Friday, March 28, 2014

Why I want our children to have faith

I was driving my nearly 16 year old son to an audition in Auckland City this week so had a rare opportunity to chat with him (thankfully there’s no internet in the car!). I asked him if he’d decided what to give up for Lent yet as we are now halfway through this season. I also questioned his understanding of why our family gives up things for Lent. His reasonings and thoughts were slightly challenging and raised some doubts about my effectiveness in raising children of faith.

After years of wonderful nightly faith rituals with our late surprise gift from God, I now struggle to find opportunity to talk and do God stuff with our college son. My faith is incredibly important to me and my profound hope is that my three children will continue in it.

Jennifer Grant’s article in Christianity Today “Let’s not bully our kids into faith” and her reasons for wanting her children to remain in the faith really resonated with me.

Christianity is part of their DNA

Rejecting their faith would be like refusing one's race or ancestry or trying to forget the song your mother sang to you every night before bed. My kids might set it aside for a while – as I have done in different periods of my life. They might revise it and find another way to interpret and live it out. They have chosen Christ, were baptized, confirmed, and raised in the church. They can't possibly fling off their faith like an ill-fitting coat; it's part of the fabric of who they are.

A good church/faith community will be there for them

When they encounter loss, they will be sustained by God and by their faith communities. As much as I hate the thought, I know my kids will experience great pain in their lives. I also know being in relationship with God and being part of a faith community will help my children live through those hard times.

The love of God will sustain them; I want them to live in awareness of God's presence and of God's good gifts. Being in community with others who practice their faith will help.

Christ establishes a priority to love and serve.

Following Christ keeps us from dancing along with our culture's trashy siren songs. Among other things, our culture insists that buying things makes us happy, that the only people of value are those who are strong and beautiful, and that personal satisfaction should be our primary goal as human beings.

In contrast to that, my children have been taught from their earliest years that, as Christians, our job is to love and serve others, ever looking for the image of God in every person we encounter. Real joy comes from opening ourselves to others; I want my children to be joyful people who embrace others with Christ's love.

But as much as I believe these things – and more – about the benefits of living a life of faith, I cannot force them into it. There comes a point (and I'm experiencing it) when I will no longer be able to insist that they go to church. I won't be able to tuck them in at night with a prayer. I won't have the opportunity to engage with them as often as I’d like about how I see God working in the world or the ways I see the Spirit of God in them.

I'm at the point where I just have to hope that my mothering hasn't imprinted them in damaging ways. I hope that I've shown them what living a life of faith can look like and, mostly, that I've reflected God's love and grace to them while they have been young and vulnerable.

In the new hold-your-breath thriller Gravity, there is a poignant moment when Sandra Bullock's character faces death and feels drawn to the God whom she has never known. (Suffering and near-death experiences often do that for people.) She says, not knowing the words she speaks are in fact a prayer, "I've never prayed. Nobody taught me how."

I know my kids will face all kinds of deaths throughout their lives. The death of loved ones. Of dreams. Of relationships. For hope in those moments and so many others, I'm glad that I have taught them to pray.

But really, their spiritual lives have never been up to me; they've been between them and God all along.

Jennifer Grant is the author of Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter, MOMumental: Adventures in the Messy Art of Raising a Family, Disquiet Time (forthcoming, 2014), and 12: A Daybook (forthcoming, 2014).

1 comment:

  1. Great reflection, Jill. Very pointant and passionate and respectful. I quite agree.