When we come out of the womb we enter a fallen world. The womb is safe and perfect. The world is sinful. Upon that first inhale of earthly oxygen, we left the perfectness of heaven and the sanctification process begins.
In that first breath, we begin a life between Edens. Our earthly nature is one of automatic selfishness. (Not that this is a bad thing, necessarily. It’s fascinating to me to realize how a newborn baby knows what it needs and finds a way to get it. Somewhere along the way, many of us lose sight of that and forget that we need oxygen, too.) Our souls know idols before our minds can comprehend what they are. We have to be taught to be grateful, kind, generous, and really, anything good. We have to learn to say, “I’m sorry” and “please” and “thank you”. I’m sure you can hear that adorable little 3 year old with her arms crossed and pouty lower lip saying, “please”. Maybe because she’s your daughter or maybe because you hear your own voice from back in the day. She wants a cookie but her mom is tell her to ask nicely. She is learning more than how to be polite. She is learning humility. Pride and entitlement come naturally. Humility must be taught.
So we build…
When our kids were younger, my husband and I found that building character in our children often came from embarrassing them. Not by doing anything wrong or purposely embarrassing but by doing little things that they apparently thought adults were too mature for. I danced in the car during stopped traffic, and sang along to Barry Manilow in the nail salon, and we kissed in the department store. Well, they did have a PDA department after all. (I guess I should explain that this was in SE Asia and PDA meant “Personal Digital Assistant”.)
Sometimes when my husband and I would kiss at home, our youngest daughter would run through with a horrified look on her face yelling, “Rated R! Rated R!” And we would just say, “Nope. This is only PG, my dear. You will are not privy to the rated R.” This still makes me laugh just thinking about it and if our daughter, who is now an adult, reads this she will likely strike that same horrified look.
While they sorted through their shock and awe moments, we liked to think that by being ourselves, having a little fun and yes, embarrassing them a little, helped to build their character. What they didn’t know was that they, too, will one day do these things to their children. Or at least we hope they do. If not, then it will have to up our game as grandparents.
Now that they are grown up, these character building memories are ones we often laugh about.
There is a lovely little book I pulled out as we raised our three souls. Sadly, it’s out of print now but I still have my copy. I keep it out and pray for our grandchildren.
The book was originally titled, Watchmen on the Walls and was by Anne Arkins and Gary Harrell. It was later retitled and became, While They Were Sleeping. I love both titles but am particularly partial to the first.
I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem;
they will never be silent day or night.
You who call on the Lord,
give yourselves no rest,
and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem
and makes her the praise of the earth.
Isaiah 62:7 NIV
Arise, cry out in the night,
as the watches of the night begin;
pour out your heart like water
in the presence of the Lord.
Lift up your hands to him
for the lives of your children,
who faint from hunger
at every street corner.
Lamentations 2:19 NIV
The character traits focused on in the book are:
We may not have followed the path of this book every day. We sometimes slept when the kids slept instead of praying because we were exhausted. But, we spent a considerable amount of time focused on parenting with the purpose of building character into our children and were committed to an attitude of prayer over them. I’m of the belief that God is more concerned about the intents of our heart than our actions. (1 Samuel 16:7) Although actions are very important. I am quick to give credit for the good that came from our years of parenting to His generous grace in all of our ignorance and inadequacies.
Now that they are no longer young and they are beginning to raise their own children, these character building prayers are the ones we are most grateful for.
Parents, building character into our children is hard and holy work and well worth it. Our kids can grow up to be many different things, taking a myriad of paths, but when they do it with godly character, they will find success (1 Kings 2:1-3).
Let us stay awake and be watchmen on the walls for our children. Let us watch over them in prayer by night and by day.
This three-part audio series could be very encouraging for you. Although it’s from 2005, the message and concept of praying for our children will never be out of date. FamilyLife Today: While They Were Sleeping