He grabbed the coveted Lego piece from his brother’s hand. Which led to an exclamation of, “Stupid jerk,” followed by a right hook. Of course, this escalated the battle into a pile of intertwined limbs on the floor. If you are the mother of brothers you’ve witnessed similar scenes (unless you’ve parented perfect children…in which case, can you mentor me?).

When my boys were little, like 1 and 3 years old, I set super high (unrealistic) expectations of behavior. Shouldn’t they love each other selflessly? Be patient with a baby brother who knocks over his block tower? Treat his friend gently instead of biting his left arm?

One day I realized my bar of acceptable behavior hovered at the level of “Fruit of the Spirit.” I wanted them to have: ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control.’ All great desires, right? But one small problem…my boys hadn’t professed a faith of their own at these young ages.

According to the theology I had been taught, we receive the Holy Spirit when we believe and accept Christ as the Savior of our sins. We grow in our ability to walk in step with the Spirit each day we walk on this earth. The Spirit guides us to Christ-likeness.

Most people assume theology is only for seminary students and pastors. But anyone with a typically developing mental state has thoughts about God. Even believing there is no God is theology.

One aspect of theology I haven’t found much written about is the Holy Spirit and children. I’ve been taught that children who unfortunately die before an “age of knowing” will spend eternity in the presence of God. But can I expect Fruit-of-the-Spirit-like behavior when my boys don’t have the Holy Spirit Who produces the fruit?

Too often I focus on the “fruit” and not the source. I see the wrong behavior in my boys and not the heart behind it. In that moment I change my goal from expecting unrealistic fruit to leading them in the love of Christ. Connecting with God on a daily basis myself so I could be filled with love, joy, peace — drawing them to desire the same in their own lives.

My pursuit of Spirit-filled fruit will draw my son to pursue the Holy Spirit’s work in his life.

The more I’ve studied the Holy Spirit, the more amazed I am at how we undervalue the Spirit in our daily living. God with us. In us. Empowering us to not be “perfect” but to “speak the word with boldness (Acts 4:31)” and to share God’s love with a broken world.

Action Steps

My challenge to those of us with boys who have not yet professed faith in a Savior — turn to the Holy Spirit in yourself.

  • Spend time in God’s presence (choose a designated place & time in your home).

  • Empty yourself of the sins which quench the Spirit (confess what has been distracting your heart).

  • Ask God to fill you to overflowing (picture a water pitcher full of rocks, pull out the rocks (sin), and pour in living water).

  • Throughout the day when you want to react, mentally/spiritually/physically turn to the Spirit for guidance.

If you’ve never done a study on the Holy Spirit, then check out Francis Chan’s book, “Forgotten God”. It will inspire you to remember Who you have with you and in you.

May God lift you up today.
Reminding you not to pursue perfect children but a perfect God.