As a father of two daugthers, I’ll admit I got real close to getting emotional in my office as I read this Q&A with Jim Burns and the Fuller Youth Institute (luckily for my co-worker’s sake, I held it together).  He answers 3 simple questions about parenting, but his second answer is that one that got me.  Check it out:

‘What verse of scripture has most shaped your parenting?’

I’m not sure we had one favorite verse for the entire time we were raising our kids, but three scriptures come to mind: “Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.” (Prov. 22:6) We claimed this verse as a promise, especially in the tougher times. As our girls reached the teenage years, they all took a turn away from what we had hoped and expected. Our goal was that by the time they became young adults, we would have taught them how to find their “Mission, Mate, and Master.” This doesn’t mean that they would have it all together, but that we at least helped them learn a biblical view in all three of those areas. Today we are reaping those rewards, but it sure wasn’t easy during the tougher times.

The second scripture is “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be written upon your hearts. Impress them on your children.” (Deut. 6:4,5) This scripture is called the shema, a Hebrew word meaning “to listen,” and it actually is the plan and purpose for the Hebrew people. It’s the most often-quoted scripture in the entire Bible because it has been recited every morning and evening in every Orthodox Jewish home since the time of Moses. I can imagine Mary holding the baby Jesus in her arms reciting these words to him. What this scripture taught Cathy and me is that we are called to live our faith out to the best we can, and then in a healthy way “impress” or pass it on to our children. We came up with a Sunday night fun night that included games, fun food, and a short spiritual formation time. Our kids didn’t mind, as long as it was a positive environment with fun food!

We also kept a nightly quick prayer time at each of the girls’ bedside. I got in the habit of placing the sign of the cross on their foreheads. One time when one of my adult daughters was going through a tough time, I asked her if I could pray for her. When I was finished praying she took my hand and had me put the sign of the cross on her forehead. I had no idea all those years that this experience meant anything to her.

The third verse is, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Prov. 4:23) Neither Cathy nor I were raised in Christian homes. No one ever taught us how to “guard our hearts.” We believed it was very important that we taught our kids (through both words and action) how to have healthy relationships by guarding their hearts as well as learning to guard their hearts in their faith.

You might have guessed, it was the third paragraph that snuck up on me.  I can only hope I have that kind of relationship with my daugthers when they are older.  There is so much in his answer that is worthy of emulating.  Personally, I’m stealing quite a few ideas from Jim.  I’m sure he won’t mind if you do as well.

In our family, my wife has started a great tradition of speaking truth and purpose over our kids each day.  Every day they engage in a call and response.  My wife will say to them, “Remember, love God, love others, and…” to which they respond “do great things!”  As we read the biblical story, we realize that simply put our everyday calling is to love God and love others.  In the process of doing that, we trust that God will do great things through our simple, obedient love.  It’s my prayer that as we speak these words of Scripture over our kids, it will be a foundation for them as they grow.

What about you?  What scripture passages have most influenced your parenting?  Feel free to share them in the comments below!

To read the answers to the other two questions (they are both shorter than this one and worth reading), check it out here.