By Lee Stewart
Although we believe we cannot pass on to our children what we do not possess, we also believe in a God who is there. He is Jehovah-Shammah, Emmanuel, God with us. If we can’t pass a particular thing on to our children, God can still write it into their stories. We are more than the sum of our upbringings, and our children can be more than the sum of theirs, too.
If you have a godly heritage, it is not an accident. It is a gift and a treasured part of your story. But no family is flawless, and even a godly heritage comes with cracks. Brokenness always trickles downward, but it may take on different shapes from generation to generation.
No matter our upbringing, God is bigger than we are. He can fill up spaces that we leave blank. He can redeem things we mess up. Parenting can feel very scary if we forget who has the transforming power—if we forget the God Who is there.
We are not the only impetus for change and influence in a child’s life. God can give our children more than what we hand to them. The first thing we hear in the Bible about God was that He made something out of nothing. Creativity is quintessential God. We also know Jesus is in the business of multiplication. He takes five loaves and two fishes and feeds thousands.
A deficit in our own upbringing may be the very thing that spurs us on to do better for our children. Sometimes our greatest strengths as parents are born out of a deficit from our childhood. In this way, God made something out of nothing. Our parents won’t be able to say “I passed on what I possessed” but rather “God passed this on to you in spite of me.” And one day we will say this to our children as well.
As we watch our children grow, we may find ourselves looking back and saying, “I didn’t give them this. God must have written this in Himself rather than using me as a tool in His hand.”
This is how grace operates. It reaches beyond us. Grace knows how to show up in the deficits.
God is writing a story in our children’s lives and He, in his mercy, has given us a pen. We are ambassadors and tools in God’s hands. But it is not ultimately about the ambassador, but about the One the ambassador represents. It is not ultimately about the tool, but about the One wielding it.
Take heart, moms. God is the Author of all good things. Embrace all the good your parents handed to you. Pay attention to it. We honor our parents when we hand down the faith they’ve passed down to us. We honor God when we acknowledge the way our heritage reaps a harvest in our own children. But embrace the broken things as well and don’t be afraid to name them and sort through them. It might be a years-long painful process, or it might be a simpler, less agonizing one. It might be something in between. But in every case, take the broken things captive and make them obedient to Christ. Do not say of dysfunction in your own heart and life, “I can’t help this, it’s just who I am, I was raised this way.”
We are not to hide truth, but to tell truth to the next generation. It’s never about WHETHER we’re teaching our kids. It’s about WHAT we are teaching. Our actions are always preaching a sermon. What is our message? This question should help us keep a sane estimate of ourselves while increasing our dependence on God. When we stand in front of all God requires of us as parents, it should push us into the spacious place of obedience. We are participating in His work, His story. And He is a good Author.
Don’t be afraid to admit that you have broken pieces in your hands as you raise up followers of Christ. Hand the broken pieces to God, release any bitterness toward your past, and ask for wisdom and sanctification as you face the future—the very faces of your children. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge what is lacking in your own cup. God’s water is Living Water, so you will always have plenty to drink from in Him. He can highlight the good written in to your heritage. But He can also write what was left out or scribbled over by your family of origin. Say this to yourself a lot, and remember your children can say this to themselves as well.
Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him.
Lee is the wife of Josh and the mother of three. She’s a pianist, a baker, a runner, and a recovering perfectionist. Motherhood, to her, often means finding beauty in the minutiae and grace in the big picture. Writing helps her find those things a little faster. Lee believes God’s truth seeps into everything from the duty of a simple laundry load to the making of little disciples. She loves being a mom because it takes her through deep waters and plenty of silliness, all in a day’s work.