“Poor things,” she would say to herself, “they haven’t had any bringing up; they’ve just scrambled up!” This is what the dear mother had to say in Margaret Sidney’s Five Little Peppers and How They Grew. As a tired and always busy homeschooling mom of eight, that is often exactly how I feel about how my own kids have grown. However, in this story, the Pepper children didn’t just “scramble up,” but they grew in responsibility and maturity as they learned to live courageously in poverty and through trials of many kinds after the death of their father.

I would love to know that my children are growing in maturity. However, I often hear myself saying “You are too old for that kind of behavior” or “When are you ever going to learn?” or “You are acting like a 2-year-old!” I am a mess of a parent who is trying to (and needs to) grow up, too, so you’d think I would be extending more grace to the hearer. What I really desire is that my children would not carry their babyhood into their futures.

I have seen extreme babyhood continue to play out in adult lives. This self-focus, whether in adults or children, inhibits outward vision, outward action, and grows people up who are concerned only with their own needs being met or with being entertained and coddled. Where are the people who think of others first and love when it hurts and stick it out when things get tough? Where are the true adults? Is there anyone we can learn from?

The Word of God is full of the real history of people either living out an extended babyhood or living as strong, mature men and women of God. Consider Jezebel compared to Sarah: Jezebel strongly demanding—Sarah strongly submitting, even when it hurt. How about Saul compared to David? One lacked self-control; the other put himself under God’s control. When they sinned (and they both did), the immature one made excuses, but the mature one repented. What about the wise man versus the foolish man in Proverbs? Obviously, we would be wise to do the opposite of the foolish man, but so many times I act foolishly. So just how do I raise my children in maturity?

The answer is found in another Biblical personality—Jesus. We should look at how Jesus grew and then copy Him, since a truly mature person will make it one of his goals in life to be like Christ. This is what the Bible says about how Jesus grew:

“And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. . . . And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them . . . . And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” Luke 2:40-52).

In this passage we find five wonderful and extremely important goals to have for our own children. Let’s pull out some of those phrases and look a little closer:

1. Jesus Grew and Waxed Strong in Spirit

Jesus was strengthened in spirit as He grew. As our kids grow, we really want them to be strong in spirit and mind, too, and what better place to do that than in our own home? So many anxieties and problems arise when our children are placed where their minds and spirits are confined or attacked or defiled. To have a child be able to “wax strong” in spirit and mind, is to have a child who is free to explore his world while getting to know His Creator and learn His wisdom in all areas, including academics. By the time Jesus was 12, He knew the academics required of teachers of the Law to the point that even they were amazed. I have felt that same kind of amazement as I have met some of these very young homeschooled children and seen wisdom beyond their years and beyond their peers.

2. Jesus Was Filled With Wisdom

I want the same for my children. If I want my children to be filled with wisdom, then I must be a mother who is filled with wisdom. If I want to raise a son like Solomon, who prayed for wisdom more than riches, then I need to be a Solomon’s mother who does the same and prays for wisdom more than any earthly thing. If I want to raise a Joshua or Caleb who didn’t listen to the world of disbelief around him, but rather believed in the God of Israel as his Deliverer, then I must be a mother who believes in the God of Israel as my Deliverer. The very spiritual livelihood of our children and our future generations depends on it.

The Word of God and wisdom should be made available to our children even more than food is made available all day long. We should be taking every opportunity to preach the good news of Jesus Christ and the commandments of God to our children. Nothing is more important than to be preachers of the Gospel—right in our own homes. Here is the food we can offer them:

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (John 6:51).

“But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

3. The Grace of God Was Upon Him

The Greek word for grace in Luke 2:40 is charis, which means “God freely extending Himself (His favor, grace), reaching (inclining) to people because He is disposed to bless (be near) them.” God freely extended Himself and His favor toward Jesus as He was growing because God the Father wanted to bless and be near Jesus. It is hard to conceive, but God also extends Himself to us and to our children as we grow, because He wants to bless and be near us.

Charis comes “from chairo; graciousness . . . especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life . . . .”  (Ibid.) So you see, when our children’s hearts are divinely influenced, that influence will be reflected in our children’s lives. Who and what they are influenced by is reflected in who they are and what they do. In homeschooling our children, we have the blessing of being able to control or negate the bad influences on our children and thus control what is reflected in their lives. At the same time, we should become the conduits of God’s grace as we pour into them a Godly influence that will also be reflected in the way our children mature and grow in Godliness.

