When each of my three girls were born, I was so overwhelmed by the experience of meeting and holding them for the first time. It is totally natural for a parent to take the little one into their arms, hold them to your chest, and say, “I love you and you’re mine.” And yet, we also must come to the place where we understand that our children are not for our purposes but for God’s.
The LORD said to Moses, ‘Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether human or animal.’ (Exodus 13:1-2)
One of God’s earliest commands was for the people to set their children apart for God. In this context, the focus was on the firstborn as a representation of God’s firstborn Son Whom He set apart for our eternal salvation. Whether or children are firstborn or not, they belong to God. We are caretakers of these precious gifts, and they are a blessing to us beyond what we can possibly imagine.
Set Apart in My Mind
The idea of setting my child apart doesn’t sound so appealing. It seems like we should hold them close. But consecrating your child doesn’t mean pushing them away. It’s important that we set things straight in our own minds before we move on.
Some parents take this concept and almost give themselves a pass when it comes to training up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. So, parents of this mindset have intimate relationships with anyone but their children and frequently talk about the day the children are “out of the house.” Children are seen merely as a responsibility for a time as opposed to a lifelong gift. Many of these children grow up struggling with intimacy and not knowing how to relate to God other than at a great distance. In this case, the parent is really focusing the attention on themselves and their individual desires and pursuits as opposed to God’s purposes.
Other parents struggle with holding their children so close that these little ones become little idols. All of the schedules, money, attention and warmth is centered on the children. The parent may tend to isolate the child so much that interactions within the larger community of faith are almost impossible. In the end, we find children who grow up with a clear sense of entitlement and a struggle to have positive relationships outside the natural family. While the parent may be focused on the child, much of the time this parent is really using the relationship for their own struggles with intimacy or their fear of missing out on God’s best. When we consider consecration, we would do well to see it as a parent’s desire to reveal God to our children so their little hearts are bent toward God. If I’m distant from my children or they perceive they are a burden to me, then I reveal a God who coldly “deals” with them. Instead, I hold my girls close to show them the loving arms of the Father who gifts them for a clear purpose. If I’m too controlling of my child’s time and life, then I engender a sense of mistrust of others, even those in the community of faith. Rather, I encourage relationships within the spiritual family so they can see how big God’s family is and learn from other siblings in Christ. Generally, my consecration involves setting myself apart as a model of the Father’s love while training my child to know and have a relationship with the God who will be with them long after I’m gone.
Set Apart in Their Minds
Many say that concepts like this are “more caught than taught.” However, Scriptures call us to do more than just show them. We need to be sure we tell them regularly who they are to God. The constant reminders are helpful not only to them but also to our desire as parents to follow God’s command.
In order to make this a reality in the life of our families, let’s consider a few places where we might start:
1) “I love you, and God loves you.” It’s a simple statement you can make when you leave for work or they go off to school each day. You might also consider making it a final statement before you head off to bed each night. It’s a way to set apart your child at the beginning or end of each day by drawing attention to the heavenly Father.
2) “May God bless you…” We talk about blessings in another conversation, but it’s a helpful to make a note here. We have an awesome opportunity as parents to bless our children. It is a way to empower them with grace for the road ahead. How we complete the blessings sentence may also be a way to reinforce our consecration. “May God bless you and guide you as you grow into a beautiful light that gives glory to Christ.”
3) “I commit you to the Lord.” Sometimes the easiest way to get started is to just state it clearly and simply. We can tell our children that our desire, more than anything else, is to see them committed to following Christ and finding their place in the mission of God.
Consecration Means Love
If we truly want the best for our children, then we want God’s best for our children. No one understands them better than He does. No one loves them more than He does. No one will be with them longer than He will. It would be short-sighted of me to win my kids hearts to myself without winning them to the heart of the Father. I love them more than that. So I commit them to the loving and gracious hands of the One who will never leave them or abandon them.