Thursday, June 4, 2015
Your Faith and Your Children
The other day a friend and I were having a conversation over a donut, talking a lot about this and that and even more about nothing. But in the middle of the conversation, he made a comment that I told him was a really important statement. I told him I thought I might even use it for a blog topic, and his response was, “feel free.” So, without embarrassing him about it and leaving him nameless instead, here are the thoughts he ignited as we conversed.
My friend’s comment was a simple one, and we were talking about how much of our lives have been the result of things we did not choose, such as what country we were born in. Reflecting on that, he added the comment, “You know, if there were nothing else to be thankful to them for, I at least should be appreciative of the fact that my parents raised me in such a way that they taught me the basic principles of being a Christian.” I agreed, and began turning the topic over in my mind.
Many of us attempt to do that very thing. Sometimes it works out great, and the children follow in our footsteps and become quality Christian leaders as adults. Our children can also be challenges to our faith, helping us see ways we still need to grow in our obedience to Christ. In some cases, the children abandon the principles they were taught as they grow up, wandering in “the far country” like the prodigal son, during which time we have to remain faithful, trusting God and praying for his hand upon our children. How our children respond to the Christian faith as they grow up is not something we parents get to choose; what we get to choose are the examples and opportunities we provide. Our children have to make their own decisions for or against Christ, just as we have ourselves.
This can get complicated by other things as well, such as church drama, youth ministers that impact our children for better or worse, parents whose faith experiences and commitments are radically different, and, of course, by divorce.
Divorce can cause children to struggle in their faith, questioning a God who did not keep their family together. Beyond that, however, is what happens after a divorce. Many times I have observed one or both parents abandon their church and even abandoning a Christian lifestyle after they get divorced. Some individuals never darken the door of the church again, leaving their children to question the sincerity and validity of what they have been taught over the years. Others who were once apparently devout in their faith, suddenly shift and live in ways clearly contrary to the faith.
All too often the children are faced with a set of divorced parents, one of whom continues in faith and church, while the other rejects and maybe even ridicules that very faith. This can all be very unsettling for the children. In those cases, it always makes me think of the times Jesus warned us not to put stumbling blocks in the way of children, that it would be better to be drowned in the sea than to ever do that.
However, once again, the only thing we can control is our own example and commitment. Much as you may want your partner (or your ex) to be more committed to Christ, or to be more obedient to the teaching of scripture, you only have the ability to work on your own growth. We have to pray and trust God to work on those in our lives we love.
The good news is, though, that we CAN work on the heritage we are leaving behind. We can each choose to do our best to be faithful. We can leave an example by how our Bibles are open and our attendance at Bible Study and Worship is regular. We can demonstrate by our lives that we believe the teachings of scripture are not mere information to be absorbed, but principles to be applied and lived in our daily lives. We can become “the sermon” our children see every day they are around us, and in so doing, do our part in giving our children the greatest gift any parent can ever give: knowledge of the salvation made available for us in Christ.
Let me add one final thought. Many of us, especially those divorced, struggle with whether we have provided an inadequate example and have failed in passing on the faith properly. The truth is, divorced or not, NONE of us live the faith perfectly. Always remember, we also set an example by how we handle our failures. When we accept responsibility for them, honestly confess them to God and appropriately to others, and seek to continue to grow we are providing an important example they need
I invite you to consider what the heritage is that YOU are offering to YOUR children.