Teach Your Children to Remember

by John Dalrymple

table with old photographs

What do you remember from your childhood? I must admit that most of my memories actually come from home videos. Occasionally, my siblings would pull out the VHS recordings and watch birthday parties, family vacations, music recitals, sports games, and holidays from when we were kids. It’s fun now to watch those videos with my own children, have them identify different family members, and see what I looked like at their age.

With the convenience of a high-quality video camera in my pocket and unlimited cloud storage, I imagine that I have already recorded more video and picture content of my 5-year-old than I have footage of my entire childhood.

What do you want your children to remember about their childhood? We don’t necessarily have control over our children’s memory, but I believe each of us have the biblical responsibility to memorialize the ways God has protected and provided for our family.

Memorial Days and Stones of Remembrance

In Exodus 12 when God miraculously delivered Israel out of slavery in Egypt, Moses gave instructions so that they would never forget. He said, “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations…” Then in Deuteronomy 6, after Moses encouraged Israel to love God and teach their children the commands of God, he says in verse 12, “Take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

Years later when the nation of Israel crossed the Jordan River on dry ground, Joshua had a man from each tribe take a stone from the river so that when their children asked, “What do those stones mean to you?” they could tell their children about God’s miraculous provision just as He had done at the Red Sea. Joshua said that the stones would, “be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” (Josh. 4:7)

But when Joshua and the godly elders in Israel died, Judges 2:10 says that, “There arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done in Israel.” At some point along the way, the parents throughout Israel stopped rehearsing the works of the LORD to their children and the result was catastrophic.

How can we ensure that we don’t follow the same pattern?

1. Start a family journal

The ways that God has protected and provided for our family in just the past few months could fill a small notepad. With four adventurous boys, I can only imagine the number of close calls that we will experience in the coming years. Nor can I imagine all the wonderful ways he will continue to provide for our needs.

Instead of just moving on to the next thing we need, I want to write down God’s faithfulness so I can remind my family of His work in our lives for years to come. At the beginning of our marriage, a wise older couple gave us a notebook for this purpose and called it an “Ebenezer Journal.” Ebenezer is the name of the stone that the prophet Samuel set up to remind the children of Israel of God’s help and deliverance from the Philistines. Most of our family journal is typed out on a computer. Whatever form works for your family, attempt to record as many of the works of God in your family’s life as you can.

Occasionally, take the family journal out and read together some of the things God has done for you in the past. Teach your children to remember the works of the LORD by writing those works down.

2. Pray with thanksgiving

Prayer time can quickly become a laundry list of requests. When our children are little, they want prayer for their cuts and bruises; when they are older, school and friendships often become the default prayer requests. Sometimes it is helpful to focus a prayer time on praise and thanksgiving to God. Take a few moments before or after family dinner and have each person think of at least one thing they can thank God for. In addition to thanking God for his acts of provision and protection, offer praise to God for who He is!

3. Share your stories with others

Children love to “show and tell.” When you’re about to share a story of God’s protection and provision with someone else, invite them to tell part or all of the story. Both sharing about how God has cared for your family and hearing how God has answered prayer for others are opportunities to strengthen our faith.

4. Read Christian biographies

In addition to the Bible where we find the most important record of God’s works, expose your kids to incredible stories of God’s provision and protection in the lives of faithful Christians throughout history. Here is a short list of some Christian biographies for different age groups.

  • Christian Heroes: Then & Now Series by Janet and Geoff Benge (recommended for readers ages 10 and up)
  • Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot
  • The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
  • Amy Carmichael: Beauty For Ashes by Iain Murray
  • John G. Paton: Missionary to the Cannibals of the South Seas by Paul Schlehlein
  • The Autobiography Of George Muller

“I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done…that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God.” Psalm 78:2–7 ESV

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