Spiritual Formation in the Home
I am an extremely grateful father of five adult children, all of whom love Jesus and one another. How did this happen? I’m not sure, but here are some highlights of what happened along the way.
In a word, it happened by grace. Of all people, I am perhaps one of the least likely to have modeled a Christ- centered atmosphere in my home. I was brought up in the Unitarian Church without any real knowledge of Jesus or the Bible and without an example of what a Christ-centered home looked like. I came to faith in Christ at age 23, one year out of college, at a time when I was not even seeking God. My wife Ginnie, (Head of Ambleside School of McLean) jokes that had she known me in college, she wouldn’t have given me the time of day and I don’t blame her. I met her two years after beginning my journey with Christ, and we were married four years later when I was 29.
When I came into a relationship with Christ, I was thrilled to have the Bible as an objective source of Truth and Life. Discovering the Bible for me was like a man who was dying of thirst in the desert finding water. I could not get enough of the Word, memorizing and studying it as much as I could. One thing I found came the closest I’ve seen to the Bible presenting a “How to” for raising up children:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).
I understood from this that perhaps one of the most important elements of raising children was that they would see Ginnie and me struggling to make sense
of the day-to-day challenges of life in light of God’s Word—not necessarily always making sense of it, but trying to do so.
Early on in my relationship with Christ, I was inspired by the emphasis Jesus gave on love for one another. This led me to try to intentionally work with my children on how they related to their mother and me and to one another. One example of this was our attempt to implement Jesus’ instructions on working through disagreements in Matthew 18. Whenever one of our children came with a complaint about a sibling, I would ask her if she had talked directly to her brother or sister about the problem. If not, I sent her back with the instruction to work it out directly, and if not able to do so, to say, “If we can’t work this out, I’m going to have to ask Mom or Dad to come help us.” Later, I encouraged them to try to bring another sibling or friend as a witness before bringing us into the picture. My oldest daughter manages a coffee shop now and recently told me that she now uses a similar method in helping her employees work through problems.
Soon after I began to study the Bible, I found the Westminster Shorter Catechism with Scripture Proofs to be a wonderful tool to help me form a biblical theological framework. I did not, however, try to teach this to my children. Instead, I thought it would
be better to start at the beginning: The fear of the LORD. So I developed a “wisdom catechism” out of Proverbs and Psalms to try to bring that home to them. The only catechism question that I insisted my children learn was question 92, “What is a sacrament?” I had them memorize and discuss this every Sunday on the way to church to help them more fully understand (especially) the LORD’s Supper, which we celebrated every Sunday as members of an Anglican Church.
“If two of you agree on earth about anything . . .” (Matthew 18:19). I explicitly worked through agreements with each of my children based on scripture. This was not simply a covenant of chastity but agreements that flowed out of a commitment, above all, to the first and greatest commandment to love the LORD our God with all our heart, soul and mind—something impossible apart from the atoning work of Christ on the cross.
By far, the most important factor guiding our approach in the spiritual formation of our children came out of Psalm 127, which we chose as the passage for our family:
Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.
Early on, my wife and I were utterly convinced that there was no way we could control the outcome of who our children would become. This passage became a source of strength as our life together as a family took unexpected turns (such as my traumatic brain injury) and difficult seasons. This wonderful promise gave us hope when we experienced inadequacy, that it was ultimately the LORD who would build and protect our family throughout these growing up years and years to come.
Randy Wilcox, Parent
Taken from Ambleside School International’s Spring 2019 edition of Flourish