Shared by Elder Aaron Tan from Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church
A story is told about a man who chased his old father out of the house one stormy night with nothing else except for the clothes he was wearing and a coconut shell in his hand. His little boy beside him cried uncontrollably as he watched Grandpa, head hung low; rejected by his own son, drenched through by the rain as he disappeared into the darkness.
The years passed, and nothing was heard of the old man – until one day a stranger appeared at the door of the house asking the man and his son to follow him. They followed him through the streets until they came to a corner of a street where a beggar laid dead on the pavement. The man immediately recognized that the beggar was wearing his old father’s clothes. His son, now a young man, turned Grandpa over and saw his hands clutching tightly to an old and worn coconut shell. Carefully he removed the coconut shell and kept it for himself.
“Throw that away, son,” said the man, “There’s no more use for it.”
“No, Pa,” said the young man, “I’m keeping this for you!”
The preceding story is an old Indian tale (I could not verify its source) which reminds us of the importance of honouring our parents, but it also reminds us that our children are constantly watching us, and one day we will reap what we sow. That could be quite a scary thought!
We give thanks to God for blessing families with children, but we are also reminded of the heavy responsibility that God has given to us as parents because the way we live, our attitudes, the things we do and say, will have profound effects on our children.
Do our children see us as authentic disciples of Christ, living in trust and obedience to God, following a daily personal discipline of reading His Word and praying? Or do they see two different, inconsistent sides of us – Dad and Mum worshipping and serving others in ministry on Sunday, but from Monday to Saturday they see Dad and Mum fighting, striving and clawing for worldly treasures, and living as though God did not exist? How then do we expect our children to believe in God and this whole faith-thing if they have never seen it work in real life, or more specifically, in our lives as their parents, the closest people to them?
As I reflected on this, I am very grateful to God for blessing my sister, brother and me with a Mum who taught us since we were very young about God through the everyday things that she encountered. She was always giving thanks to God for His providence even for the smallest of things, and she always reminded us to trust God and that He will provide enough for our needs – and she learnt that from her own mother when she was growing up. It was God’s grace, and her unwavering trust in Him that saw her through those tumultuous years after my Dad went home to be with the Lord, and she had to single-handedly bring three little ones up. We have seen, in very real ways, how she depended on God’s providence, and continued to bear fruit in her ministry in Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church, in her work, and at home.
Mum also taught us how to pray. I still remember vividly, when we were little, how we all would kneel on the bed beside her every night as she led us in prayer using simple words and we would follow after her, sentence by sentence. After that she would continue on in her own prayer, and I remember I used to watch her pray until my little eyes succumbed to sleep.
As we grew up, we continued the habit of prayer and quiet time on our own, but we knew Mum would be praying for us every day, through each phase of our growing up years she was always there praying, and even today.
As my wife, Lee Choo, and I started our family, we have also tried to pass on this discipline to our children. Just like my Mum, we also taught our children since they were very young how to pray by following after us sentence by sentence. As they grew up, we would take turns to lead the prayer time. We carried out this nightly family time till they graduated from university. Now they are both married and we hope they would do the same for their families in time to come.
As parents, I think my wife and I were far from perfect, and many times we have failed or became lazy, or maybe became too caught up with the pressures and pleasures of the world. My prayer for Lee Choo and myself, and for all parents reading this, is for us to remember Deuteronomy 6:4-8 (ESV):
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
I think there is no greater gift we can give our children other than the gift of knowing God, and teaching them to obey His Word, fleshed out through our own lives – every day, every season.