Raising up strong children requires transparency and authenticity
A time-worn Christian cliche’ says that family decline is the root cause of much of the devastation in the nation today. From broken families, broken children emerge to create broken communities, broken churches and even broken nations. If we are going to turn America around, we must heal our families. Our families and homes are the first school house and the first church.
When my husband talks about a spiritual reformation within our nation, I often think about the practical aspects of training the next generation. I know several strong Christian leaders whose children have wound up doing prison time or they are stuck in nonproductive jobs, or even worse: They hate the idea of being engaged in ministry. This is often because the leaders did not pass the baton on to the next generation.
Years ago I looked at my life. I saw how wounded and dysfunctional I really was personally. Born an illegitimate child, the descendant of three generations of broken homes. Sexually abused before the age of 5 and brought up in a ghetto that led to me getting involved with drugs, alcohol and premarital sex. I even had two abortions.
After I married Harry, I decided my family curse was going to stop with me. I chose to become a true disciple and a woman of purpose and purity. I decided to train my daughters with a strong discipleship emphasis from ages 1 through 12 and then to nurture them to a release into adulthood in which they were allowed to make choices along the way. Naturally, I had the advantage of two degrees in education and a clear understanding of my personal sin patterns and the grace of God.
Early in our marriage, the Lord spoke to Harry and I the following word: “You who were once bound will now go forth and set others free in the name of Jesus!”
Let me give you a picture of what discipling your own children should look like. I will describe a situation that actually occurred with one of my amazing daughters.
As she slid into the car, we exchanged greetings. Very gingerly, I inquired about the events of the day and was given a laundry list of negative events that had transpired during the school day. Name calling, cheating and drug trafficking were the three that got my attention.
I tried not to sound alarmed, but her intensity concerned me. I tried to ask opened questions. Failing to get the answers I desired, I began to probe only to be told, “Back off, mama!” As I paused prayerfully, the dam broke.
Deep sobs followed by a flood of words about the persecution she had experienced that day. The injustices of prejudice became the topic of our discussion for the remainder of the drive home. My challenge was that the prejudice was not one-dimensional. It was based on class, gender and race. To make the conversation more difficult, I was shaken by the vehemence of her comments.
At moments like these, it is easy to simply pick up a secondhand offense or demonize the faculty and other students. I knew I had to remain objective and continue to present a biblical point of view. I prayed silently as she unburdened her soul. Wearing the “mommy hat” and trying to make her feel good was not the role I chose.
Volumes swelled and waned. Fire shot out of both of our eyes while the discussion ensued. Ironically, the only way I could inject a Bible perspective was by taking the role of the devil’s advocate. I was rebuffed as I presented the biblical principles, but I held my ground.
On that brisk spring day, I passed two tests: the transparency and authenticity tests. You can pass this test as well. The admonition to train up a child in the way he should go involves critical thinking, biblical authenticity and vigorous debate.
If we are going to raise up strong children, incidents of injustice have to be addressed individually and rationally—using the Scripture as the standard for life and conduct.
Michele Jackson is the wife of Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., senior pastor of 3,000-member Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., and the first presiding bishop of the International Communion of Evangelical Churches. Her ministry of strengthening families, and teaching pastors and leaders spans 25 years.