Growing up I had a friend whom I admired and respected. She seemed to never get into trouble. When her parents told her she couldn’t go somewhere, she would quickly comply. I remember being at her house and in the morning she would do her devotions, and she had a lot of scripture memorized. I was impressed! Every time I was around her and her family, she was praised for her servanthood and obedience.
One night when I was with their family and her father told all of us that she was going to go to the mission field as soon as she turned 21. Her parents were obviously very blessed. It wasn’t just me who was wowed by this girl, but everyone I knew referred to her as the most obedient, well-mannered young lady they had ever known.
A few years later I began to hear rumors that she was becoming very worldly and that her family was very grieved and in disbelief. I dismissed the rumors because I had not heard anything from them and, frankly, I could not imagine it to be true. A few weeks later, I got a call from someone in her family telling me first hand of how this friend of mine had fallen away from the Lord. They relayed all of the various, ungodly things she was engaged in and it was heartbreaking. Upon hearing this I began praying fervently for this dear friend.
About three weeks later, I felt the Lord wanted me to contact her and call her to return to Him. She agreed to meet me at a small deli for us to talk. When I saw her, I could see the darkness, the pain, and the confusion. Before we even sat down at our table I asked her what happened and why. At first she said, “Maranatha, I don’t know how I got here.” I reminded her of her heart for the Lord and how she used to want to be a missionary. After reminding her of past conversations and events, I asked her again, “What happened?”
As she shared, the Lord began to uncover a significant and profound truth to me. She went through each of the events and stories and told me what was really going on in these situations. She told me that she spent her life hating how her parents were leading, and begrudged and resented most of their commands. She said that what looked like obedience to us really was not, and that what was actually going on in her heart was incredible anger. She conveyed how all of those times we saw her doing devotions or quoting scripture she was doing it to impress us and keep up the appearance of a completely sinless child. She said that when her parents told her to do something that she did not want to do, she would do it, but in her heart she was far from being a joyfully submitted young lady.
I realized how many of those times what we saw on the outside was not at all what was going-on on the inside. I know and recognize that there could have been other factors in her falling away from the Lord, but I knew I had at least discovered one of the major reasons. I immediately remembered situations in my own life when my father would tell me to do something and I would do it, but my heart was not really there.
For instance, one time he told me to watch my little brother for half an hour, but I wanted to read a book instead. For that entire half-hour I resisted and complained in my heart. Yes, I watched him but my heart sure didn’t. As a result, I was not very kind and tender to my brother. When my dad came back he knew I had not submitted in my heart to his leading. He helped me see that even though I did what he said, I was still disobeying. He disciplined me and told me that when he said to do something, I needed to do it with all my heart. This was one of many times my father would not let my outward behavior be good enough. He wanted more and expected more. He wanted complete surrender not just an “empty work.”
Does this sound like another Father you know? I could give countless scriptures of how our Lord Jesus requires a complete yielding of our thoughts, our lives, and our hearts. Remember His “Sermon on the Mount”? He says in Matthew 5:22 that you are guilty of murder if you are angry with your brother without cause. The Lord raised the standard that what is in our hearts is just as important as what we are doing outwardly. Think about all of the bold statements that He made to the Pharisees in Matthew 23. Here are just a few:
“But they do there deeds to be noticed by men.” (v. 5)
“For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.” (v. 25)
“For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” (v. 27)
“Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (v. 28)
They did so many things right on the outside but their hearts were full of sin. Jesus perceived this and He rebuked them. Can you think of times in your own life when you were filled with pride and arrogance but what everyone else saw was humility? Have you ever been thinking something awful inside while outwardly being nice? Does this mean that if we are angry inside we need to spew our venom on someone so we will not be hypocritical? No, we need to be honest about what is in our heart so we can turn from it. Jesus told the Pharisees in verse 26 to “first clean the inside of the cup so that the outside may become clean also.”
We can understand and see this truth in our walk with the Lord, but I want to challenge us to raise our children in this same way. If I tell my son, Benjamin, to take out the trash, he may take it out but in his heart resent having to do the chore and wish he was doing something else. This is unacceptable in our home. He must obey fully, not just in deed and action, but with his whole heart. Both are imperative! I am sure to some of you it sounds like we are too hard on our children or that we are looking too deep. But I am convinced the Lord desires full surrender of our hearts and therefore we need to train and require full surrender of our children’s as well.
It takes discernment to know where your child’s heart is. I remember one morning I watched my oldest daughter go from one task to another. She is a “doer.” She was getting so much done and was truly helping me. But the longer I studied her I realized that she was not “with” me at all, and I was unable to taste of her heart. In her effort to serve she lost the main point of serving, which is to love. What I witnessed was her pushing her siblings aside and being very short in her answers. On the outside everything was accomplished, but I knew I did not have my precious daughter. She also left the heart of following and took on her own agenda. She was being very independent and self-absorbed. The world tells us that independence and self-reliance is good. The Lord, on the other hand, teaches that we are to lean on him and draw off of His life. If we allow our children’s hearts to live independently of us then when they are adults they probably will not have a capacity for yielding, trusting, and depending on the Lord Jesus. I have seen so many people who grew up this way and as a result, their hearts wandered from the Lord.
Throughout each day, I endeavor to be attentive to my children’s words, faces, body language, and gestures. As I look into their eyes, I can usually tell if their hearts are with me, or if they are resisting, or if they are simply closed. “Awe, Mom, do I have to?” is an obvious indicator of one’s heart, but sometimes it is not that clear. Ask the Lord to help you see and perceive what is going on inside of your children. Call for their trust and for them to get with you with entire submission. Spend as long as it takes to draw them out and do not let a day go by without knowing where they are at inside. Be persistent in requiring them to do everything with all of their hearts. If you can successfully train them in this you will be laying an incredibly good foundation for them in their relationship with the Lord. We do not want to raise Pharisees, but we will if we merely affirm their performance and neglect looking deeper in their hearts and confronting what we see. A good way to learn this is to study how Jesus calls to us and relates to those whose hearts are not with His. Call forth your child’s heart!
All that I have shared thus far is very important and needed in our parenting. But it will be of no benefit to us and will actually be extremely damaging to our children ifwe are not walking this way as well. All they will witness is hypocrisy. What we are wanting of our children must be lived out in our own relationship with the Lord Jesus. Are you drawing off of the Lord’s life continually? Is your heart open and vulnerable before Him? Are you completely honest about what is going on in your heart? Do you put on an outward veneer of holiness so people will notice you and be impressed? Are you aware of your desperateness for the Lord and His life or do you feel as though your doing pretty well on your own? Sisters, we need to fall on our faces before God and humble ourselves daily. He desires full surrender of our hearts to Him!
Used with Permission. Kindling Publications.