RACHEL CRADDOCK | CONTRIBUTOR
I love traditions. I can be persnickety when it comes to the execution of my precious practices and rituals. One Thanksgiving, my brother, who is a very talented chef, fancied up the cranberries. His adding to the traditional recipe sent me into a frenzy—and I cried.
However, my love of traditions has mostly had a positive impact in my family life. There are several ways I created traditions for my four children: back-to-school photos on the front porch; family-themed Halloween costumes; March Madness bracket challenges; listening to a state-line songs on road trips, and pizza on paper plates in pajamas when my husband has a late meeting—just to name a few. The natural cadence of life in our home is bolstered by such traditions.
As much as I cherish my traditions—which I assume as women we all love to create lasting memories with our children—traditions like that back-to-school photo on the front porch this fall will (perhaps) leave a lasting legacy; however, the traditions which we tend to fuss over while our children are in our homes will not extend into eternity.
Reader, I am going to be honest with you here: I am human, both wretched and redeemed. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, my heart is prone to wander, and I am distracted by light and momentary afflictions. But God is faithful to keep me on the course. When it comes to being a parent, my love of earthly traditions can hinder me from being intentional to pass on the most integral and eternal tradition I have the privilege of passing on to my children— passing on the truth of who God is to His covenant people.
The good news of the gospel is that while I am prone to wander, because of Jesus and His work on the cross, God gives abundant grace to help me return to Him and to remember who I am in Christ. If I didn’t know this truth, I would flounder and lack the confidence to return and remember when I so easily forget the gospel.
While my earthly traditions tether my children to my human legacy, teaching my children the traditions of the covenant family as found in the scriptures tethers them to an everlasting legacy.
As fallen humans, it is so easy to forget who we are in Christ. This is true of our children as well for as they grow up in this world, they too will be prone to wander, distracted by light and momentary afflictions, and there will be times when they forget who they are in Christ. They will forget they are sinners saved by grace. They will forget they are new creations. They will forget to abide in the One who alone keeps, sustains, and nourishes them. They will forget they are dependent upon grace for all things.
That’s why our children need to know the stories found in Scripture which teach about how God’s people throughout the ages have wrestled against their sinful nature. The Bible reveals God’s grace to forgetful people over and over. He is faithful when they are not. Praise God that His plan before the fullness of time was to unite all things to Him in Jesus! God’s covenant faithfulness is not about our earthly performance; His faithfulness to His people is the very nature of God Himself.
The Bible teaches this redemptive theme over and over. The patriarchs failed to trust God and walk in His promises, but God was faithful to them; He was faithful to His covenant promise. The Israelites watched God deliver them from the hands of the Egyptians, but weeks later in the wilderness, they failed to trust God’s provision for them—but God always brought them back and reminded them of His character. David, a man after God’s own heart, wandered from God’s promises, but God sent the prophet Nathan to remind him of the truth. He then returned and remembered God’s faithfulness to Him—and God restored Him.
It is stories such as these that we pass on to our children, teaching them of their great sin, their great Redeemer, and the way of repentance and trust.
This is a gospel-centered, eternal tradition worthy of passing on to the next generation.
Showing and Growing in Truth
Passing on the tradition of truth doesn’t stop at head-knowledge-knowing. As we pass on the tradition of truth, it is important that we show our kids how to live out the truth and provide them opportunities to grow in truth. These two things happen in the context of covenant relationships.
I can’t teach my children how to return to God in repentance if I am not a repentant person. I can’t show my children how sinners return and remember if I am not vulnerable and specific about the times in my present life when I’ve needed to return and remember. The way I live out a gospel-centered life in front of my children is the most important tradition I can pass on to them. These moments aren’t usually captured by a photo and shared on social media. These moments have always come alongside processing pain through tears, and in prayer.
While I can show them how to live out truth, helping them grow up in truth happens in community. I always say my parenting is a community project. My children need models of truth, and those models are found in the local church. As a redeemed person, I can be excited about gospel friends who come into my life and fancy up my recipe for cranberries. I am limited, but giving my children godly models for gospel living gives them more of a panoramic view of a gospel-centered life.
My gospel friends set an example for my children in their life and work for the Kingdom. Three years ago, we left the only church my children had ever known, and it was hard. I wondered how long it would take us to get back to a place where my children would feel loved within the body once again. Now, one of my favorite parts about our new church is the passing of the peace. All four of them have a list of people who they must go to say hello to on Sunday mornings. Those lists are sometimes so long; they don’t get to everyone. Showing and growing together in the tradition of truth isn’t complicated. Sometimes, it is as simple as knowing others by name, shaking their hand, and reminding them of the peace of Jesus that surpasses any weighty trouble in this world.
When we as covenant people are intentionally tethered to the biblical tradition of truth as found in God’s Word, this impacts family life in the body of Christ. This impact will never fade away; it is eternal. Together we can pass on an everlasting legacy that is dependent upon God and what He is doing in the work of a wandering people as we wait together in the wilderness of the now and the not yet.
Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash