I grew up in the wake of my parents and brother being excommunicated from a separatist and strict religious cult.
The environment that my parents grew up in was one of man-made rules, regulations, restrictions, and mind-controlling community all in the spirit of following a false god. It had begun innocently enough, a place where the Bible was taught, but through time it became a massive international presence that twisted Scripture and sought to isolate themselves from worldly influences at any cost. Often the cost of dividing families, tearing apart homes and ruining lives. Our lives as we knew them. It forever changed and shaped who I myself would one day become.
My brother was very young and I was not yet born when because of a political reason within the group, my parents were asked to leave life as they knew it and enter into a world that they knew very little about, except that it was evil.
In the space of one divinely appointed evening, my mother and father were confronted and asked to leave the group permanently. My mother, who had two sisters and parents with whom she was deeply close to, was forced to walk away from them forever. My parents left behind all their friends and remaining family-all they knew of life and happiness. Although we have a small handful of family that has left this group, we have many family members still involved.
We had been shunned, and it remains that way to this very day.
Once required to never cut their hair, only wear dresses, never wear makeup, abstain from music, television, eating in restaurants, socializing with anyone outside their community of religious zealots, and daily meetings together, the world now held no boundaries for them.
And they were grieving bountiful losses. Loss of family. Loss of friends. Loss of security. Loss of religion. Two floundering parents enduring deep heartache, turmoil, and no identity.
It was this environment that I was born into. It was tumultuous, to say the very least. But that is a story for another time.
I remember driving by my mother’s childhood home late on a rainy night when my mom knew that my grandmother would be at the sink washing dinner dishes.We waited quietly in the dark, parked across the street, feeling like spies, afraid someone would see us. Even when no harm could really come to my parents, there was a pervasive fear long embedded in them to not get caught snooping. The biggest fear was that my grandmother, aunt, and cousins would get in trouble. Then, my grandmother’s head would appear in the window over the sink. We could just see the top of her hair and every now and then a glimpse of the top edge of her glasses. There she stood, working away. There we sat, watching in silence, rain trickling down the car windows, hungry for just a glimpse of all I knew of my ancestry.
My saving grace was when some people who had once left this cult themselves, invited my parents to a sound Bible-teaching group of believers who met in a conservative style that would appeal to my parents. It was this solid church that I would grow up calling my home for my entire life as a young person.
I will be forever grateful for one particular practice that was held at this new church.
From the time a child of two or three could speak, to the time they graduated from High School, we were taught to stand in front of the entire congregation to recite our weekly Bible verse before being dismissed to our Sunday School Classes. This led to two things.
First of all, it gave us a confidence to stand before large groups of people and speak. Secondly, it gave us a vast and solid wealth of God’s Word planted deeply in our hearts.
Despite the unconventional lifestyle that was my heritage, the lack of blood-family members in my life, and the confusion of those early days in our home, God took a hold of my heart at an early age. His Word was the ROCK beneath my feet. When everything around me seemed uncertain, different from my peers, and incongruous, the Lord whispered to my heart through the Bible verses I was memorizing on a continual basis.
When I looked at religious people in my life, or heard about them from my family, I could see early on that when you don’t take God at His Word, you get an empty and false belief system. You get a dangerous and false sense of security that by following the rules and going to church, that you will one day go to heaven.
I also learned that no matter how much we may mess up as parents, or the environment that our kids are born into, if we are planting God’s truth in our children’s hearts and minds, it will not return void.
As a mother, I certainly seek to raise my sons with truth and love. But I fail. God’s Word however, never fails. You could be the most ineffective parent in the world, but God’s hand on your children is sure, steadfast, and purposeful. He creates beauty from any ugliness that we inevitably will at least sometimes display towards our children. Make no mistake, to be blasé and simply entrust them to God is no laughing matter. We will be held accountable for our responsibilities to love and nurture our children.
But be encouraged that God is bigger than our hearts, and more faithful to our sons and daughters than we can comprehend. If God can take this little girl who, for many years, floundered in life but believed with all her heart that God was real, meant what He said, and LOVED ME greatly, then He can do that for all of us.
If you asked me what the cornerstone of our family's growth as Christ-followers is, the answer is easy-Scripture memorization.
That also means that we as their parents are memorizing right along with them. If you don’t know where to start, choose a book of the Bible and begin to memorize verse by verse. The book of James or Proverbs are some of my favorites. There are many resources available for memorization plans online. And I can’t speak highly enough about AWANA programs at local churches. This ministry has been one of the best investments of our time for our kids. It trumps any other activity outside of our church and home Bible Study groups.
Here’s the bottom line:
Religion kills, but relationship with Jesus gives life.
I’ve seen it, lived it, firsthand. If we want to know the TRUTH, and we desire that our children would grow up to know and love God, then we need to be memorizing Scripture with our children. It’s never too late to begin. If you feel like your home life is one of struggle, then begin here. Begin today. Hide God’s word in your heart. In your child’s heart. And watch as God begins to renew your minds and bring life in the midst of the most treacherous, or stagnant, or even nurturing of homes. I know that even a very young child can differentiate between right and wrong when we root Truth in their hearts. It saved my life in more ways than one. I will be forever grateful for the investment my parents made in my life to train me in Scripture memorization because it’s not a rote endeavor. It gave me life, guides my decisions, and turned my path from one of hurt and pain into something beautiful. To God be the glory!
9 How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. 10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. 11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. 12 Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees. 13 With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. 14 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. 15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. 16 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.
YOUR TURN! What tips do you have for memorizing Scripture with your kids? How has God's Word changed and renewed your mind? I love to hear from you!!
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