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For those of you who didn’t know I posted on spiritual things… surprise!
God is not insecure about His existence. Just because people think He doesn’t exist, doesn’t make Him doubt it Himself. So why do we – when thinking about discussing spiritual things with our children or others – feel insecure about it? I was liberated when I realized I don’t need to feel pressure to prove His existence to anyone. I could give examples upon examples that make it an irrefutable fact to me, but how much better is it when others can do the same?
Wouldn’t you prefer your child to say “I know God exists because He proved it to me” rather than “I know God exists because my mama told me so.” Of course we are to share our own stories, but we needn’t be insecure on behalf of God who is quite able to make Himself known.
A famous Christian author tells a story of her own preschool son who lost a toy. She was in the shower attempting to have a few uninterrupted minutes, and her son kept beating on the bathroom door looking for his lost toy. She repeatedly told him to wait, until she felt God say “tell him to pray and ask Me where it is.” She didn’t want to because, you know, what if God didn’t answer?
But, since he wouldn’t leave her alone, the next time he knocked she told him to pray to God and ask where the toy was. He didn’t come back. After her shower she asked him what happened and he said, “Oh, I prayed and God showed me it was at the top of my bookcase, so I climbed up and got it!” Thanks a lot, God, I would have said.
My point isn’t that we should take every single little inconsequential matter to God, but rather we should trust that God is a God who meets us where we are and in ways we can understand.
I pray all the time that my children will know and follow God – for their own benefit – and here are some thoughts on how we can encourage our children to have their own spiritual life from a young age.
1. Pray. And not always in the closet.
Of course, there’s a lot to be said for getting out of the hustle and bustle of life to pray, but if we only pray in secret and quiet then our children never get the benefit of seeing us. Or rather, we don’t get the latent benefits of leading an obvious spiritual life: that we can let our actions speak louder than our words.
If something is happening in the family, with a friend, in the life of your child, why not pray together? I’d suggest not making prayer some super spiritual candlelit weird holding hands time. It can be just as easy as stopping what you’re doing and saying, “Hey, our friend is sick, let’s say a quick prayer.“
2. Let them pray.
My daughter was having nightmares about a monster a few months ago. We suggested when she woke up afraid she should pray “please help, Jesus” and then call for us. I wanted her to know I would come, but I wanted her first thought to be prayer.
One morning I asked her if she’d had nightmares last night and she said this. “The monster came and it scared me and I was crying. I say, ‘help Jesus, help Jesus’ then the man came and said ‘You don’t have to be scared’ and hold the monster’s hand and make him go away.”
I have friends who told us a similar story with their daughter. Why not let them discover God as a Rescuer themselves?
3. Encourage questions.
Churches or organizations that discourage question asking are either trying to control by not letting people think for themselves, or they are too proud to admit they don’t know everything. If we don’t ask real questions we’ll never get real answers.
Who is God?
Why does He let bad things happen?
Will everyone go to heaven?
These questions and others are healthy, normal and our children should be encouraged to ask what’s on their mind. Even if you have to dig around for an answer. Years ago when the book Angels & Demons came out, some friends were reading a book about why the New Testament books could not be true, and how the Bible had numerous discrepancies. They pointed out a few and asked what I thought or if I had an answer.
I said I’d look into it. I was going to Google my way out of it and then my computer died. I tried to rebuke the devil out of my Dell, but alas, he did not flee. So I got out my Bible and a notebook and pen and went through the bible and wrote down my answers for all of their questions. In fact, I was able to find – in Scripture – an example or passage debunking that author’s claims. Little ole me!
When I presented these answers to my friends – in great enthusiasm because I’d done it all without Google – they were silent at first. Silent, pensive, and full of respect. They didn’t fall down prostrate on the kitchen floor, but I believe it was a turning point for them in how they view Christians. To them, no longer was I a brainwashed Christian from the Bible Belt. I was someone who actually believed what I said.
4. Get them into a church community.
Sunday church is not the end all and be all, and of course you can have faith without going to church. However, church is where we’ll find support, friendship, and encouragement when we need it. Jesus said that we will find trouble in life (John 16:33, oh how I know it) and our church family will hopefully be there to support us spiritually, emotionally and practically. After the birth of my second son, women from the church brought us enough food to last an entire month without having to cook. One month! They knew we didn’t have family around to help and made us feel so loved and cared for.
It is a gift we can give our children to surround them with others who can spur them on in their spiritual journey, and us in ours.
5. Baggage can increase with age.
I personally do not subscribe to the “oh they’ll figure it out” method of training. Of course we can learn to tread water by being thrown in the deep end, but some personality types don’t. Some personality types sink to the bottom of the pool wishing they’d been given swim lessons first. God is equipped to help us navigate life, the good times and the bad. It is also increasingly difficult for adults to become a Christian. In fact, about 94% of people make the decision to become a Christian before the age of 18. I’m not exactly how accurate the stat is, but I believe the sentiment behind it.
Sometimes life stinks. If children go through hard times and grow into jaded hardened adults who think God doesn’t care about them, it can be extremely hard to break down those defences and trust an unseen God. Does it happen? Absolutely. Is it the best way? I don’t think so. I don’t think they do either. Malachi 2:15 says that God wants godly offspring from our marriages, so I don’t think we can take our responsibility as parents lightly here.
6. Let it always have been.
Elaine wrote on 5 things she learned from adoption here, and something else she said really spoke to me. She wanted her children to always have known they were adopted, and not to remember one conversation where it was revealed to them. When they were very little it was “God made you in Ms. Donna’s belly.” As time went on she built on this idea until they had a clear picture. I hope that I incorporate our spiritual life so much into our daily life, that our children just always know there was a God.
Will they question Him, get mad at Him, and need to develop their own relationship with Him on their own terms? Of course. Still, it will help if it’s simply just always been.
There is no foolproof method to raising children who follow God. We can screw it all up and raise spiritual warriors. We can do it all “right” and not have a single child with faith of their own. In a way, that is a good thing. It takes the pressure off of us, as parents, to save our children. We can’t, of course, because salvation belongs to the Lord (Psalm 3:8). What we can do is pray, be real about our faith, and help our children cultivate a spiritual journey of their own. In the world today, they’re gonna need it.
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