Inside: There are so many things our kids need from us an any given day- all of them super-important. But if you miss this one- the most important thing you can do for your children – the consequences reach farther than we realize.
An Accidental, Providential Morning
It was one of those mornings when I knew things were starting off on the wrong side of the bed – or more accurately – crib. It was Sunday, it was early, and already, I could hear my son Michael, one of my twin 2-year-olds, in the monitor: “Mama, mama, mama” – much too early for him to be up.
I tried to let him cry a little, hoping he would go back to sleep. Not today. So our day started with crankiness and grumpiness, and thankfully, James, his brother, was full of smiles to balance everything out. For a while.
We still had a few hours before church, and I didn’t see signs of the crankiness letting up. With a frustrated sigh, I herded them into the stroller, and we headed out for a walk.
As is typical when you want things to take a long time, we were at our usual turn-around spot in only 10 minutes. Not having the energy to occupy them until church, I kept going until we reached Stop and Shop, just down at the next traffic light. Just before the light is a bus-stop – one of those plexi-glass shelters with a bench.
As we passed, we saw an elderly man inside – homeless, I assumed. He had his shopping cart with a few things in plastic bags: a container of blueberries, a loaf of white bread, angel food cake and a bottle of 7-Up. When we approached, he looked up and smiled at me and the boys. We said good morning, he asked about my boys (that’s pretty standard for us), and we chatted for about 10 seconds before we kept walking.
The Internal Dilemma
The traffic light was only yards away, so we did our about-face and then passed the man again. We nodded and waved and went on our way. Truth be told, I was relieved I didn’t have any cash on me so I wouldn’t have that debate with myself over whether or not to give him money.
Until I remembered that inside my wallet/phone-case, I had the remains of a Visa gift card.
I could feel the small voice of the Holy Spirit begin to speak up, and before we even finished the conversation, I knew where this inner dialogue was going.
I could hear myself making all the excuses:
“That card was a gift from one of the students I tutor. Things are so tight for us right now. I just can’t give away money.”
“He will probably just use it on alcohol or cigarettes.”
“There are no limits to the resources available for homeless people in our county. If he needed help, he could get it.”
The farther I walked, the flimsier those excuses sounded. I could feel the knot inside my stomach growing, and I knew I had to make my decision soon; it wouldn’t be long before I would tell myself that I was too far to turn around, anyway.
Then, the Holy Spirit brought to mind something I had read not long ago.
The Consequences of One Parent’s Choice
I’ve always wanted to read through the Bible chronologically, and in my attempts to get my quiet time back on track, I started to read Genesis. I got to the part in Genesis 26 when Isaac goes to Gerar because there is a famine. God gives Isaac instructions and repeats the promises He had given to Abraham; mixed in with those instructions, God said something in verses 2-5 that caught my attention:
“Do not go down to Egypt; stay in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham. I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed;
because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws.”
Later on in verse 24, God says something similar:
“I am the God of your father Abraham;
Do not fear, for I am with you.
I will bless you, and multiply your descendants,
For the sake of My servant Abraham.”
And this reality hit me all at once: Isaac was blessed because Abraham obeyed.
When God had put Abraham in the crossroads of whether or not to obey (namely, leaving his own country to go to an unknown land and not withholding Isaac when God asked him to sacrifice him), his choice would have a direct impact on the blessings that his son Isaac would receive.
Isaac was being blessed only because his father had obeyed God.
That passage got me thinking about me and my obedience to God and the impact it would have on my boys. I am certainly not putting myself or my obedience to God (or lack of it) on the same level as Abraham, but I think the principle translates:
The most important thing you can do for your child is to obey God.
Related: When Motherhood Feels Confining
Why Your Obedience as a Parent Matters So Much
It’s true – there are so many things our kids need from us: affirmation, unconditional love, training, discipline, security. But when we mess it up on those fronts, if we own up to God, ourselves and to our kids as well, we usually can make things right again. However, when we choose to disobey God, we are potentially setting things in motion, in a certain direction, that might not be so simple to reverse.
That’s why our obedience to God is such a big deal The consequences of getting this one wrong could have a much larger scale impact.
All the time, God is putting us in situations where we can choose to obey or not to obey. Sometimes the consequences are big – like if God asks us to pull up stakes and move across the country. Sometimes they are not so big, at least from our perspective – like giving a homeless man a Visa gift card.
