Small Beginnings for Discipling a Child
When I became a parent, I was intimidated by the prospect of transmitting my faith to my children. The Bible is an enormous volume with sixty-six individual books, and the gospel message spans thousands of years. How do you reduce the gospel, to say nothing of church history, theology, and apologetics, down to something that children with their partially developed brains and linguistic deficiencies can grasp?
I’m the type of person who sees life in so much detail that I get overwhelmed. In order to not be debilitated by information overload, I have to focus small, pick a basic step, and proceed with that little, tiny piece. Consequently, I picked something my father used to do.
When I was growing up, Dad used to sing Ralph Carmichael’s “He’s Everything to Me” to my siblings and me at bedtime.
The lyrics highlight God’s grandeur, dwell on the wonder of a personal relationship with God, and point to the gospel.
The song stuck with me through my childhood and into my adult life, so I decided to likewise sing it to my firstborn daughter at bedtime, despite the fact that singing and music aren’t my forte. This song in particular stretches my vocal rang, and my daughter endured some pretty tenuous renditions.
Still, I persisted, singing the same story again and again, hoping that the message would trickle through. One night in particular is etched in my memory.
I was part way through the song when something happened that I wasn’t expecting: my daughter started to sing along. Her voice was untried and off-key, but she was singing, uncertainly, with me. She caught me off guard, and I missed a beat but continued on until the last the words of the chorus drifted off into the night.
This was parental witness in miniature.
I was singing the same song my father taught me—day after day—imperfectly, ardently, and consistently with the hope that one day my daughter would sing along and transmit the song to her children in turn. This was a key step, the first.
Certainly, reading and a gospel presentation came later—over and over and over again—and one day last year my daughter did decide, in words a child could understand, to choose God’s path. However, that journey of confession and repentance started years before. The transmission of faith started simply, with a song about a relationship with a God who longs to walk with us, a song echoing through the generations.
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