My company’s safety policy includes restrictions on using cell phones while driving. This week they shared a tragic story involving a teen texting while driving. Her father indicated he was reminded of all the times he’d used the phone while driving during her childhood and the unfortunate example that set.
During my childhood I heard the phrase, “Don’t do as I do, do as I say do” countless times. In cases like this father’s, there are times “don’t do as I did” is appropriate because we now know better than we did before. But the original phrase is such a damaging cop-out.
I struggle every day, realizing that my 6 month old can hear, see and understand much more than I realize. She might not communicate yet what she’s taking in, but she’s soaking it up all the same. She takes in my crappy attitude along with my joy and the way I treat my husband in the hidden family moments. It is my responsibility to model the actions I want her to display. But it’s more than that. I have to model for her the motives and the source for those actions. It’s not enough to say, “be gracious”, I must actually display grace. But it’s also shortchanging her if I don’t show her where I get the strength to be gracious.
If I have any good in me, it’s the result of an outpouring of the Lord in my life – a fruit of the Spirit. I have a responsibility to model for her a relationship with Christ that is filled with His Spirit and pours itself out in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control toward her and others.
I am not strong enough to model a perfect life for her. I will surely fail – every day. But I have a gracious God who has been the perfect model of “do as I do”. If I follow His lead, abide in His ability by abiding in Him, there’s hope. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” After all, parenting is in large part discipleship.
As I try to model the fruits of the Spirit for my daughter today, my prayer is that I remember it must come from being, not doing. Fruit is a result of growth that comes from the water, fertilizer and life that’s taken in. May we all take in huge amounts of Jesus today.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”