4. Jesus Was Subject to His Parents

Jesus obeyed the laws of God. He kept the Fifth Commandment: “You shall honor your father and mother,” and He set the example for us all. Should our children obey because it makes life easier for us? No. They should learn obedience so that they can be like Christ.

Do they learn obedience and holiness in a secular setting? Does it come through a Sunday School class? Evidently not, as studies have shown that many children who are raised in evangelical homes and churches but placed in a public school classroom for twelve years leave their faith by the time they leave for college.

Our example for learning obedience is found in how Jesus was subject to His own parents, and in so doing, to His Father in heaven. As our children learn obedience to earthly parents, they are also obeying their own Father in heaven. As 1 Peter tells us, we are all to be obedient children and become like Him in holiness so that we might be holy in all “conversation [anastrophé],” that is, behavior.

“Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:13-16).

We want our children to grow up and be able to do what Jesus did: to see what God was doing and do the same thing. Even as an adult, Jesus did only what He saw His Father do. That is a worthy goal for myself as well:

“Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19).

5. Jesus Increased in Wisdom and Stature and Favor with God and Man

Jesus was not only filled with wisdom, but He increased in wisdom as He grew up into a man. And as He grew in wisdom, He also grew in favor with God and man. This is something I pray over my children: that they would grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. I want them to be like Jesus. I want them to live and move and serve like Jesus. I want them to worship God and hear His voice like Jesus did. I want them to experience the same relationship with their Father that Jesus has with His.

In John 17:1-42 Jesus is praying to His Father and asking that His disciples would know and experience the same love that the Father has for Him. I also pray that my children would know that God loves them with the same intense love He has for His only begotten Son. I must intentionally tell them often of God’s great love—and then show them what that looks like by loving them—even when it is hard or painful or the opposite of what I feel like doing at the moment. Loving the unlovely or disciplining in lovingkindness or repenting for anything not like Christ in me is a sign of maturity; to do otherwise is babyhood on my part. If I want my children to grow up, I must lead the way and grow up myself in the wisdom and favor of God. I must do the hard, time-consuming things that all of life wants to distract me from, as I teach and train and nurture children in the Lord.

My 3-year-old son wants me to read to him, but he wants me to skip the words and just tell him about the pictures; he’s not really interested in the depth of the story. That’s how some of us read the Bible: just tell us the highlights and the stories we know well. We don’t want to hear anything that makes us have to think—we have enough devices to do our thinking for us. Instead of using our own minds, we carry our brains in our pockets or electronic devices. If we truly believed the Word of God was our very life source, we’d pursue it like we pursue food or Facebook. But we don’t truly believe, since we’ve become so distracted by the less important “pictures” of life and don’t have time for the depth of the story.

We really need to put aside the childish things and become disciples who raise disciples, not merely teachers who raise students. We must put aside all hypocrisy and truly follow Christ. We must start with the sincere milk of the Word and graduate to the meat:

“Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter 2:1-2).

“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14).

So, how do we raise children in maturity? The prevailing secular philosophy is to allow children to make their own decisions and control their own environment and leave them to themselves to take charge of their lives. However, “a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Proverbs 29:15), but a child trained, exhorted, encouraged, disciplined, and discipled brings honor to his parents as he grows in maturity.

I am sitting in a classroom watching as my 18-year-old son leads the college club in which he was elected president. I am feeling that bit of honor right now as I watch him. But I am also looking back over all those years of tears, trials, and tired days and nights, when I wondered if there would ever be a day like this. But as we are obedient to trek on in the hardest of days, struggle through the hardest of nights, wrestle with the hardest of attitudes or trials or learning struggles, and pray through the most difficult battles of the will, we will see the end reward. We will see children that look like Jesus and find that God indeed rewards our obedience and perseverance with His blessing on our children and us as we keep them Home Where They Belong.

Deborah Wuehler is the Senior Editor for TOS, participating author in The Homeschool Minute, wife to Richard, and mom to eight gifts from heaven. She loves digging for buried treasure in the Word, reading, writing, homeschooling, and dark chocolate! You may contact her at senioreditor@TheHomeschoolMagazine.com

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

Publication date: May 24, 2013