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You Shall Teach Them to Your Children

More and more as I get older, I hear my parents coming out of my mouth and I see their idiosyncrasies in my actions. When I was a child, I would have rolled my eyes at their phrases or “dorky parenty” ways. But now I have to laugh and sometimes even send a quick text to my brothers when this happens.

I wondered how many others have phrases from their childhood that they can either vividly remember or that they have used themselves in their adulthood. I reached out to friends and family and got a mix of serious words of wisdom as well as more humorous phrases. In the volume of responses I got, it was clear that I am not alone in having phrases from my childhood ingrained in me.

Christian parents have gone one step beyond general words of wisdom, and also have ingrained spiritual wisdom and Scripture in their children. With Father’s Day approaching, I would like to honor fathers who have embraced their role as spiritual leader, and Christian households in general. Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” A parent who has taken up this task with diligence has carried out the Lord’s will.

I thank and praise the Lord for gifting me with a faithful father and mother who felt that raising children in the faith was their most important task as parents. I’d like to share a few ways they followed God’s Word as written in Deuteronomy 6:5–9, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

1. “You don’t have to; you get to!”

LIke any child, the whine, “do I have to??” escaped my lips from time to time. Oftentimes this was my question when it came time for family devotions. Every time, the same patient response was said with a big, genuine smile, “You don’t have to; you get to.” 

All of my K-12 school days began the same. I would wake up to a loud banging on my bedroom door signaling it was time to get out of bed, rub the sleep out of my eyes (because that would not be allowed at the table), and join my family at the kitchen table. The six of us gathered here every morning to eat together and start our day with a family devotion. We followed Morning Prayer from the Hymnal Supplement. In my sleepiness and childishness, responses, readings, prayers, and a hymn were not my idea of a great way to start the day. I figured we did this because my dad was a pastor and so it just came with the territory. Even though I may not have felt enthusiastic about family devotions, this was a constant in my life growing up. I came to expect it and felt comfort knowing it was one thing that would remain the same.

As an adult, I can look back at this morning routine with more maturity and recognize what I gained from it. I gained a respect for the importance of a family gathering together around their table. As I got older, busy schedules kept every family member from being around the table together every evening. But, we were always able to gather in the mornings. I gained the ability to pray for those around me. I gained the words of Luther's Morning Prayer committed to my memory. I gained a love for the richness hymns have to offer. And I gained a model of how to raise my own children in the Word.

My experience with family devotions may not be your exact experience, but I hope that you also are able to reflect on ways that your parent(s) shaped your own personal faith walk. If you did not grow up in a home where this was a priority, then I hope you can reflect on ways you want daily encounters with God’s Word to shape your own household.

2. “Remember who you are. Remember whose you are.”

Another phrase I have carried from childhood was something my dad and mom would say, especially as I got older. Anytime I would be going out of the house and away from parental supervision for any kind of a social outing, I would hear: “Remember who you are. Remember whose you are.” As a child of God, I was to act as such. I was to make decisions based on this identity. This biblical teaching can be found in Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Parents strive to raise God-fearing children who have the laws of the Lord placed on their hearts for their own protection. As a sinner, I did not always “remember whose I was.” That is where the final teaching, and arguably the most important teaching, comes in . . . 

3. “It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, but where you’re going that counts.”

Growing up, my parents taught me that with sin comes consequences. After experiencing the consequences of my actions, I was always also taught that with sin comes forgiveness. Always. Acts 3:19–20 says: “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”

This last phrase that teaches this concept of forgiveness does not come from my childhood home, but I have felt the blessings and grace of this teaching. This last phrase comes from my husband's childhood home.

The summer that my now-husband and I met we spent a lot of time talking and getting to know each other. As in any courtship, we had open and honest conversations about the “baggage” we each would bring to a new relationship. I can remember when he turned to me and said that his parents taught him that “it doesn’t matter where you’ve been, but where you’re going that counts.” I instantly felt a fresh wave of forgiveness wash over me. This way of seeing forgiveness had been ingrained in my husband since childhood. In that moment, I experienced a whole new illustration of Isaiah 43:25, “I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

These three phrases that my husband and I have heard since childhood, will undoubtedly be spoken in our own home. A child repeats what he hears. So let’s give them—children, nieces, nephews, students—good concepts that are worth repeating! If you did not grow up in a household where phrases worth repeating were spoken, you can glean some wisdom from the phrases I got from friends and family. I hope you’ll enjoy the humor mixed in with true wisdom:

“Control what you can control. . . .I’m not your friend; I am your mom. . . . Always be the nicest one. . . . Some people are sandpaper; God uses them to smooth out your rough edges. . . . Life’s not fair. Whoever told you life was fair has not really lived. . . . Think before you speak. . . . Pick yourself up by your bootstraps and keep going. . . . Life by an inch is a cinch, but life by a yard is hard. . . . Don’t do your work twice. . . . It is what it is. . . . This, too, shall pass. . . . There’s life beyond high school. . . . Nothing good happens after midnight. . . . I’m shipping you to China if you don’t behave. . . . It’s far from your heart and you will live. . . . It’s not a contest. . . . Life isn’t fair. . . . Stupid hurts. . . . Make hay while the sun is shining. . . . Smile big. . . . Look with your eyes, not with your hands. . . . If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. . . . Listen the first time. . . . Nothing good ever happens when you panic. . . . Only nice noises please. . . . I’ll give you something to really cry about. . . . Do your best and let God do the rest. . . Kill ‘em with kindness. . . . Just wait until your dad gets home. . . . Whining does not get you what you want or need; use your words… The people who need love the most usually deserve it the least. . . . You may not be able to choose what happens to you, but you can choose how you respond to it… You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. . . .There are starving children in Africa who would love to have your vegetables. . . . It’s not about you. . . . You got a problem with that? . . . Harness the power of the Internet. . . . If you are stressed out and climbing the wall, take a rag with you. . . . If everyone else jumped in the canyon, would you? . . . If the shoe fits, wear it. . . . Walk a mile in their shoes. . . . Watch your own bobber. . . . You’re not going to learn any younger. . . . Do you know where you go for lying? . . . No education is ever wasted. . . . Life is hard. It’s harder when you’re stupid. . . . This hurts me more than it hurts you. . . . If you point your finger at someone, remember there are three fingers pointed back at you. . . . Love you to Montana and back. . . . Were you born in a barn? . . . I’m not her mom. . . . There is more than one way to skin a cat. . . . Don’t cross your eyes; they’ll stick that way. . . . Mind your Ps and Qs. . . . If you get yourself in trouble, make sure you bring your toothbrush because I am not bailing you out.”

Written by

Rebekah Janke

Rebekah lives with her husband, Tim in Dickinson, ND. She spends her time teaching 6th graders. When she’s not in the classroom, she enjoys spending time with her family and dogs, playing violin, and reading.



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