Penelope and I sat snuggled on the couch. We had just finished reading a Little House on the Prairie book and began talking about our long-awaited and upcoming trip to the American Girl Doll store. Perusing the latest catalogs for the past few months, she had decided on Felicity, the Revolutionary War era doll. At five, she is just now beginning to have a small concept of history, of times long ago before she was born.
In the midst of our very grown-up conversation, she said, “Grandma, I know you are so glad to have me. You had boy after boy after boy after boy after boy and then you finally got me. You are so glad I am here.” I had to smile, those big round eyes were so sparkly and serious! I had told her that a long time ago and I meant it.
While she was at my house, she and I baked bread. She was intrigued by the yeast, how it bubbled clear over the top of the bowl and the fact that it was “alive.” We rolled dough with the old wooden rolling pin that had belonged to Clay’s great grandmother, carefully shaping the ends and placing them into pans. Penelope placed hers in the miniature pan, one just for Grandpa.
When they came out of the oven, she was delighted and couldn’t wait for Grandpa to see what she had done. Of course, he praised her, emphatically pronouncing it the best loaf ever, and thanked her for baking one just his size. And she was so proud, so happy to have pleased him.
Through these simple acts, of showing a child their value to us in the history of our families, of praising them well and often, of continually recognizing the use of their gifts, we are extending a blessing to our children (and grandchildren) that will hold a life-long influence over their choices and in their ability to bless others.
In part three of organic family life, I began discussing the topic of parental repentance by listing some of the duties that parents have toward their children. Today I am continuing by looking at another one of the greatest duties that is needed and one that, if ignored, will cause life-long pain and brokenness in the lives of children. Moms and dads must pass on a blessing to their children, individually, while they are in the womb and all throughout their adult lives.
The concept of giving a blessing to our children is rooted in the practices we find in the Old Testament. As we read the stories of one generation handing down a blessing to the next, we see that it is done from parent to children and also from church leaders to their congregations. It is part of passing on our faith and instilling a picture of God’s purposes in the lives of His own.
As I have been thinking about the concept of blessing our children and have been reading references to this idea in Scripture, several key things have caught my eye. This list is by no means exhaustive but I hope it offers food for thought.
1. Receiving a blessing from your parents is something that is highly coveted and hoped for. The story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 25 shows us the great desire that children have to be loved and accepted by their parents, sometimes to the point of sinning against others in order to receive it.
2. Sibling rivalry can come from not blessing all children. This same passage also demonstrates the fruits of favoritism in a family. Verse 28 tells us that Isaac loved Esau but that Rebekah loved Jacob, a situation that set everyone up for conflict. In fact, Jacob, though he wrestled in the wilderness with God and received God’s blessing, still showed partiality to his own son, Joseph, causing bitterness and jealousy among his children and furthering the conflict into the next generations.
3. Blessings vary from child to child and family to family and are often expressed in the names that children are given. The sweetest sound to every human soul is that of their own name. How much more valuable is that name if there is a special meaning attached to it? How often we are told in Scripture that someone’s name means such and such, implying that it has defined that person.
4. Blessing is not based on works, but on grace, and is not given because of what we have done but because of who we are in Christ. This is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children, the sense that they are valuable to us simply because God has given them to us. When I was a small child and heard my father talk about me being adopted, it was also told in the context that God had given me to my parents. What a precious memory that is for me!
5. In Jesus Christ we have every blessing we would ever need, so for those of us who might not have received a blessing from our parents, we can take great comfort in this truth. Have you ever known someone who was several decades old who had never received any sort of affirmation or approval from a parent? Perhaps this is the saddest thing imaginable, to believe that you are not loved solely because of who you are, because of who God made you to be, to feel that you are a disappointment to a parent not only by the things he said to you but by the things he didn’t say. These are burdens that are so difficult to bear that they often cause future generations to stumble and fall.
I know a woman whose mother often told her “you are not like me at all” implying that the right way to be was like the mother, which was quiet and introverted; she was nearly a recluse. But this young woman was gregarious and outgoing. For many years she lived with the idea that something was wrong with her because she loved being with people so much! The difference in personalities between the two of them was so obviously annoying and distressing to the mother that she would often tell her child “you are the bane of my existence.” The daughter never fully understood what that meant until she was looking up a word in the dictionary one day and her eyes fell on the meaning of the word “bane,” which means poison. Imagine the sense of worthlessness she experienced at that moment. Cruel words from the lips of a parent can cause lifelong pain. Not hearing encouraging words can also be a grief that is too painful to bear.
I knew just such a man who struggled with this pain his entire life. Growing up on the mission field, he spent many years attending a school for missionary children, only seeing his parents during holidays and vacations from the time he was 5 years of age. He could not remember hearing his mother or father say “we are so sad to be apart from you” instead he continually heard them admonish him to be willing to sacrifice all for Christ.
As he grew older and answered the call to the ministry himself, he struggled as his father criticized everything from his choice of seminary and denomination to individual sermons. Eventually he gave up trying to please a father who did not accept him and their relationship was one that produced grief and unfulfilled longings. In spite of a series of personal losses that included the death of his beloved wife and children who rejected the Gospel, he preserved until his father died. Only a few months later, this dear man took his own life. I have often wondered what might have been had this missionary who had given his life to serving and ministering to others had invested in his own family, in a son who so desperately wanted the blessing of his father.
For those of us who have suffered from this experience, the precious truth that we were chosen by Christ before the foundations of the world, were purchased with His blood, are saved by His grace alone, and are of immeasurable worth to Him, is what ought to bring us healing, comfort, joy, and a great hope.
I would encourage you today to consider how you might bless each of your children, in word and in deed today, that it might give them confidence in the Lord and in their relationship with you. And I would also encourage those who struggle as the result of not having received the blessing of a parent. I pray that the Lord will continue to pour out His grace and healing to you.
For some incredible insights into the concept of the importance of blessing, I would highly recommend the book The Blessing by Gary Smalley and John Trent. I will be reviewing this book in the future as well.