Life as a Model
Dena Johnson MartinDena Johnson is a former single mom to three amazing kids: Blake, Cole, and Cassie and wife to her high school friend, Roy. She strives to follow Christ each day and to lead her children to do the same. She delights in taking the every day experiences of life and turning them into biblical lessons for her children. Dena's daily prayer is simple: Lord, my life is yours. Live through me. Love through me. Parent through me. Let me decrease that you might increase. Dena is the founder of Dena Johnson Ministries, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people find beauty through the brokenness of this life. Her heart's desire is to use her own pain to point others to the power of God who redeems every hurt, every pain. You can contact Dena at Dena@denajohnson.com. You can also find her blog at Dena Johnson Ministries.
- 2017 Jan 05
~~When Cassie was about two years old, everyone was gathered around the dinner table. As I sat the food on the table, Cassie looked at me and innocently said, “Mom, you did d--n good.”
I’m sure the shock on my face must have been priceless. I looked quizzically at her dad, his face as confused as my own.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart,” I began, “I’m not sure I understood you.”
“You did d—n good,” she repeated.
My ears still weren’t quite certain I understood her two year old language skills.
“Could you say it again, honey?” I asked nonchalantly.
“You did d—n good,” she said innocently.
After asking Cassie to repeat herself a couple more times, her dad decided to ask for clarification.
“Cassie,” he asked, “what did you say to your mom?”
“I said she did d—n good,” Cassie said matter-of-factly.
“Yep,” her dad said, “that’s what she said.”
With all the kindness and grace I could muster to hide the absolute horror growing inside of me, I gently told my precious daughter that we don’t use that word.
“Where did you hear that word?” I asked.
“From Dora,” she answered.
I’m not really sure why she blamed Dora the Explorer for her language that day. I have probably watched every episode of Dora with my kids, and I don’t think I have ever heard her curse.
But I am quite certain my innocent two year old heard that word somewhere. It’s not a word she would have simply come up with on her own. And I am also absolutely certain she didn’t hear it from me.
In the same way, encourage the young men to live wisely. And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. Titus 2:6-7
No matter how you look at it, kids learn an awful lot from what they see modeled. Whether it’s their language (oops) or their attitude or their kindness, kids learn more from what they see than what they are told. As the saying goes, more is caught than taught.
My daughter’s little faux pas is the perfect example of learning by example. By bad example. I hope I am living my life in such a way that my kids learn the right things from me.
As I think about what my kids see, I hope I am modeling a Christ-centered life. I want to model Christ in these areas:
Model love. More than anything else, I want to model love to my kids. I want them to see love pouring from my soul, flowing to them. I want them to see my love for God, a love that impacts my every word, my every action.
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39
I pray my kids see in my life a great love for God and a great love for others.
Model grace. Our world is full of judgment and criticism. It’s full of division and intolerance. But I want my kids to see grace oozing from my pores. I want them to know that where there is sin, grace abounds.
It’s tough to balance grace with truth. I know my kids have to learn there are consequences for their actions, but I want them to know grace will always be poured out liberally. I want them to feel safe coming to me, sharing their failures, knowing they will still be loved and accepted. I want to be a vessel of God’s grace…to them and to others.
Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:10-11
Jesus frequently extended grace to the worst of sinners, including the woman caught in adultery. May I model the same grace in the way I live my life.
Model purity. Dating has hit our household. My oldest son is dating a wonderful young lady. My younger son is hanging out with a girl from his class. And I am dating a man the kids call my Royfriend. It’s a really strange dynamic when dating hits the entire house at the same time.
But it also makes me acutely aware of the example I am setting for my kids in the area of purity. How do I conduct myself when I am with my friend? Do I go on overnight trips with my male companion? Am I working to maintain my purity?
Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Ephesians 5:3
I must be committed to following God’s plan for my life, to living a life of purity, so my kids have an example to emulate.
Model devotion. Devotion to God is a key to living this life correctly. I want to make sure my kids see my devotion to God.
Am I excited about what God is doing in our lives? Do I recognize His work? Am I giving God my heart, my time every day? Am I making church a priority in our lives?
A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked. Psalm 84:10
I pray my kids never have reason to doubt my devotion to God…and to them.
Model humility. I really am quite certain it was not me who taught my then two year old her first curse word, but if it had been, I hope I would have been humble enough to admit my mistake. Trust me. I’ve messed up plenty. When stress gets the best of me, my children seem to be the recipients of my bad attitude. And then I have to pause and admit my sin and ask their forgiveness.
And that takes humility.
Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Ephesians 4:2
Yes, as parents we are called to model the Christian life for our children. As Christians, we are called to model the Christian life for non-believers. How are you doing? What areas do you need to work on so that your kids have the best example in this life? Where do you need to adjust your life to be a better example to others?
Lord Jesus, this life is hard. We stumble and fall every single day. We fail you, our families. And yet, you forgive, extend grace, and set us right once again. May we always be keenly aware of your grace and mercy poured out over us. May we plumb the depths of your love. May we know the unsearchable riches of life with you so we might live from the overflow poured out over us. In Jesus name we pray.