I’m thrilled to be having Shelly Wildman, author of First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship as the guest on my blog today! Welcome, Shelly, and thank you for your words of wisdom.
Graciously, Shelly sent me a copy of her book to read. And I quickly found a few pointers to ponder.
Right away in chapter one, Shelly helps you realize it’s ok to let go of the idea of traditional family devotions. In truth, my childhood memories of family devotions aren’t all that great and Shelly put words to my thoughts while laying out a case for intentional conversations as discipleship in lieu of set family devotions.
“But in our discouragement over how things usually went in our family, Brian and I felt that we were failing our daughters or that somehow we were missing something. As we talked and talked and talked about how we could best teach our daughters what our faith in Jesus meant and how it looked in everyday life, we finally decided that discipleship in our family should be so much more than five minutes a day after dinner when everyone was distracted, tired, and crabby.
For me that often meant talking through my daughters’ days over cookies and milk at the kitchen island after school. For my husband it often meant teaching our very young girls the great hymns of our faith at bath time or, when they were old enough, enjoying God’s creation together on hikes in nearby forest preserves For all of us it meant talking about important topics of faith while we walked to town for ice cream or, yes, sat around the dinner table.
She then goes on to explain God’s purpose for our families, which I loved!
“God had a plan for families right from the beginning, and his plan was that the world would see his redemptive process lived out in our messy families everyday, in all its glory. Restoration, reconciliation, redemption - it’s all there within the four walls of our home. When we mess up, when our relationships are broken within the family, we ask for forgiveness and are restored to one another. When we disagree but try hard to see each other’s perspectives, we become reconciled to one another. When we show grace to one another, our relationships are redeemed for the sake of Christ. And the world sees.”
Grab a copy of Shelly’s book to read more. (Links are at the bottom of this post.) And keep reading below to see what she has to say to about finding your family’s why!
by, Shelly Wildman
As a little girl, when I wasn't worried about the supposed burglar who I was just sure was trying to climb in my bedroom window, I was plagued by deep thoughts as I fell asleep each night. I'd wonder about God. I'd wonder about life. And death. And I'd wonder about the big questions like "Why am I here?" (I know. I've got issues.) Many nights, I'd stare at the pink flowers on my wallpaper, winding their way up to the ceiling, and simply wonder.
Have you ever wondered why you’re here? Not just in that big, cosmic sense, although that’s a good question too, but in the sense of why are we here as a family? Why is this particular collection of people put together under one roof?
I mean, families are pretty messy! Kids have different personalities, different needs, different challenges. Why has God brought this particular combination of people together to create what we call “our family”?
In our family, we are fascinated with theories about personality—probably because we’re all so different. Out of the five of us, only two share a Meyers-Briggs personality type. Lately we’ve learned a little about the Enneagram, and we discovered that all five of us have different Enneagram numbers.
Those differences sure do make for some interesting family dynamics!
I’m sure if you thought about your own family dynamics or the challenges of some of your children, you would quickly realize what makes you unique, too. This just goes to show that parenting by formula doesn’t work—there are just too many variables.
So, if we’re all so different, could there possibly be only one answer to the question of why are we here? Is God’s purpose for my family the same as God’s purpose for yours?
Well, yes and no.
Because we are different, God uses our unique gifts and challenges within our family in many ways. Our kids weren’t super-athletic, so sports weren’t a big thing for us. But others use sports to help spread the message of Jesus. God uses each family uniquely, because of and in spite of our differences. I think those differences should be celebrated!
But there is one main answer to the question about why we’re here—why God has put these people with these personalities and these unique gifts together—that applies to all followers of Jesus. And the answer can be found in His word.
In Matthew 28:19, Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples.” Sometimes people understand that to mean that we are to go to the ends of the earth to find and make disciples, to tell others about Jesus. In other words, to be a missionary. And that’s right, in a way.
But we don't always have to go to the ends of the earth to make disciples.
If you’re a parent, your mission field is right under your nose.
If someone had told me when I first had kids that my primary job was to make disciples, I would have laughed. I’m just not that spiritual. But discipleship doesn’t have to be hard or overly-spiritual, it just has to be intentional. It simply means pointing our kids to Jesus every day—teaching them what it means to follow Christ into their schools, their college, even adulthood. Because isn’t our goal as Christian parents to raise adults who also want to follow Jesus?
Listen, our kids won’t live with us forever, so we need to prepare them with the tools they need to go out into the world and make a difference. What are those tools? Spiritual disciplines or values like those I outline in my book. Things like self-discipline, truthfulness, kindness, a sense of cultural awareness that leads to love for others. But first, we’ve got to be pointing our kids to Jesus, every day.
Philippians 2:15 tells us that we are to “be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”
I don’t think there’s any debate about the kind of world we live in. It’s crooked. It’s twisted. Big time. But this is why we’re here! We’re here to shine the light of Jesus into our dark, dark world.
The world needs Christian families to show the path to true life, a life lived with Jesus.
THAT is why we’re here.
Most days you can find Shelly hanging out at Instagram. For a deeper look into parenting and discipleship (and perhaps a peek into what she’s reading and where she’s going), sign up for Shelly’s newsletter here.