If you have kids (or have ever been around them), you know that teaching them often requires instructing them to do something that you yourself are not the best at. This happens to me frequently with my three-year-old. For example:
“No, you don’t need to play anymore right now. We need to get you in bed on time so you feel good tomorrow.”
“I want you to clean up your toys now. That way you don’t have to clean up a big mess later.”
“Go ahead and pray now. God loves it when we talk to him.”
“Let’s read from your Bible story book first. We should read about God before we read your library books.”
The truth is that when I give my child instructions, I often shed light on a fault of my own.
I sometimes stay up too late on my computer, then pay for it the next day. (Or my family pays for it.)
My natural inclination is not to work on the dishes multiple times throughout the day, but to put it off until the kids are in bed, giving myself a messy job that takes three times as long.
I often choose to stew in anger, scroll Instagram, or stick earbuds in my ears rather than “pray without ceasing.”
Bible study — getting to know the Creator — ends up on the backburner, and at the end of the day, I’ll have checked everything else off my to-do list except the most important thing.
Do my struggles with these things mean that I should let my daughter off the hook for a toy-strewn living room, allow her to play until 10 pm, stop asking her to pray, or put aside the Bible story book?
No. I need to tell her to pick up her toys, then stick the dishes in the washer.
I need to ask her to pray before eating a meal or falling asleep, then do the same myself. I need to show her how to pray for daily blessings — “That’s a beautiful yellow flower you found! Thank you, God!” — while simultaneously learning to count my own blessings more and more.
I need to read a Bible story to her every day, and I need to work diligently to carve out time with God as my first priority.
Our own imperfections do not excuse us from teaching our kids. Instead, as we teach our children, God teaches us.