As parents we have a very complicated and multi-faceted job. One of our tasks is to teach our children about their relationship with God.
I don't mean that we should subject our offspring to repeated diatribes on what it means to have a relationship with God. I want to suggest that our children will model their connection to God on their relationship with us.
They will see our good and assume God has that good. And if we are dictatorial, punishing, unfair, they will make the same assumptions about God as well.
If children want to learn about the Creator of the World, they will start with their own creators.
This is an awesome responsibility.
GRATITUDE TO PARENTS / GRATITUDE TO GOD
There is no one else -- other than parents -- who project the same combination of love and authority, no one else to whom children owe so much gratitude.
If children don't learn to be grateful to their parents who gave them life in this world, how can they possibly understand and express gratitude to the Almighty Who gives them eternal life?
If our children don't learn to respect us and defer to our authority (allowing for a brief lapse during adolescence), how will they be able to obey the commandments of a more intangible Being?
And if we are frequently betraying our children's trust, breaking promises and letting them down, how much more difficult will it be for our children to trust in the Almighty? When they hear, "Don't worry, God only wants your good," they will evoke the image of their untrustworthy parents who also claimed to want their good.
If we want our children to trust God, we must try not to damage their trust in us.
On the other hand, if we do a good job as models, this will carry over to their relationship with God. If we discipline our children appropriately and behave in a way that earns their respect, how much more will they then respect the Creator of the world.
A DAUNTING CHALLENGE IN A CORRUPT WORLD
This is a particularly challenging issue in today's society where most secular leaders do not merit respect and tarnish our children's view of authority figures. It makes our job more difficult, as we keep in mind the need of imposing our authority in a loving manner.
And if we want our children to have that deep trust in God, we must try not to damage their trust in us. We don't need to be perfect parents. That's not possible. But we need to be honest parents and we need to keep our word. Better not to promise at all than to break our promises.
Children have a very pure faith in God. When we were in Israel during the Gulf War and everyone was panicking during the first scud attack, my six-year-old turned to us and said, "Why is everyone afraid? Don't you know that God runs the world and He'll take care of us?" (From the mouths of babes…) Our job is to help maintain that outlook.
Of course there are many factors that ultimately affect a person's relationship with God but the parent-child relationship, being the first and very deep relationship, has the most profound effect.
We could have been born without parents, but then these important lessons would have been lost to us. We would have to learn them in other ways. A child who grows up in a dysfunctional home can still develop a relationship with God, can still love, respect, obey, and trust Him, but it's much harder. It's an uphill battle.
This is one of life's greatest struggles. Let's give our children a fighting chance. Let's make the most of our opportunity to teach them what it's like to loved by someone who only wants the absolute best for you.