As the last bridesmaid began her measured walk down the aisle, little Anthony looked quickly to John. Seeing John's reassuring smile, the boy moved forward, gingerly holding the satin cushion before him. Wendy, smiling through her veil, followed on the arm of her father.
"Who's the cute ring bearer? A relative of John and Wendy?" a woman sitting in the audience asked quietly of a friend of the couple being married.
"No, I understand he is one of John's students."
"But, doesn't John teach special education? Don't many of his students have major learning disabilities?"
A SPECIAL CHILD
Indeed, 11-year-old Anthony did have learning disabilities. He had such severe problems that he had to live separately from his parents, who were now proudly watching him perform his part in the wedding of his teacher, John, and John's bride, Wendy.
John had come to have a love and concern for the child, and the feeling was mutual. A bond had been formed between the boy and his physical education instructor.
"This child had a lot of behavior problems, so he lived with five other children in a group home where he could have around-the-clock care," John said. "But, I knew Anthony could do this, and I wanted to give him the chance to show himself and others that he could."
Anthony was a student in John's PE class in a school program for severely disabled children in Los Angeles. Now Anthony would forever have his role in John and Wendy's new life together.
Even though this happy story may be outside the ordinary, John's example does show how much some teachers deeply care about their students, no matter how difficult the circumstances may prove to be. Many teachers, such as John, not only care about their individual students while they are teaching them, they also care about their future lives. Their students' successes are their the teachers' successes.
But, who are children's first and most influential teachers? Their parents, of course. God holds parents, not schoolteachers, ultimately responsible for training their children. This is especially true when it comes to Christian values.
As the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian Christians: "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4).
EMPHASIS ON TRAINING
Notice where Paul puts the emphasis in teaching, training and instructing children. In Paul's time and for generations since, the focus of child rearing was on discipline - many times harsh discipline - not on nurturing and training.
Paul warns parents - especially fathers, who during Paul's time had absolute authority and control over their families - not to cause their children to be angry, but to teach them in Christian love.
How can children who resent and fear their parents love God and his ways? This is especially true when parents try to justify abusiveness, which includes neglect of their children, with the Bible.
This principle was so important that Paul also included it in his letter to the Colossians: "Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged" (Colossians 3:21).
Proper teaching, which includes proper loving discipline, takes time. And we all know time is scarce in most of our lives today.
One young mother went back to work part time after her children were in elementary school. She works at a law firm in a large city four days a week, dropping off her two boys at school on the way to work and leaving her job in the early afternoon to pick them up.
"We are so busy at work that I feel guilty leaving early to go pick up my kids," she confides. "And, the single mothers who must work full time to support their families really envy me. I'm very aware of their feelings as I leave early every day."
This family goes to church together, prays together and plays together. This couple's boys know that their parents love and care for them. And, the children have good feelings toward their teachers.
Of course, many working mothers are single, without the support of a husband. If you are in such a situation, make sure your child knows you are trying to be there for him or her as much as possible. Life isn't always ideal, but parents should do all they can to show their children love and concern, regardless of their circumstances.
THE MAJOR KEY
Most teachers will tell you that parental involvement is the major key to children's success in school, and in life. They will also tell you that if you want your child to have Christian values in this amoral world, you had better take on the responsibility of teaching them yourselves. Instilling Christian values is the responsibility of parents. U.S. public schoolteachers can be, and have been, sued for teaching such values from the Bible.
If you want your children to love and respect God, you will have to set aside the time to instill Christian values, right in your own home. From earliest childhood, read the stories of the Bible to your children. Use some modern-language versions with lots of colorful and appealing illustrations. Explain the lessons these Old and New Testament stories were written to teach. Make them some of your children's favorites.
Along with reading to them from God's Word, build your children's faith in God by teaching them how to pray. Make God real to them. Show your children that although you as parents and they as children will make mistakes, God is perfect in his love. Reassure them that God has unconditional love for them. No matter which faults they may have or errors they may make, they can come to him for forgiveness.
Teach them also, however, that God has high standards. Show your children, for example, that God teaches respect for authority, not contempt; that God expects us to tell the truth, not lie; that he encourages us to give to others, not steal from them. The rising rates of juvenile crime should convince us that children don't automatically acquire high ethical standards. They must be taught by their parents.
Yes, our time is limited. Economic and social conditions force parents to work, sometimes long hours away from their families. So, make what time you have with your children count. Show your children that they are priorities in your life.
By your actions you show your children that reading to them, playing with them, helping them with their homework are more important to you than watching television or talking on the telephone or playing cards with your buddies or shopping at the mall with your friends.
IT TAKES TIME
As much as they might want to, teachers have little time to work one-on-one with children. If your children aren't taught the values that make them successful in their relationships with others, whether they be authority figures or peers, they will have difficulty with the challenges of school, and life in general. And, with one humiliating failure after another, they will get discouraged and finally quit trying.
Take time to be your child's number one teacher. Because, whether for good or bad, you will be his or her number one teacher. You are your child's first and most influential teacher in life. Your children's successes are also your successes. And, even their setbacks can be successes if you teach your children how to handle the failures that will come in life.
Teaching Christian values takes time. As disciples of Jesus Christ, that means we must make time for our children.