How do we as parents grow in those four areas and how to we model this and create an environment for this kind of maturing in our homes?
Our children need to mature emotionally. We love and enjoy our children, but they are indeed children emotionally and functionally in day to day life together. Yes, parents can be emotionally immature, but that’s largely because they were not taught (or it was not caught) emotional maturity as children. Occasionally my three children sit at the table and argue over who sits where, grumble about eating good food, pinch one another, sulk, and complain during a meal together that should really be one of the great pleasures of life. Now, adults can do the same in more passive aggressive or subtle ways! Emotional maturity must be taught at a young age.
This emotional maturity is connected tightly with wisdom. Wisdom writers closely connect the fool with those who have no self-control, who talk before they think. A large part of wisdom is learning to express appropriate emotions. I’m not suggesting that we sand down the edges of intense emotion in children so that we pacify and socialize them. I’m suggesting that we learn to express more joy when something good happens, more saddness when something is truly sad, to learn to empathize with the pain of those around us, to grow emotionally mature and wise in how we live.
Our children need to grow in stature both in body and in spirit. Paul says in Ephesians 4:12-13 that Christ himself equipped good people who would in turn equip others for works of service, “so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (TNIV).
This stature that young Jesus was growing into is the stature we desire: to measure up in maturity, so that when people see our lives, they see a reflection of Jesus, his image, in us. That’s the goal of transformation for our children: being transformed and matured into the full stature and image of Christ.
Our children need to learn how to relate to God. Jesus grew in favor with God. What does it mean that he grew in favor with God? Was Jesus not already with the Father before he descended into earth in the flesh? Perhaps he was showing us what maturing in a relationship looks like. And this is an important area that is more caught than taught. We show our children what a relationship with God looks like in real life.
Teaching them a relationship that is not truly lived in a parent’s life will have little or no effect. When we reflect each day on what God has done for us, how he as a Father provides daily bread, each breath we take, how we serve him by reaching out to the bereaved and hurting, how we treat our children as God treats us, with tenderness and compassion yet with discipline and tough love.
Our children need a community. We should not teach our children to be so self-sufficient that they mistakenly believe they are independent of others, of their influence on them. This can work both ways. If we are aware of the impact—whether positive or negative—others have on us, we are better positioned to act appropriately with that influence. We need one another.
Children in the United States today receive instruction that is intended to strike a blow against the debilitating and abusive parenting that tears them down, the harsh and negative influences on their lives. So many children need an extra dose of “I am special” training. In many countries, however, children are taught that they are a special part of a group, a family, and that is largely what makes them who they are.
In Africa, for instance, the saying goes, “We are, therefore I am.” Children, then, are programmed with a world view that sees the community as the entire puzzle, and their life becomes an important puzzle piece that fits into that economy, family, tribe, country.
Jesus grew in these four areas: wisdom, stature, favor with God, favor with humanity. When we see our children formed in these ways, we—like Mary—will “treasure all these things” in our hearts as well.