Several years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer (I’m fine. I’ve been cancer-free for 12 years). Anyway, back to my point. The night we told Chris and Craig, our sons, I told them about the diagnosis, about how we thought we had caught it early, and that I’d be having surgery in a few weeks.
They took the news surprisingly well. Too well, I thought. Maybe they didn’t understand. Maybe they were in shock. They nodded their heads that they understood the news and asked what they could do next.
A little later, I pulled them aside and asked them if they were okay. “We’re fine,” they said. “We were watching Mom. If Mom had lost it, we would have known you weren’t telling us the truth. But Mom’s fine and we’re fine too.”
The whole time I was telling them the details of my diagnosis, they were watching to see if Jeannie held it together. She did, and they did too.
But did you notice how they made their decision on how they would behave? They watched Jeannie. They didn’t listen to me. They watched her.
All of us as parents want to be sure we teach our children the truth about life and the best way to live as Christians. We struggle to make sure we have the right words to say, the right answers to their questions, and we always want to be sure we say the right thing.
But here’s the thing — they’re not listening. They’re watching.
They pay attention to everything they see. They watch how their parents treat each other. They pay attention to phone conversations with friends and what we say when our favorite team is losing. They watch how we act in church — and how we act when we’re getting ready for church. They pay attention to whether or not you read your Bible and the music you listen to while you’re in the car.
They’ll pick up your gestures and, in more ways than you want, they’ll grow up acting just like you.
The old saying is a picture is worth a thousand words, and the image of how you acted in a million different situations is impressed on your children. When they don’t know how to act, they’ll act like they saw you act in the same situation.
They’ll walk like you. They’ll talk like you. The pictures you leave in your children’s minds will shape the lives our children live for years and years.
Jesus is the picture of God and for a long time, we are the pictures of Jesus our children see. I know, we all fall short of that goal, but with a little effort and focus, all of us as parents can become a better portrait of Jesus for our children to see.