“Don’t copy the behavior or customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2 (NLT)
I’m getting ready to host sixteen eight-year-old girls at my house for a birthday party this weekend. I imagine the level of excitement and activity will be enough to blow my mind. Still, I’m thrilled to have these sweet girls in my home to celebrate my daughter and get to know her friends and their relationship dynamics. At this age, my girl and I often chat about her friendships. There seems to be more and more drama happening in the lunchroom and on the playground. But when I dig to find out about the emotions and words that allegedly fly around, the more I understand the root of the issue. So much of the drama begins in her mind.
Thoughts that plague our children about who they are and where they belong often grow into weeds that, if left unattended, overshadow the beauty of their lives. As an adult, I look back and understand this issue and what it did to my own childhood. And I want better for my children. I want them to flourish IN the world, not wilt because OF it.
Although it isn’t based on scripture, I love this old poem about the garden of the mind:
Your mind is a garden
Your thoughts are the seeds
You can grow flowers or
You can grow weeds
– Author Unknown –
The mind is a powerful garden that when tended to, will yield beautiful growth for our children. In her study The Armor of God, Priscilla Shirer writes, “What the brain is to the body, the mind is to the soul.” Just as our brain provides direction and function for our bodies, our minds provide guidance for our souls – our will and emotions.
This can be a large concept for children to understand. But there are simple ways we can communicate the power of the mind to our kids to help them learn early on that being a Jesus follower means allowing God to change the way we think. And when we allow God and His Spirit to guide our thoughts, we experience a greater level of peace and joy; we thrive IN the world without being OF it or changed BY it.
Read Philippians 2:1-18 and consider sharing it with your children. Paul encourages the church in this letter to have the attitude of Christ, which he also says is “being of the same mind.” Our actions and attitudes begin with our thoughts. What comes out of our mouths and in our behavior originates in our mind.
Teaching our children these four truths will help them guard their minds as they grow in life experience and maturity. Understanding what it means to have the mind of Christ is an essential piece of their faith foundation that will allow them to stand strong IN the world without being OF it.
- Once you enter into relationship with Jesus, God works to change the way you think. (Romans 12:2)
- God’s spirit is with you in tough situations. He will remind you to stop and ask, “What would Jesus think about this? How would he respond?” (Philippians 2:2)
- You have the power to choose the best thoughts – about Jesus, others and yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39)
- You can take negative thoughts and turn them around by speaking the truth. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
The thoughts of our children include these three connecting points:
- Jesus – What do I think about faith, my relationship with Jesus?
- Others – How do I relate to my family, friends, leaders and the hard to love people in my life?
- You – What do I believe about myself; what is my unique identity and purpose?
The right thinking in each of these foundational areas of their life leads to JOY!
Each day our children encounter a plethora of information and varying messages coming at them like arrows from the hand of a master archer. When we teach them to guard their minds like the Bible tells us to do, we protect them from being overwhelmed, confused and tempted to react and to instead, carefully consider each decision they face. When they understand the power their thoughts have over the rest of their lives, and learn to take on the mind of Christ, they will thrive and make their mark IN the world without taking on the identity OF it.