Source for this image here.
"Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee". (Psalm 51: 10 - 13).
I can hardly believe that already we are nearly into November! At the beginning of this month I began a new 30 day Revive Our Hearts challenge. This one is slightly different from the others that I have done, as it is presented in blog format, rather than as a PDF document that you can print and take away to study. Instead, you are guided by a new blog post each day, rather like a diary, which has key points to consider, and further information in audio clips or links to other articles.
Because I have been unwell during this month's challenge I haven't been able to focus on it as deeply as I have on others that I've done, but I have still found it to be very inspiring, with lots of different themes to work on and expand. One of the key themes that has appealed to me has been modesty. I've written before about modesty on this blog, but one of the areas that the 30 day challenge has focussed on which I've found to be particularly interesting has been the importance of modelling modesty to our children.
I can remember when our cubs were small, and Papa Bear and I wanted to talk about something secret that we did not want the cubs to overhear. Usually, a treat or something else exciting that we were planning, and we did not want to spoil the surprise. So we would try to make sure that the cubs did not know what we were talking about, by holding our conversations about that special subject, in Italian instead of in English or our mother tongue! Now I don't speak very much Italian so these conversations were quite cryptic even for me! But as the cubs grew older, we knew that we couldn't do this, so easily, as they were able to understand us by then. Instead, we realised that we must be more mindful of what we were talking about in front of them. As my own mams use to say, "little pitchers have big ears"!
Well of course, thinking back to the importance of modelling appropriate behaviour, I was reminded of how easy it is, in day to day life, to forget that everything we parents do and say, is setting an example to our children - regardless of their ages. In the rush and hurry of our daily activities, it is so easy to forget how to conduct ourselves. We let slip words that we shouldn't have uttered. We respond impulsively to unexpected events. We may react in ways that we later regret. And as we do these things, our children are observing. They may be old enough to understand that mum or dad might be feeling tired, or pressured, or unwell, and that explains the inappropriate behaviour. But does it excuse it?
Scripture tells us that it is the person who caused someone to sin who is the sinner -
"But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" (Matthew 18: 6 - 7).
As parents it is our responsibility to guide our children away from sin, to walk the "narrow" path (Matthew 7: 14), and "be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God". (Romans 12: 2). If we fail in this duty, we are at fault - we have sinned.
Modelling modesty is a challenge in a world that is so full of invitations not to be modest. Modern culture encourages individualism - the adulation of the self, and the message to our young people is that it is good to be prideful. Pride will earn you respect, they are told. Pride is an acceptable product of success, popularity, beauty, intelligence. And while none of these things are intrinsically bad or even necessarily undesirable, to believe that they are virtues is a dangerous misconception. The difficulty for us parents is to be able to nurture our children to be successful, productive, useful, responsible members of society, people who care, who contribute positively and who hopefully will be able to bring their own children into the world to continue this good work, whilst yet maintaining a servant's heart that is full of humility and an earnest desire to learn - not just as children, but throughout life.
The only way, I believe, that we are able to do this effectively, is to take our guidance from God - from His word, as set out in Scripture. It may not be easy, in our fallen world, to stand alone and refuse to be dragged along by popular culture that tells us that beauty really is only skin deep. We need to be able to show our children that it isn't - that true beauty - true goodness, comes from the heart - a heart that desires to serve God.
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Proverbs 3: 5 - 6).