Every now and again I see a comment that implies sharing faith with children from a young age is brainwashing them and that parents should just lay off and let them find their own path when they are adults.
In some ways I kind of understand where they are coming from… from the outside – heck even from the inside sometimes – faith can look like a bunch of delusional people who have no other answers, who are doing rain dances to some outdated notion of a ‘higher power’. Why should we ‘force’ such outdated ideals onto our children?
But that is from the outside. I stand on the inside.
Consider this an attempt to explain the why for me. Why should I teach and share my faith with my children while they are children? Why not wait until they are adults, lay out all the facts and alternatives and then they can decide for themselves?
Let me start by saying I fully expect that at some stage, as adults or as they move into adulthood, or maybe more than once they will make this decision for themselves. What I do now involves no shoving, or forcing outside of the patterns we have as a family – like highs and lows of the day or a weekly movie night our family pattern includes prayer, the bible and church.
This is why I share my faith with my children,
because I want them to know right from the start a love that consumes, pursues, and never gives up on them.
How selfish would it be if I decided not to introduce my children to the best kind of love I have experienced? How wrong would it be to deny them a sense of unconditional, never giving up, new every morning love. What security there is in knowing a forgiveness that covers all the worst of who I am. Consequences happen for sure, but forgiveness and welcome home are always on the menu.
Maybe my children will declare as adults it isn’t for them. But I will not deny my children the love and friendship that they might know from the beginning because another person hasn’t felt that love or known that friendship.
A parent who choses to withhold the very best experience they have had and the deepest unconditional love they can experience can only be described as warped in their own understanding of how to love.
So it is love that drives me first.
Then I am driven by a desire to see my children grow into adults who live abundantly, generously, with wisdom and character. How can I not want my children to grow with values of loving others as yourself, of never letting love and faithfulness leave them, of doing their best to live at peace with all people, of showing generosity and responding to meanness or hate with love and humility?
It is character and the fullness of a life lived with wisdom and joyful, generous, abundant-ness that drives me next.
When I actively participate in a faith that encourages me to go the extra mile, respect my body, steward the earth with a sense of responsibility for it, be kind even when kindness doesn’t seem justified and all the rest…. my character will naturally grow.
If I adhere to the teachings of Jesus I cannot deny that relationships and people should be given value over success and possessions. My faith cautions me away from reckless decisions that will harm me and others, my faith motivates and inspires me to make safe choices.
This way of living – though I fail at it many times – is what I want for my children. My faith inspires, encourages me and challenges me towards this.
I want to share joy with my children…. if you love tramping, or numbers, if singing and music delight you or baking is your happy place surely you will share that joy with your nearest and dearest. You’ll encourage them to try it out, hoping that they will find the same joy that you do.
Sure trekking into the bush isn’t all roses there are mosquitoes and up hill struggles and sometimes blisters on top of your blisters – faith is the same – it isn’t all kumbya around the fire and chilling out but it is the place I find the most joy (and I do find joy in a lot of places) and I so hope the people I love can experience that too.
Finally to me faith is a pilgrimage, it is not a one stop, once only ticket purchased. So I believe in a journey where we grow together as a family, where the young ones have insights and difficult questions and encouragements. If I refused to share my faith with my children I would be saying you have no insight to share, you have no questions to pose, you have no curiosity about life. But they do, oh they do and I want them to ask, and argue and defend, and engage intelligently and creatively with faith and values and all kinds of understanding.
Faith isn’t some thing you pick up at the supermarket, or tick off a bucket list, or try at an expo. Faith is a journey – sometimes the road is bumpy and the answers are a long time in coming, other times it is pools of living water and laughter and celebration. But it is an unfinished journey and I want my children to know this journey and to engage with it, with us, because we are a family, because I am not finished on the journey and because the best experiences are the ones we share.
You may note I have not included final destinations and all of that stuff. Yes that motivates me too but faith is a beautiful, living, key-part part of this life experience. Faith is more, so much more than only after the grave. It is here and now. It is meeting at a place of the I AM and that is what I want for my children. Today and everyday – so I will not hold back from sharing with them the best news.
From the outside maybe it makes no sense, from where I stand it’s the obvious and only choice.
I want to give my children all of the best and to equip them for a life of difference, leadership, joy and love.
Whilst all of this is so important to me it doesn’t mean I’m getting right a lot or even hardly at all but I am journeying and hopefully they are seeing in the journey that missteps and wobbles are a part of the journey. We are none of us off the list for love.