I’ve recently finished reading a Christian fiction series, and a line at the end of the book spoke to me. A husband and wife were speaking about passing their faith on to their children and the father said:
“Ye don’t just pass on faith. Ye have to pass on a desire fer ’em to find a faith of their own.”
Clearly I like frontier books. Anyway, I was truly impacted by his statement and realized just how true it is. We can raise our children forcing them into church and forcing them into family devotion and praying over them at bedtime, but if they don’t desire to have a faith of their own then as soon as they’re out of our house the jig is up. I know this is not entirely up to us, and we are only able to do our part. God must also draw near to our children and they must respond to Him.
I do think there are some ways, however, that we can whet our children’s spiritual appetite. Sort of like leading a horse to water. They may not drink, but they’re far more likely to drink if their snout is a foot away from the water. Here are some thoughts.
(1) Let God be God.
Blueberries are ripe on the bush right now and my daughter and son recently went blueberry picking with my mom and I. This means, of course, that they held buckets that never saw the likes of many blueberries because they stood there and stuffed their faces. Naively we let this go on for too long and the result was diarrhea and diaper rash. Parental fail. So, last night my daughter had a few bouts of an upset stomach and each time started to cry miserably because it hurt her bottom so. After the second time of changing her diaper and laying to calm her I started to pray.
Then I stopped. Silently – in case my daughter dare comprehend – I said to God that I was scared to ask Him to heal her and help her because if He didn’t, then maybe she wouldn’t believe in Him. Then I quickly checked myself and thought, “No, God is God, and He can defend His own name.” So I prayed – begged was more like it because it was truly a pitiful situation – and she was fine until morning. Maybe she never understood, but in that moment I realized there will be many times that our family will “put God to the test” and I can’t be worried about what God will or won’t do. I can’t shy away from prayer or approaching Him to protect my children from disappointment. I have to believe God is bigger than that.
(2) Ask them to pray and hear from God themselves.
I read a Lisa Bevere book where she spoke on encouraging her children to hear from God themselves. One of her sons lost a toy and since she was in the shower she told him to pray to God for help. A few minutes later he reported that God had shown him the toy was on the top of the bookcase so he had climbed and found it.
Well, a mixed blessing to be sure, but a blessing nonetheless! Getting your own children involved in prayer with God will help them see from an early age that a relationship with God is possible and helpful. If they’ve experienced a relationship with God firsthand they are not nearly as likely to disregard it when times get tough. If they pray and see God move in their lives and the lives of their families and friends they’ll have a desire to come to Him prayer.
(3) Be sure to share and let them experience the exciting aspects of faith.
The Christian life isn’t always easy. God doesn’t always seem to answer our prayers. We don’t always get what we want. If our Christian life is more like martyrdom, slavery and making sure we don’t do all these bad things all the time then we are giving them a lopsided view, see my post on the Danger of Religion. We might need to make a special effort to involve them in the more exciting aspects of our faith. Or at least, some of the more visible ones. Mission trips are a great way to expose your children to their own fortune and how rewarding and awesome it is to be privileged to give back. Sharing with your children reports of God moving and working in the lives of those around you is another way. Encourage and facilitate friendships and relationships with other healthy families of faith and be sure to spiritually protect them.
I wish I had a guaranteed formula that we mothers could do to ensure our children’s salvation and long and rich life with the Lord. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. We can only rely on God’s love (1 John 4:16), know that He created them specially (Psalm 139) and loves them more than we do. We can do our best to be transparent, genuine, and in an ongoing relationship with the living God. We can make it a goal to whet their appetite, to involve them with God, and ultimately try to expose them to the true nature of God. We need all the help we can get. Luckily, God is on our side.