The light from the passing car’s headlights rotated around my bedroom walls and my eyes opened wide.

Who was driving up our cul-de-sac at night? Were they going to rob us? Would they set fire to our house?

Fear gripped my young heart as irrational conclusions flooded my mind. Seeking comfort, I did not wait long to slide off my bed and run downstairs.

I stood on the stair landing, looked down at Mom and Dad on the couch, and hurriedly reported what I had seen.

After talking me through my fears and praying with me, Dad walked me back to my room, sang quietly to me, and returned downstairs.

Moments like this have been significant in shaping how I interact with the Lord. My parents did more than teach me how to walk as a believer and honor Christ in all things; they showed me.

Here are five habits my parents incorporated into my childhood that have had a special influence on my spiritual life.

1. They taught me to sing hymns.

With two girls in ballet for over 10 years, you can imagine how many hair buns were fashioned in my home. Mom was the “bun master” when we were young, and during those moments in front of the mirror, she would teach my younger sister and me to sing hymns … in three-part harmony!

These weren’t simply music lessons. The theological lessons embedded in these hymns have stuck with me to this day. Lyrics such as “He hideth my life in the depths of His love, and covers me there with His hand” and “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine, O what a foretaste of glory divine” are branded on my heart, to be remembered in any moment.

Mentally and audibly singing words of truth have the power to recalibrate my thinking and my emotions on what is pleasing to the Lord. Many moody mornings have been revived by an old hymn or two. When I sing the spiritual songs I was taught, they point me to God.

2. They showed me how they read Scripture.

Every morning during my childhood, my mom would sit on the front porch steps for her quiet time with God. I would see her walk out with her Bible and devotional under her arm, eager to dive in. Similarly, I grew up watching my dad read his leather Bible in his leather chair in the evenings and before church on Sundays. Both of them hungered for God’s Word. Both saw it as their ultimate authority. Since I was young, I have observed both of my parents place reading Scripture at the top of their priority list out of a longing for guidance and holiness.

So my personal hunger for consistent Scripture reading began by watching my parents. Now when I go home to visit, I often sit outside with my mom with my own Bible, and we share with each other what truths we have gleaned. What a blessing to share this as a family!

3. They taught me how to pray.

I discovered years ago that every morning as he heads to work my dad prays for each one of his girls as he passes our rooms. He lifts each of our needs up to our Father who gladly listens. My mom does the same during her “quiet times” with God. They do not merely pray for our days, but that my sister and I would serve and love the Lord in all that we do.

My personal prayer life has been significantly shaped by witnessing theirs. They’ve shown me that nothing is too big or too small to talk to God about. As Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6, it is “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” that requests should be made known to God. Nothing should be left out.

Even now, I tear up thinking about how much prayer my parents have invested in my family.

4. They showed me how to serve others.

When a friend needs her, my mom is there in an instant. If she needs my Dad’s help, he sacrifices his needs for hers. Together as a couple, my parents serve those who are hurting. They are not afraid to slog through the mess of life together. They don’t skirt around the nitty gritty for the sake of comfort but place others before themselves.

They have exemplified, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39) and “Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).

Living with those who practice what they teach has taught me how to live for others.

5. They taught me to dwell on the good, true, and lovely.

As I’ve mentioned, I was a fearful child. Those many nights I climbed downstairs in terror, my Dad consistently listened as I expressed my fears. Most significantly, he then gently guided my mind back to what is true. He would address both the truth of my situation and the truth about God.

On one specific evening, I recall coming to my mom for the same reason. She told me to dwell on good and lovely things. She was indirectly quoting Philippians 4:8 which says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true … whatever is lovely … if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

These early reminders to dwell on what is good, true, and lovely made a significant mark on my thinking patterns. Thinking this way has not blocked out the harsh realities of the world, but has offered a lens of truth through which to see them. Because my parents have been committed to talking about and living out what is true and lovely, my thought-life has been transformed.

I never thought learning songs, watching my parents read, or thinking about beautiful things would change my life, but they have. My day in, day out interactions with God would not look the same without having lived with parents who demonstrated spiritually healthy lives. This is my tribute. I am forever grateful and hope to do the same with a family of my own one day.

Copyright © 2017 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.