What Comes First


Recently Viv (20-month old) took a 7-minute video of her feet, a book, and the carpet…and audio of me teaching Ev (4-year-old) to read. At first, as I listened, I congratulated myself on how patient I was and how well I praised and celebrated her. But as the lesson progressed, I heard my impatience, anger, and ugliness.

It’s one thing to “hear yourself” losing control as it is happening in the way that your voice travels through and around your head into your ears, all while you’re feeling all the emotions of the moment. But it is another thing entirely to hear yourself through a phone speaker when completely removed from the moment and the emotions wrapped up in it.

In an instant, my voice changed from kind to angry and accusatory.

Evelyn’s sweet squeaky voice responded to my interrogation and vitriolic commands with fearful one-word answers and “I don’t knows”.

My first reaction was to dismiss her sweetness. Thinking “I KNOW her. She was being manipulative and lazy about her lesson.” But as I meditated on the matter longer I realized a few things:

  • Her actions and words should have absolutely no bearing on mine. Christ should be my motivation.
  • She is four. She knows how to act as well as a four-year-old can with the limited life experience and instruction she has. This includes an ability (or inability) to do hard things and manage the subsequent discomfort.
  • She does not know fully or understand what Jesus has done for her. She is not accessing the power of His resurrection to do insanely difficult things like be joyfully obedient and patiently bearing things that are not fun to her.
  • She will never WANT to know Jesus if she thinks the way I acted is any reflection of him.

Is it my job to teach Evelyn how to read? Currently.

Is it my job to train my children? Yes.

But that training begins with mine. Speaking the words of Jesus and in the manner, He spoke them is not something I can muster within myself; it must begin with a pursuit of God and be manifested in overflowing love for my children.


Before scripture memory. Before catechism songs. Before post-dinner devotions.

The first and best way my children will learn about Jesus is by watching Him transform me.

Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
 Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
 be acceptable in your sight,
 O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. —Psalm 19:12-14

Jennifer Byars

©2018 Jennifer Byars