When I was young, I used to lie in bed at night and pray for my future husband. I was enamored with the knowledge that the boy I’d marry was out in the world somewhere, a stranger growing up in a place unknown to me.
I prayed for his safety, for him to have a happy childhood and that he would know the Lord. And if I am being completely honest, by the time I was a teen my prayers included mention of the four traits I most desired in a husband: he would be rich, an expert piano player, agile on the soccer field, and a Christian.
So then I married Dave. And one out of four ain’t bad.
To be clear, by “one out of four” I was not referencing Dave’s piano skills.
My mother-in-law unloaded some old Bibles and memorabilia from Dave’s childhood during a recent visit. Honestly, I was slightly miffed about it. Because while I am definitely sentimental, the bag full of old books just stared me in the face as more stuff I needed to deal with. And the last thing I need around here is more stuff to deal with.
I eventually dumped contents onto the kitchen table and started rifling through the stack, figuring I better decide what to keep and what to toss. The first book my hands fell upon was a children’s Bible. It was yellowed with age and carried the stale smell of an old book. I sighed, wondering what in the world I was supposed to do with a musty old kid’s Bible.
I opened the Bible and ran my hand over the inside pages. There, scrawled in his own childish handwriting, was the date that my husband trusted the Lord as his savior. My breath caught in my throat as the weight of what I was looking at hit me. This was exactly what I had prayed for as a young girl.
My eyes spilled over with tears of awe and gratitude for a faithful God who answered the prayers of a little girl.
This stack of books told the story of a boy who was raised in a home of faith. There were handwritten inscriptions from a grandmother who loved the Lord. I saw a bookmark from a mission trip to Haiti, demonstrating his family’s commitment to share the love of Christ. I noted an inscription from the Sunday school at the local church where Dave’s parents have faithfully served for over fifty years. And I saw piles of Christian children’s Bible storybooks with corny pictures straight out of the 1970s, demonstrating his mother’s heart for her son to follow after Jesus.
I marveled at the tangible evidence before me that my husband was pointed to Jesus throughout his childhood. And as assured in Scripture, he has not departed from his parent’s loving instruction.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
My childhood, while by no means devoid of joy, was more turbulent than Dave’s. I have always been grateful for my story and the way my family trusted the Lord throughout difficult times. And I know full well that God used the brokenness and loss in my past to refine me and strengthen my faith.
But because it is so clear that God’s hand was upon me throughout a tough childhood, I sometimes worry that the protected and easy life my children enjoy might, at some level, hinder their resilience and reliance on God.
Obviously I don’t want to manufacture hardship for my children. The opposite is true in intent and practice. But knowing how suffering produces perseverance, I feel tension at times wondering how they will develop character and a complete trust in their Heavenly Father when they have everything they ever need or want at their fingertips.
But when I stared at this stack of books, it struck me how blind I can be. I am married to someone who was raised in the security of a Christ-centered, two-parent family. Why would I ever doubt that God would richly bless the very design he had all along for raising children?
How could I forget that my own husband has incredible character and a deep love of the Lord because of his childhood, not in spite of it? And the truth is, though our stories are very different, the common denominator between us is that we both had parents and grandparents always pointing us to Jesus.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:14-15
I think of Timothy, who was raised in the faith by his mother and grandmother, despite the fact that his father was not a believer. Timothy went on to become a trusted disciple of Paul and a leader in the early church. He is a striking reminder that God not only redeems families, he also blesses, protects and raises dedicated leaders from faithful generations.
I am forever grateful that God heard the prayers of a young girl and blessed me with a husband who grew up following Jesus. I don’t plan on tossing any of this stuff. Because my children need to know that our stories are part of their stories, too. And God has been faithful to both of our families.
Parents, never stop praying over, instructing and pointing your children to Jesus. Whether your children walk an easy or hard path, God’s promises are true. And he is faithful to keep them to a thousand generations.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 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 6:5-7