Last night as I pulled back the sheets to get into bed, I heard a flutter of paper. I found a handwritten note nestled between the sheet and the pillow. It read, “Dear Mom, You are doing a good job with healthy eating. You are a good mommy. I love you very much.” There was a note on Daddy’s pillow too. I have received several encouragement notes from my children lately.
You may remember the Corner where I shared the Lord’s conviction in my heart concerning writing words of blessing and encouragement to my children. I have only been doing that regularly for a few months now, but I believe it has been motivating the children to begin writing their own encouragement notes. There were many reasons I saw for writing my children notes of blessing. I was surprised, though, by this unexpected benefit of the children beginning, on their own, to write encouragement notes to other family members.
As I have been pondering this surprise outcome of my note writing, I have become once again aware of the importance of a mother’s example to her children. I am reminded that Paul wanted to use his example positively in the lives of those whom he was teaching. “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9). Paul also showed the power of example when he was admonishing Timothy, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). I believe we want to use the influence of our example in our children’s lives in these positive ways as well.
Sometimes our example to our children is a negative one, which can be very discouraging to us. Scripture gives us direction for how to handle those areas of our lives that would be bad examples to our children. A quick overview would include several Scriptures. 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We are also to battle our sin and not yield ourselves to it. “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Romans 6:13).
We are not told in Scripture to dwell on our sin or make it a focus, as we might be prone to do. We are not to feel sorry for ourselves over our sin. I have recently discovered something much better than feeling self-pity—which comes easily for me—for my sin. I can rejoice that the Holy Spirit convicts me of sin rather than just letting me tolerate it. We repent, confess sin, pray for grace to overcome it, and yield ourselves to God.
Our minds are to be on our Lord Jesus Christ. That is where the affirmative example begins. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). Simply by following this one direction, we will be a good example for our children. The intent of our hearts’ desire for our example might be defined by this verse: “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10).
We can ask ourselves questions that would help us determine the example we want to set for our children. Do we want them to read the Word and learn from it? “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalms 119:105). Then we would evaluate our lives to see if we are setting that example for them. Do we believe prayer is vital in our walk with Jesus Christ? “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). A part of how a prayer life is developed in our children’s lives is by our example. Do we want our children to “Rejoice in the Lord always . . .” (Philippians 4:4)? If so, then we can’t be complainers and grumblers. That would be the negative example being observed.
Several years ago, Steve and I realized that we wanted more often and more verbally to be expressing our love for our children. As part of keeping our children’s hearts (see our book, Keeping Our Children’s Hearts), we knew the value of them always being keenly aware of our love for them. We began making an effort to tell each of them how much we loved him or her. We told them that several times throughout the day. Do you know what one result of that was that we hadn’t expected? The children began saying they loved us more and also expressing their love for each other verbally. We didn’t admonish them to do this. We didn’t give it to them as an assignment. We set an example.
Where are our hearts? What kind of example are we setting? The Lord Jesus has given us as mothers a wonderful assignment in raising our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Our example can help or hinder in that assignment. We have many opportunities each day to be examples to our children. May we be like Paul and choose to be the kind of example that will spiritually lead our children to Jesus Christ and to obedience to Him. “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience” (2 Timothy 3:10). Could we say the same?