The first answer I immediately thought of as I reflected upon this question was “Be the example you wished you had.” Growing up in a very dysfunctional and abusive home, I had witnessed and experienced every bad thing that could possibly happen to a child. I was raised by a narcissistic mother who took pleasure in seeing her children suffer, a stoic father who was barely around and siblings that were always fighting, running  away, on drugs or having babies at young ages. I was fortunate as a middle child to see the damaging effects abuse had on my older siblings as well as my younger ones. Even today, I still see some struggle with it, never healed, still broken or succumbed to the very curse spoken over them by our very own mommy dearest whom everyone  was scared of, including my dad which is why he wasn’t around.

Looking back, I know without a shadow of doubt that God was with me the whole time. He was there in the thickness and darkness that overshadowed my childhood even though I had not known Him yet. He kept me from hurting myself and others, protected me when running away and wandering the streets late at night, and especially from drugs and alcohol encouraged and promoted in order to cope. He was still there even when I cursed Him for allowing children to suffer at the hands of abusive parents or family members. However, everything that happened to me had purpose. He was preparing and molding me into a person that would be in position to withstand the storms of life, a person of fortitude and grit, one who would be unmovable and unshakable in her faith. He was preparing me to bring healing to those who experienced the same pain and brokenness that I had. He called me to a greater purpose of becoming a victor versus victim of my circumstances. And He called me to become the very thing I swore I never would, a mother.

My son is now 19 years old and just finished his second year of college. He has become one of my greatest joys and blessings. I have never fully understood God’s “agape” love until my son was born nor would I have if He never blessed me to be a mother. I remember distinctly the very day I felt and understood it. My son was two weeks old and as he laid there sleeping in his swaddle position, I began to praise God and pray over this little person He gave me to take care of. I remember saying to my son that I would always protect him, love him and be there for him. I knew in that moment that I would do anything for this boy to make sure he would have a better life, one filled with love and genuine affection and that I would even lay down my own life for his. Then it hit me. I realized the very words I spoke over my son were the very words God spoke over me. I finally understood what it meant to love and be loved unconditionally. And that day, I dedicated my son to God and promised to raise him to know, love and serve the Lord. 

So back to the question at hand. The most important thing I knew I would have to do in order to raise a godly child was to give up and do away with anything and everything that I and God did not want our son to do or become. I grew up in the era where parents would say, “ Do as I say not as I do”. But of course, we tend to do what they did. Many of my bad habits came from what I saw my parents “do” such as cursing, lying, stealing, etc. I remember my mother teaching me how to steal but when I was caught, she gave me a not-so-nice butt whipping for embarrassing her. The nerve, right? Let’s just say I had a lot of bad habits but with God’s help and the love for my son, they were easy to give up. The one thing that I never want to ever be called is a hypocrite so if I didn’t want my son to do it, I made sure I wasn’t doing it. I kept bad habits (sin) out of our home and kept him away from bad influences in our own families.

Another thing that helped in raising a godly son was the perspective that I am only his earthly babysitter, charged with training him in “the way he should go” and that he ultimately belongs to God. I had been granted the privilege to raise God’s child and understood too that I would also be held accountable to the task. And I took that to heart by first being his example of godliness, modeling it in my life, home and every area. It was important to teach him the way and also let him learn it for himself. I wanted him to know and love God the way I did but to know it personally without force or hindrance. And because the love of God was in our home, on our lips and in our hearts, my son grew to love God for himself. I remember when he asked to be baptized willingly at age 7, it made my heart melt. He then became a little evangelist shortly after from reading his devotional every night with me to wanting to share it socially with others. He read his Jesus Calling devotional everyday for 3+ years to family and friends on Facebook, encouraging and being encouraged along the way. 

Raising godly children will require commitment, sacrifice and sometimes separation or alienation. But that’s ok because God, our Father will guide, strengthen and equip us with everything we need to accomplish this. Just as we have our childrens’ best interest at heart, He has ours. We first learn how to be godly parents by His relationship to His own Son and to us. We love because He first loved. The Bible teaches us that there is nothing that could ever separate His love for us. And as a parent, there is nothing my son could ever do that would make me ever stop loving him. This is why our example, our relationship with the Father is so crucial in raising godly children. And I can only pray that when I stand in His presence, I will hear the words, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

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About the Author: Mitzi Hollins
Mitzi Hollins works full-time for the State of Michigan and holds multiple positions in the church and leads a small group. She lives to serve others, working with young ladies who have been in and out of the foster care system as a mentor and counselor. Mitzi is married and has two sons - one biological and one canine. She has a Masters degree in Human Services, Christian Counseling, and a Bachelors in Psychology.

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