As your children grow, how can you help their faith grow so they one day own it as their own?
I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but I knew something needed to change in how I taught my kids the gospel. I guess it was about the time they began to notice my furrowed brow, the time their ears started to discern the change in pitch, the slightest tension in their mother’s voice when life got tiring or frustrating or difficult.
It seemed easy before that. Read them a few cute Bible storybooks, take them to church most of the time and pray before meals and bedtime. I felt well on my way to introducing my kids to Christ.
But something shifts as they get older. At that age when they begin to understand the nuances of their world a little more, they also begin to notice the nuances of their parents. You can’t fake it here. And it happens far earlier than we expect.
Modeling Lasting Faith
Do the words we profess on Sunday become living and active the rest of the week? Do the Bible stories and rhymes we read in board books have real application in our daily lives or a just a spot on our bookshelves? The rubber meets the road. Any dichotomy we’ve created between church life and real life becomes apparent to them and it feels like a weighty responsibility as a parent.
How do I model a lasting faith in Jesus Christ when I’m still trying to work that out in fear and trembling in my own heart?
How do I teach my kids that the Word of God is a lamp and a light when I am still trying to understand and remember that myself?
And how do I teach them to hate evil, cling to what is good and take every thought captive when I am still figuring out how to do that?
If you have ever asked these questions, you are not alone. Figuring out how to teach your children the gospel, how to a model a dependent need of the saving grace of Jesus Christ in and amidst the averageness of meal plans and carpools can feel challenging. The simplest remedy I have found is this – live it.
That’s it. Just two words, live it.
Live Out Your Faith
Live it messy and quiet and loud. Live it on long days when you are tired and have to ask for forgiveness and in celebrations where gratitude drips from everything. Live it on vacation when you see the wonders of creation far beyond your front door and live it at your dining room table in slow faithfulness.
We cannot share what we don’t have. The simplest way to point our children to Jesus is to be actively walking toward him ourselves.
Let your kids see you fight to make Bible reading a priority or struggle to memorize the simplest of scriptures. One day they will be busy moms and dads trying to prioritize all the things as well, and they will remember what their mama fought for.
The other day I took my teenager to his swim meet in a nearby small town. I had an address and a talking phone and still managed to get lost. I could not find the pool. My frustration mounted as the clock kept turning while I drove up and down streets looking for this hidden pool. We were late.
I offered a complaining prayer, God, please help me find this pool and as I did I saw two women getting into a car on a residential street ahead. I pulled up beside them and asked if they could tell me how to find the pool. “It’s across town, but we’re headed there too. Just follow us.”
Of course, God. You could give a frustrated mama a pilot car to escort her to a small town pool on a Tuesday night, couldn’t you? You could grow this mama’s faith in small and big things while her little (and not so little) people stand witness to it all.
Could it really be this simple? Living out my messy faith right in front of my kids, giving voice to the hope that is within me while I’m still learning to see it myself? I think so.
Hope in the Gospel
The pictures we have painted for us throughout Scripture are not portraits of perfect people, but proclamations of a perfect God. God uses messy stories and doubting hearts, weak faith, and troubled pasts to speak of his greatness, his faithfulness, and his love, over and over again.
If he did that through the patriarchs, I am pretty sure he can do that through us.
You don’t have to be perfect at this, mama. We can breathe a sigh of relief for that, right? Sink your faith deep into him. Prioritize your own knowledge of and growing in the faith you profess. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). So be careful, be diligent with what you allow to penetrate that heart of yours and trust God to work with what flows out of it – into your children and the world around you.
Our job is to give our kids the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ, not the hope of our own perfection.
Pray fervently that you can live that hope in amidst your own failings and trust Him to use it to paint a picture of hope for your children as well. You are laying a foundation of faith here, mama. You are living a heritage of hope in the unseen moments of your everyday. Keep going and keep trusting him with it all.
He loves your kids even more than you do.
Katie, I Choose Brave
Katie Westenberg is a wife, mother and writer who is passionate about living life bravely for the glory of our Creator and encouraging others to do the same. She enjoys country living in a small town, time spent with friends and family, and saying YES to adventure. She writes at ichoosebrave.com.