The testimony we want our children to have

It was the testimony of John the Baptist (Luke 1:41, 44). It was very likely the testimony of Timothy (2 Tim 1:5; 3:15). Of course, it was the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ par excellence (Luke 2:40, 52). What was it? 

“Upon you I have leaned from birth” (Psalm 71:6). 

The line is straight out of Israel’s songbook. So, every Israelite would’ve sung it. In some church circles, the line from Charles Wesley’s hymn has been immortalised: “my chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose went forth and followed Thee”. That’s what this lyric was like in Israel. “Upon you I have leaned from birth”. The singer doesn’t remember a time when he came to living faith; from his mother’s womb all the way to old age and grey hair, he’s trusted God (v.18). He was born again from birth. It’s a great testimony to have.

Now, Jesus was very clear to Nicodemus that the Spirit is free to work when and where he wills. “The wind blows where it wishes” (John 3:8). God is not obliged to call anyone at a particular time or life-stage. Of course, children can have long periods of wandering, and rebellion, before the Lord Jesus calls them. Proverbs describes the “youth” (Prov 1:4), who is somewhere in between wisdom and folly, still making up his mind on the moral and spiritual course of his life. Psalm 71:6 isn’t designed to flatten out and steam-roller us all into identical spiritual experiences. But it’s worth considering that this is the testimony the Holy Spirit has placed in the Bible’s hymnbook: “Upon you I have leaned from birth”. This is a testimony he wants us to sing (Eph 5:19). 

It’s interesting to think how the congregation in Philippi would sing Psalm 71:6 in worship. Did the Philippian jailor refuse to sing it (Acts 16:30)? Did it make Lydia (Acts 16:14) and the slave girl (Acts 16:16) feel awkward? What about the apostle Paul singing Psalm 71:6? Did they all have to cross their fingers when they sang it, because they only started leaning on God later in life?! Somehow, I don’t think that’s what they did. This line isn’t a line to ignore if it’s not what happened to you, but it’s a line to learn from. It’s there to normalise this kind of testimony. “Upon you I have leaned from birth”. Didn’t they sing it, and think: “This wasn’t true for me, but I want it to be true for my children”? “I, a Gentile, have been grafted into the olive tree (Rom 11:17), and now my future is to raise children, who have this testimony”. “This wasn’t my heritage, but I want it to be my legacy”. 

We know that parenting our children isn’t a technique, or a sausage-machine. Parenting can be a big source of grief (Prov 10:1; Luke 2:35). But God doesn’t want our expectations for our children to simply be based on our own, personal experience. This is the testimony we want our children, and grandchildren (and church children) to have. May they never know a day when they’ve not trusted Jesus Christ as Lord. 

“Upon you I have leaned from birth” (Psalm 71:6).