But who really knows where those choices, big or small, will lead? The point is – we don’t. Our call is just to obey God whatever He asks, big or small.
And we also don’t know the cumulative effect our obedience or disobedience will have on our children. It’s not just the big steps of obedience, but sometimes it’s lots of little steps of obedience added up that equal something big, too.
It was sobering to me – to think that whether or not I obey God will directly impact my boys – for better and for worse. If nothing else, my choices are building in me a certain character quality – either submission or stubbornness – and certainly, that will translate in how I engage with my sons and what I’m modeling to them.
What’s frightening is that if I get into a pattern of disregarding God’s voice and disobeying, even in little things, I could really miss it on some super-crucial issue where I really need to know His will – a situation with super-high stakes.
Maybe our obedience to God won’t have the destinies of nations and kingdoms on the line (or maybe it will. Who knows what God’s plan is for your kids and their kids and their kids?). But for sure, it will impact your children, which trickles down to the plans and purposes God has for them.
I’m not saying we can thwart the plan of God for their lives, but maybe, due to our decisions, it could take them longer to be in the sweet spot of God’s will.
In my small little corner of the universe with my small little boys, each of my decisions take me (and them along with me) a little closer to or a little farther away from that sweet spot. And who knows the blessings they receive because I obeyed or the blessings they miss out on because I didn’t?
In this case with the homeless man, my boys are too little to know what was going on: if Mommy was obeying or disobeying God, if Mommy was jeopardizing their future blessings because she didn’t want to give away her gift card, why this nice man who looked like Papa was sitting at a bus stop.
But I’ll know. And so will God.
And if I’m being honest with both of us, that’s not a reality I can hide from.
So Does He Get the Visa Gift Card or Not?
So, those verses, that argument with God – all taking place in my head within seconds of passing the old man.
I’ve been in these situations: God is speaking, and if I debate too long, I’ll convince myself that it’s not God. That it’s just me. So, with the flip of a switch, I pushed aside my typical indecisiveness, turned off the argument, and made a wide left turn on the sidewalk. I knew in my heart that whatever I might buy with that gift card would just turn into rottenness, the same way the manna did when the Israelites hoarded it when they weren’t supposed to.
I reached the man, handed him the gift card and said, “I was praying and God told me he wanted you to have this. I don’t know how much is left on it – $30? $50? But it’s from God and he wants you to know that He loves you.”
The man was hesitant and asked me if I was sure. I said, “Yes. It’s from God.” He looked uncertain, like maybe I wasn’t serious, but he took it. We smiled and said good-bye and then we headed home to go to church.
Could he still buy alcohol and cigarettes? Yup.
Couldn’t he go to a shelter where his needs would be provided for? Yes, again.
Could we have really used that money? Wholeheartedly, yes.
But none of those things is the point. The point is that God told me to do something, and I had a choice to either do it or not do it. What happens after that – not my business. It’s God’s. I’m sure Abraham could have made a million arguments about why leaving his home was a bad idea and why sacrificing his promised son was an even worse one.
But he didn’t. He just obeyed. And Isaac (and generations all the way down to me, you, and our kiddos) was blessed because of it.
The Ripple Effect of a Parent’s Obedience
We don’t get to know ahead of time the weight and consequences of our obedience. What we do know is that there is a ripple effect that goes out, especially to our children and likely, a lot farther than that, impacting the future for better or for worse.
Yes, those choices are actually ours to make. And obeying God is the most important thing we can do for our kids.
To obey God is a safe bet – 100% of the time. I for sure don’t have this mastered. For that one I got right, I’m sure I’ve gotten 10 wrong. But I’m learning not to argue, to do what He says, to trust.
He’s a good Dad. He won’t steer us wrong. We can trust Him.
Now wouldn’t that be something – if our kids could learn from our example and have that kind of relationship with us? And then have that kind of relationship with God themselves? Where they easily obey – God and us- because they trust? Because they’ve seen us do it?
Even if that was the only result of our obedience – then, yes, that would be something. Something worth obeying for.
Have you ever been in the crossroads of obedience? I would love to hear your story!
If there’s someone you know who can use the encouragement, please share! 🙂
Related: When Motherhood Feels Confining