My kids love to make lists of things they want. Grocery lists, birthday lists, Christmas lists, mom-to-do lists. There is always a need (or a want masquerading as a need) to be procured by yours truly. My kids want good things and I want to give them good things, just like every parent. And just like every parent, I spend an enormous amount of time, energy, and resources on making sure my kids have what they want (within reason); it’s just part of the job description.
However, as parents, we often give less attention to what kids REALLY want from us. While kids have different interests and desires, I will put it out there that every child – whether they can verbalize it or not – wants the same thing from their parents:
Sound crazy? It might if holiness conjures up thoughts of white robes, chanting, smoke, perfection, strict moral purity, or any other weird, unattainable ideas. The most basic meaning of holiness is to be “set apart,” dedicated and belonging to God. To be holy is to be devoted to God and intentionally separated from those things that are not of God.
“Holy” or “holiness” is mentioned more than 900 times in Scripture, making it the single most covered topic in both the Old and New Testaments. But, in our culture, even as Christians, holiness is often an afterthought; it is not our focus. We tend to treat holiness as optional. However, God never gave that option to Believers. You can’t claim to be a Christian and forgo holiness, “Be holy because I am holy,” (Leviticus 11:44, 1 Peter 1:16).
At some point, most children learn along the way that their parents’ choices for holiness (or unholiness) have the power to bless them or shake the shingles off the roof. Kids fully grasp that their parents’ holiness (or unholiness) is the hand that protects them or waves in chaos. They eventually discover the utter relief holiness brings through avoided struggles and pain caused by sin run amok in homes. Have you ever considered the connection between your personal holiness and your parenting?
Nineteenth century Scottish pastor, Robert Murray M’Cheyne said, “The greatest need of my people is my personal holiness.” He was speaking in context of being a pastor, but the same holds true for parents. The greatest need of our “little” people is our personal holiness. Think of what happens to a church when a pastor forgoes his personal holiness: Truth is not taught. Sin has an open door. Hypocrisy takes the stage and the message is merely a performance. Rule-keeping, striving and moralism – imposters of holiness – burden the flock.
The same is true for parents who forgo personal holiness for any lesser endeavor. Holiness is an intimate relationship with God, which, of course, has moral ramifications that benefit the family. Addictions, stealing, lying, affairs, abandonment, every kind of abuse – none of these can take root in holy lives (Eph 5:3). None of it. Let that sink in. What would families look like if Jesus’ holiness ruled in households?
We all know the power parents hold over childhoods. Parents wield power like few other positions in the entire universe. Hearts are won and lost. Whole generations are won and lost. What you do, say, watch, or otherwise invite into your life does not happen within a vacuum; it has the power to shape your family tree.
Holiness rescues our families from self-inflicted sin, its repercussions, and generational reverberations. Holiness can make or break an entire childhood, just ask some of your adult friends, or maybe you know this truth all too well.
What if we gave children the choice of how and by whom they wanted to be parented? We might automatically think they would choose the fun parent. The rich parent. The permissive parent. And they might at first blush. But if they truly knew what was at stake, they would choose a holy parent every time. Every. Time. (And by the way, a holy parent can certainly be fun, wealthy and/or responsibly permissive, those things aren’t mutually exclusive.)
But, kids can’t choose their parents. Thankfully, though, you get to make a choice from this breath forward how you parent your precious children. And you must actually choose. We don’t naturally gravitate toward holiness.
Holiness may seem unattainable and impossible, and without God it IS impossible. He calls us to be holy and then sends His Holy Spirit to live inside of us. It’s not of our own strength, He has equipped us with what we need (2 Peter 1:3).
There is no such thing as counterfeit holiness, or fake-it-till-you-make-it holiness. No one becomes holy by accident or lethargy. If we don’t intentionally read and study the Word of God, pray and seek Him, we will be swallowed up by this world. We won’t be able to help its influence over us (or our kids).
Your holiness is a blessing for your family. Your holiness is a protection for your family. Your holiness is a relief to your family. Holiness is neither cheap nor easy. Being committed to holiness will go against every knee-jerk reaction and “natural tendency,” and guide you to be more than you would have ever asked or imagined.
My kids don’t need or even want a perfect parent (good thing). But they do want – whether they can articulate it or not – me to follow Jesus and make choices that reflect a life given over to Him rather than my immediate desires.
Therefore, I urge you, fellow parents, “in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship,” (Romans 12:1).
It’s what your kids really want.
This post was written for and originally appeared at ChristianParenting.org