I am what is known as a Pastor’s Kid. My daughter will one day become one too, Lord-willing. For 10 years of my mother’s working life, she was a full-time stay-home parent. For the last 2 years of my life and counting, I have been a full-time stay-home Dad. Whilst it might appear to some on the surface that our family has managed to ‘stay in shape’ with regard to our Christian heritage through walking with Jesus together, it has undoubtedly been a case of God working in, through and in spite of us. And yet there were certain commitments my Pa and Ma made that were, under God’s faithful hand, transformative - which have made lasting impressions on the next generation.
Pa and Ma have in their own ways what the Apostle Paul might call ‘a sincere faith’. As individuals, their faith might manifest differently, but the fact is that their relationship with the Lord is legitimate.
If you asked me the one thing in mortal life I could bank my hopes on, it would be this: my parents’ personal devotions. Ma would daily read her Bible and pray in the dark before dawn, whilst Pa would do his after breakfast around 8 or so by the window in the sunshine. Every day without fail (apart from Sunday), whether in the heat of work or the leisure of vacation, that would be the time and space my folks would inhabit with their Lord. This was to me a picture of posture: a commitment to a creed that for better or worse, come hell or high water, as a family we were surrendered to the Lord.
And it was this posture through change, grief and loss that spoke the loudest. When faced with the unknown we always paused to pray. At night before bed daily we read the Word to each other and bowed our heads in prayer. When trials came we held and upheld each other before the Lord.
During my adolescent years, I faced a significant period of trial, unbeknownst for a long time to Pa and Ma. When they uncovered it they were utterly devastated. Yet the Lord preserved their faith and service. In their grief, I never once saw doubt, anger or resentment. They refused to hold God ransom to their will but chose instead to trust His sovereign goodness. That trial turned out to be the primary means by which the Lord revealed Himself to me, calling me to His salvation and service.
Pa and Ma passed on their faith by first being faithful, continuing in it, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the Gospel that they heard. (Col 1:23)
In spite of being undergraduate, and later on post-graduate degree holders, they chose unspectacular, Kingdom-serving careers. Pa has been a pastor for nearly his entire working career, save a few months working menial jobs to make ends meet. Ma has been involved in primary and secondary education either side of a decade as full-time homemaker during the children’s formative years. Before the Lord, they sought to fulfill their vocational calling whilst making professional and financial sacrifices in the vital years of parenthood for the higher call of parenting.
They worked together on the decision-making with regard to boundaries and discipline. I cannot recall a time where there were double standards, and I have no doubt that each time a misdemeanor demanded just action, we faced the cane from either parent with a similar amount of trepidation albeit for different reasons. As children, we came to understand the fear of God because Pa and Ma prioritised discipline.
A full-time, stay-home parent can shape generations. We see the effects of this sacrificial decision in our lives as children – in our affections for Ma as primary caregiver and our respect for Pa as head of the household. Having been transformed by God through the obedience of our parents, some of the costlier decisions are much clearer before us as young parents. It makes a lot of sense to invest a mere fraction of our working lives ministering to our own children at home and we intend to do so at least for the kids’ formative years.
Pa and Ma passed on their faith by prioritising the imperative, teaching the statutes and commandments diligently to their children. (Deut 6:4-9)
While appreciating the rigours and biases of the Singapore education system, Pa and Ma made an effort to ensure our education was not merely academic, but experiential and holistic. Like most Singaporean children, we had tuition for weaker subjects and piano lessons (and exams) for good measure. We were exposed to all kinds of sport – football, tennis, volleyball, water polo and netball to name a few, as well as a variety of instruments – the guitar and piano for starters.
Though I probably received more than anyone’s fair share of pep talks regarding my attitude and work ethic concerning schoolwork, it never felt like grades were an ultimate. They were always part of a bigger picture.
While many of my friends spent most of their Saturdays at the mall in the cinema or amusement arcade, I was attending piano lessons and band practice in church. Sundays were spent in church followed by a big lunch, a long nap and homework. Even though at the time I was always jealous of my friends who seemed to have heaps of freedom and fun, I now realise this was a very thoughtful decision on my parents’ part to restrict frivolous activity and instead to help us invest in making our lives valuable for God’s kingdom.
In following the Lord’s leading to foreign lands, Pa and Ma also broadened our horizons by allowing God to shape us through the trials of emigration and adaptation. Despite not knowing how the experience would turn out for us children, Pa and Ma entrusted the whole family to the Lord and His covenantal faithfulness. Under God’s hand, the time we spent abroad was spiritually transformative as He worked out His good purposes in and through us. Where Pa and Ma were called, the family followed. Where there was a non-negotiable for one member (National Service), there the family went too.
Pa and Ma passed on their faith by drawing boundaries and creating opportunities for their children to encounter the One in whom “all things hold together.” (Col 1:17)
Let us not be tempted for a moment to think of parenting as mere human effort. Let us not be tempted either to think that it is all for God to do. Rather, let us submit ourselves prayerfully to the call to marriage and to parenting, walking faithfully with the Faithful One. May He prove His covenantal love to you and to the generations to come for the glory of His name.
When not spending time with his girls, Elliot Ng may be found playing football, making photographs or grooving to a beat.