I’m sorry.

Those are words I get a lot of practice using. I mess up a lot. I hurt people without intending to. I am so thankful for the people in my life who forgive me and move on, still loving me despite my hot headedness and stubborn nature.

Today, I want to look at the flip side of this issue. What have I done right and how can I love better?

I belong to an amazing church family. Conservative? Yes. In my book, that’s a good thing. It is also a church family with heart. I have witnessed many there pour their every breath into nurturing their fellow church members, serving, praying, caring for, and admonishing. We are each so different, each have our own struggles, and each have our own ways of showing we care. It is not always understood or appreciated. It is not always seen. This church has helped form my family, nurtured us, provided a safety net as we raised our children to grow to independent adult Christian people.

I also love that we strive to seek what the Bible teaches, not just what is acceptable to the culture, or what some person has decided to interpret scripture to say. What does God’s word say? How  would God have us live, and move, and have our being?

How do we teach our children that the Bible is applicable in their lives today? How do we teach them to fear God and to LOVE God? God is not one to be trifled with, He’s not some mushy, wishy washy Being that says, “Oh, never mind what you’re doing, I love you, so that’s all that matters.” But to teach them that He does love them—and that really is what matters?

How do I tell my children, “These things are important because God says they are important” but also that “God doesn’t want ill to fall you, He wants to protect your heart, He wants to live through you and fill you with peace and joy—and you won’t experience that peace and joy if you are pushing Him away?”

Jacob was God’s chosen, a chosenness that displaced the birthrights of his older brother. He was raised to follow God, to know the promises and the power of God. Good grief. He was Abraham’s grandson! Still, Jacob had trust issues. He didn’t see God as strong enough to keep His promises without some assistance. From reading the story, I think Jacob’s parents had trust issues as well, but I digress. This story is about Jacob.

Being a bit of a jerk, he lies to his father to get what he wants (that all important birthright), then flees for his life.

God steps in, comforts the fearful, discouraged Jacob who now holds the treasured birthright—but has no joy or peace in it. He got what he wanted, but didn’t get it God’s way. Jacob is encouraged by God’s promise. He worships and sets up a monument to “The God of my father” and he moves on.

He finds his mother’s people. Grows, learns, and acquires—not always in ways that showed a trust in God, still acting like God needed him to manipulate the situation.

OK, I am a writer with an active imagination, so humor me as I put a slant on a story who’s details aren’t specified. I’m trying to make a point.

Back to Jacob. Still following and worshipping “The God of his father.”

He gets himself two wives (yikes!) and a bunch of kids, and (surprise!) has trouble getting along with his in-laws so decides to flee back to dad’s place. On the way there, he starts to worry about the reception big brother is going to give him. He begins to pray. When a big warrior dude shows up they begin a wrestling match. You know the rest of the story.

Here’s the thing that changes:

After fighting with the angel all night, Jacob suddenly begins referring to God as HIS God.

Could it be that nothing his parents or “church family” did made Jacob’s relationship with God personal until God finally got in there and wrestled mano a mano?

I don’t know. This wasn’t how it went for Abraham. Or Noah. It might be similar to Moses’ experience. Each of these greats appear to have developed their faith journey a bit differently.

This doesn’t answer my previous question.

How do we teach our children? When I figure it all out, I’ll write a book, let you know and become wealthy enough to bail the U.S. out of debt.

There are a few things I do know. We’ve got to teach. When we rise up, when we eat at noon day, in the evening. God told us to. Teach them God’s word, train them in how they should go. We have to gain our children’s heart and trust. We have to try to understand where they are coming from, we have to love them despite their faults and discipline because we love them.

How do we teach them to love God? I think we can’t. That is God’s job. We can show and we can pray, and try not to get in the way. We’ll do a lot right. Still, we will fall short of showing God’s love and grace, a failure of sorts, because we are sinful humans ourselves, in need of a Savior. Sometimes we’ll mess up in little ways, sometimes really big. That’s where we apologize and keep trying to love them better. Some children respond immediately, seemingly born loving God. Some grow and mature into that love naturally. Others have a different journey.

We must learn to trust. Trust that we taught what we could. We did our faulty best. Trust God’s grace to chase our child down and in the moment they are ready to listen, let the wrestling begin.

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