I grew up in a church culture, a catechizing culture, and a family worship culture. Each of these was a tremendous, immeasurable blessing, I am sure. I am convinced that twice-each-Sunday services, and memorizing scripture, and worshipping as a family marked me deeply. I doubt I will ever forget that my only comfort in life and death is that I am not my own, but belong in body and soul, both in life and death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, or that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. I can still sing many of the psalms and hymns of my youth, and I have memories of my family bowing our heads around the kitchen table.
What was true of my family was true of many of my friends’ families. They, too, grew up around churches and family devotions. Our church had near 100% attendance on Sunday morning and healthy attendance on Sunday evening. It was just what we did.
But despite all of the advantages, many of the people I befriended as a child have since left the faith. Some have sprinted away, but many more have simply meandered away so that an occasionally missed Sunday eventually became a missed month and a missed year. Not all of them, of course. Many are now fine believers, who are serving in their churches and even leading in them. But a lot—too many—are gone.
Why? I ask the question from time-to-time. Why are some of my friends and families kids following the Lord, while so many of our friends and their families are not? Obviously I have no ability to peer into God’s sovereignty and come to any firm conclusions. But as I think back, I can think of one great difference between my home and my friends’ homes—at least the homes of my friends who have since walked away from the Lord and His church. Though it is not universally true, it is generally true. Here’s the difference: I saw my Mom living out her faith even when I wasn’t supposed to be watching.
When I woke up in the morning, I would find my mom in her bed with her Bible open on her lap. Every time I picked up my mom’s old Bible it was a little more wrecked than the time before, I would find a little more ink on the pages, and a few more pieces of tape trying desperately to hold together the worn binding. When life was tough, I heard my mom reason from the Bible and I saw her pray. She wasn't doing these things for us. She wasn't doing them to be seen. She was doing these things because she loved the Lord and loved to spend time with him, and that spoke volumes to me. I had the rock-solid assurance that my mom believed and practiced what she preached. I knew she actually considered God’s Word trustworthy because she began every day with it. I knew that she believed God was really there and really listening because she got alone with him each morning to pray for herself and for her kids. I saw that her faith was not only formal and public, but also intimate and private.
Here is one thing I learned from my mom: Nothing can take the place of simply living as a Christian in view of my children. No amount of formal theological training, church attendance, or family devotions will make up for a general apathy about the things of the Lord. I can teach my children all day and every day, but if I have no joy and no delight in the Lord, and if I am not living out my faith, my children will see it and know it.
For all the good things my mom did for me, I believe that the most important was simply living as Christians before me. I don’t think anything shaped or challenged me more than that.