God expects us to spend our lives learning the teachings of Jesus Christ and improving our ability to live them. He doesn’t expect instant perfection from us. Rather, He allows us to learn as we go and to continually work to bring our lives into alignment with His teachings. Teaching our children to learn and to grow “line upon line” can help them to avoid discouragement and make steady progress in becoming the people He wants them to be.
Hand each of your children a large, thick non-fiction book and tell them they have five minutes to learn everything in it perfectly. At the end of five minutes, ask them if they have a perfect knowledge of the information. If the book taught how to do something, ask them if they could now do whatever it taught perfectly.
Of course they can’t. Ask them what would be a better way to learn the materials and skills in their books. The best way
is to study it slowly, learning one part of it at a time, until they’d learned all of it. Tell them this is called learning line upon line. Ask someone to read Isaiah 28:10 in the Old Testament (King James translation).
10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:
Ask them to share with you some of the things they learned about Jesus when they were little. Do they learn just those things now that they are older? If your family attends Sunday School, invite each person to share some of the things they learn in their classes. Point out that young children learn very basic principles, but as we grow older, our teachers begin to teach more complex ideas. We are learning about Jesus line upon line. We didn’t learn everything in our very first Sunday School class.
Ask them if a toddler can learn every rule or commandment a person should obey? What kinds of commandments do we teach very little children? What rules do your older children learn that aren’t talked about much in younger classes? Children learn to obey a few simple rules. Parents and older siblings help keep little children stay safe and obedient by helping them to do the right things.
To help your children understand this, tell one of the following stories, depending on the ages of your children.
Ashley is six years old. Her little brother Rory is only two years old. Ashley is allowed to go into the kitchen by herself to get a drink of water. Her mother knows she will remember the rules. Rory is never allowed into the kitchen without a grownup, because he is too little to remember all the rules. Ask your younger children what might go wrong if Rory were left alone in the kitchen. What kinds of rules does Ashley probably know at the age of six about being in a kitchen?
Melissa is fifteen. She is upset that her parents insist on knowing where she is at all times and who she is with. She feels they are too overprotective. One day, her parents refuse to let her attend a party because after calling and talking to the parents of the host, they decide they don’t feel comfortable with the standards that will be upheld there. Melissa is furious with her parents. However, the day after the party, she learns the parents went to sleep during the party and the teenagers there brought in alcohol. Someone called the police because several of the teenagers were drunk. Melissa admits she is relieved she wasn’t there, because it would have been difficult to handle the situation once the parents were not supervising. Ask your older children why they think Melissa’s parents are so careful about knowing where she is and who she is with, as well as the standards of the parents of her friends.
Help your children see that parents give children gradual freedom as they earn their parents’ trust and as they grow in wisdom. What are some ways a child or teenager could earn more freedom? How much freedom should a child or teenager have? Be respectful of the opinions expressed, but guide your children to understand a parent has the final say because parents are legally and morally accountable for what happens to their children.
Give older children the following handout and go over the steps with them. The handout is from Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen, excerpted from a forthcoming book called, “What We Need to Know and Do.
Here are seven ideas to help us grow line upon line and precept upon precept:
1. Understanding—Let us understand that growth is a process, a becoming, a progressive moment and not an instantaneous happening. Just as healing takes time, so does becoming take time. Wisdom does not spring mature into the life of any individual; it takes day-by-day effort to understand and practice enduring principles before one can gradually experience enhanced capacity, expanded faculties, extended vision, strengthened character, and more godly wisdom.
2. Patience—Let us be patient with others as well as with ourselves and the things we do. Bread takes so long to prepare and to bake. Seeds take so long to germinate and develop into plants that bear fruit. Be aware of the process so there will be no unrealized expectations that can result is stress or negative feelings.
3. Goal-setting—Target dates are important. When setting your goals and making your plans there can be logical check points along the way to determine if you are progressing as planned. These dates can give you hope and encouragement along the way.
4. Time is your ally—Let us never forget that as we grow we are doing something that takes effort and time. Sometimes it takes longer than anticipated — twice as long or longer. Develop a mindset that envisions the end goal with clarity, supported and nurtured by time. With time you can still achieve your objectives, one patient step after the other.
5. Divine Heritage—We are the literal spiritual children of Heavenly Father with the divine capacity to become like Him. This knowledge and understanding gives us hope to carry on and become all that we can be.
6. Talents and Abilities—Within each of us are latent qualities that, through the strength of the Lord and diligent effort, can be improved upon one step at a time.
7. Exercise Faith—As we step into the dark, let us remember that the Lord will provide the way and the light to make it through.
Take the remainder of the evening and learn something new as a family. Select something with steps to learn and help your children see that it’s important to learn one step at a time. Talk about the learning process and what will be needed in the future to improve your skills in that area.