The object of this series is to discuss various joys which accompany, by God’s blessing, the training of covenant children. Usually these joys are present in the diligent training of God’s children. But we recognize that situations differ, also by God’s design, so that one family may experience one joy more keenly and another joy less. While the nature of each experience is different, it is nonetheless the goal to discuss joys which are pretty well intrinsic in covenant conception and childbearing and therefore universally applicable to Christian parents.
When I first considered this series of articles on joy, I hesitated as I considered this article because it seems there are so many homes in which this joy is not experienced. Children seem to resent parents and parents seem to criticize and be embarrassed by their children so that it seems that Christian fellowship is so often missing from Christian families.
But the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that while Christian fellowship may often be lacking in our homes, that only means we need to stop and think about it and change things, for such fellowship ought never to be lacking. . .in fact, it is essential and basic to our family lives as Christians. The Christian family life must always reflect the relationship between God as our Father and ourselves as members of His Church. The heart of God’s relationship with us is His covenant love, revealed in His mercy through Jesus Christ and experienced as daily fellowship, walking daily with our God. If we are to know and experience this covenant love and fellowship with God, then our homes must also mirror that fellowship.
And actually, I find it hard to believe that any truly Christian home will not have some degree also of Christian fellowship. All of our ideals are marred by sin in this life, that is true, and so we will have no perfect home, no home in which parents always rule in love and children always respond in love, resulting in perfect fellowship. Such perfection doesn’t exist. Yet our homes do have a beginning of such fellowship; they must have this or they can hardly qualify as Christian homes.
Let me give some illustrations of family fellowship.
At a very early age, already at age two or three, children can learn to sing. Do not discredit the value of singing; it is of great value in the Christian life as both a builder of Christian ideals and also as a young expression of faith. When a parent hears his child singing the songs of Zion, often hour after hour, even though he knows he was taught them, the parent receives in response a joy which is deeply thrilling. There is godly fellowship in singing.
Very early, just as early as learning to sing, a child begins to pray. While his prayers are still childish and immature, mimicking and repeating the words of his parents without a great deal of thought on his own, nonetheless the sincerity and earnestness with which he prays often puts adult casualness to shame. We must be careful to insist on such sincerity when a child’s warfare with sin exerts itself, but proper training usually results in very sincere prayers in our children. As a child thus unconsciously witnesses to a simple trust in God as his Father, the child is also encouraging and witnessing to and fellowshipping with his parents.
As a child develops in understanding, even while still very young, the response he gives to parental instruction can be thrilling. The basic desire of a child is to please his parents and this can early lead to a basic desire to please God also. I am, for example, sometimes amazed how even small children can already prefer to use Sunday in ways that please God. When I have commented about some activity my children wanted that it really did not fit Sunday because it did not lead to learning to know God better, but when in the weakness of my flesh I have said I would still allow it because they were children and needed something to do, they voluntarily gave up that activity and found a more profitable activity to replace it. Such a response in children is a form of fellowship which is to a Christian parent both humbling and a cause of deep gratitude for God’s grace seen already in early years.
Such response in life can grow with the years. How thankful parents can be when their children resist and rebuke the sinful words or conduct of their peers. . .or else, should they be the ones rebuked, if they admit their wrong and change. How thankful they may be to see their children confess wrong-doing at any time, knowing this is contrary to our proud flesh. And how thankful they may be when, either voluntarily or with adult guidance, they enter sincerely into discussions of spiritual things. Such discussions can have some depth already in very young years and can be heartwarmingly meaningful as the child matures into a young adult.
My children are still young and so I cannot write from personal, parental experience about the fellowship which occurs between teenage children and parents or between adult children and parents. But I can realize it from my experience as a daughter and from my observation of other parents and the relationships they have with their children. Wherever parents in love faithfully train their children, and wherever God graciously works the response of faith in the children, the relationship between parents and children is that of genuine and deep fellowship, parents thankful for their children and children thankful for their parents.
What a joy! When such fellowship occurs, all earlier sorrows of conception are forgotten completely. The pain of birth, the difficulties of training the children, the labors in the home. . .all these are gone forever. The joy of fellowship deepens and continues through life.
May God grant such fellowship in Him to our homes.