, they have moved to ‘The Big School’. They have made new friends, and your chance to be a positive influence in their lives has greatly diminished if not disappeared altogether.
You see I believe as Christian parents we have a small window to build the foundations of faith in our children’s lives. Now of course I’m not saying we have anything to do in the salvation of any of our children, or friends and family for that matter, nor am I saying we have failed as parents if any of our children are not walking with the Lord. It goes without saying that as Christians we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed by Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone. But Christian parents have a huge responsibility to steep our children in the truth of the gospel at a young age. Build a strong foundation for faith, before the walls get too high and cracks begin to appear.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”Ephesians 2:8 (NIV)
So where do we begin, or more importantly when do we begin.
Well as The Proclaimers put it, the first stage in a child’s life is from birth to five, so why not start there.
We must admit children learn an awful lot in the first five years of life. They figure out how to sit up, stand, balance, and eventually walk. Baby talk turns into recognisable words, which turn into sentences. They figure out who Mum is, who Dad is, they even know who the soft touch is between the two and how to wrap Dad around their little finger (though this probably only applies to daughters). The thing is, while all this information is going in and forming these young lives, forming these young minds, should we not also be introducing them to their Father in Heaven.
So how do we go about this. Well the main thing we must remember at this stage is to worship God in the home. A Christian example in front of our children, even at a young age is so important especially in the home. It’s common knowledge that a child will copy, almost immediately, something they see their Mum and Dad doing or saying, so a good, consistent, Christian example is vital.
But being a good Christian example at this stage in a child’s life is more than praying with them at night and reading them bedtime bible stories. It’s about earnestly worshipping God in the family home, and by that, I mean paying special attention to your own walk with God, not necessarily your child’s walk. We must make sure we don’t just worship God only on a Sunday, but we put Him first right through the week, at home, in front of our children. No point reading a bible story at night to them, while our own bibles sit neglected in the drawer, no point praying with them for a few quick seconds asking God to bless granny and granda, while it’s been so long since you openly and honestly poured your heart before God. No point telling a child that we can trust in God, but be constantly worrying about everything and anything, because you haven’t taken time with God and been able to leave worries with Him.
Don’t think for a minute this stuff goes unnoticed, even from a toddler. If your walk with God is intact, everything else falls into place.
“But seek first his Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
If your relationship with God is as it should be, so then will the relationship be between husband and wife. Of course, it will never be a bed of roses, toilet seats will always be left up, razor blades will always make their way to the shower, that’s just the laws of nature that are hard to explain. But if both of you are in a deep, intimate relationship with God you will each become more Christlike in how you live. The fruit of the spirit will flow out of you both and into your home. Making for a more peaceful, patient, loving, gentle environment instead of jealousy, selfishness and greed ruling the home. The relationship between the head of the home (God) and Mums and Dads, is as it should be in order to enjoy His unity and blessing in the home.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”Galatians 5:22 (NIV)
Think of how we teach our toddlers to walk, we first show them how we walk. When we encourage them to say their first word, we sit in front of them for hours saying ‘mama’ or ‘dada’. When we encourage them to take their first spoonful of food, we usually pretend to take a mouthful first. It’s no different when we encourage them to trust in Jesus, it’s up to us to show them that we trust Him in our lives and live that out in front of them.
So from birth to five they’re learning. And we must teach them and nurture them. Show them not only how to take their first step, say their first word, take their first bite, but also what it means to trust in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour and doing this by living our lives in front of them, fully in love with Jesus our Saviour, trusting Him, studying Him, talking to Him, relying on Him.
We should build that good foundation by showing our children what Jesus means to us, it’s only when we do that can we show them what He can be to them.
Written by Thomas Harpur