Me First:: How to Help My Kids Find God
What I want more than anything in the whole world is for each of my children to have a real, true, intimate, weaved-into-every-part-of-their-lives connection with God. No matter what challenge or trial or confusion or wound or victory they face now or in the future, I want them to know how to connect with God in that. I want them to know how to hear and recognize God’s voice from all the other noise they’ve got swirling around their heads; and I want them to know how to respond to what they hear. I want them to know how to not only navigate the Bible, but I also want them to know how to apply its wisdom to their real, everyday lives. And I really, really, really want them to know the comfort and peace and indescribable love and hope and joy that only He can bring. That is what is most important to me.
But the question is… How can I possibly help them get there? I have lived long enough to know that I cannot make anyone do anything. People – including my own kids – are going to do whatever they’re going to do regardless of what I tell them. So how can I ever hope that this dream I have for their lives will actually become a reality someday? The truth is: I can’t know.
But I can keep hoping. And I can also remember this bit of truth I learned back in college and have seen over and over again in both research and anecdotally: Children are much more likely to BECOME LIKE their parents rather than to DO what their parents tell them to do. (Not always, obviously. But for the most part, unless a person has made the conscious choice to do otherwise, most of us grow up to be quite similar to our parents.)
I don’t know about you, but the fact that my kids are more likely to become like their me rather than do what I tell them to do? That both sobers me and brings me a strange sense of comfort at the same time. It helps me remember that my kids are much more likely to “catch” my faith and my love for God rather than to necessarily do anything I have taught them to do.
A handful of years ago, a good friend told me this: “You cannot give to others what you yourself do not have.” In other words, I cannot teach my children how to make a delicious loaf of bread if I myself do not know how to do so. Likewise, I cannot expect to pass along to my daughters a sense of self respect, genuine self-esteem, and a healthy acceptance of one’s God-given body shape if I myself still have not figured out how to accept and appreciate this body that God has given me. By the same token, I cannot expect to be able to guide my kids into an intimate, meaningful connection with God if I myself do not have such a thing.
Considering all of the above, if I want to teach my kids how to have the type of relationship with God that I dream for them to have, I would say that the most important thing I can do as a mom is this: I had better find Jesus for myself. First and foremost, I need to learn how to hear and recognize His voice above all others. I need to learn how to navigate the Bible and learn how to apply its truths to my life. I need to tune into the Holy Spirit and do what He urges me to do. I need to give Him access into my life so that I can benefit from all the comfort, peace, love, hope and joy that only He can bring. Basically: I need to get to know Jesus for myself as much as I possibly can.
Because here’s the thing: if I have a deep, rich, weaved-into-every-part-of-my-life kind of relationship with my Heavenly Father, I will (at the very least) have Someone to rely on when my life doesn’t go the way I’d wished. And also? It will give me something with which to offer my kids when they come to me with their own questions and confusions and doubts and hurts. The more I get to know God for myself, the more I let His story become my own story, the more I will have a well of real, true “God experiences” to draw from and share with my kids. And those won’t “just” be a bunch of stories I have heard, but they will be real, personal life experiences that I can then offer my children.
The second thing I think is very important as I consider how to guide my kids into an intimate relationship with Jesus is this: I need to be as honest and open as possible with them about my journey with God. In an age-appropriate way, I try to be as transparent with my children as possible about my failures, my challenges, and the areas in my life I am struggling with and wrestling through. Likewise, I share with them and invite them to be part of my victories, what I’m learning, and the times wherein I see God move in amazing ways. My hope is that I am giving my kids a front row seat to what the life of a real-life, flawed, lover of Jesus really looks like. That way, when they grow up and have their own challenges and struggles and hardships and doubts, they will know that it’s all normal. Because they have seen it up close and personal: the good, the bad, and everything in between.
And, though it may seem like a tangent, I also have to note this (perhaps more to remind myself than anyone else): when I am being diligent about living my authentic self – flaws and all – in front of my kids, I also need to have the perspective and the grace to give them room be their flawed, authentic, work-in-progress selves. Their journey with God, and the way they connect with God and hear Him, may not look like mine. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. And their journey to “becoming more like Christ” may be bumpy in different ways than mine has been. They may fall and fail in different ways than I have fallen and failed. But, if I want to empower them to connect with God and learn how to hear Him in their own lives, then I need to give them the gift of room— room to be themselves and figure out their own ways to hear God and learn how to make His story their own. And I also need to give them the gift of grace in the midst of their flaws and failures. Just like God extends grace to me every day of my life.
And lastly, as I consider what else I can possibly do to help my kids ultimately develop a real, thriving relationship with God, I come to the realization that I can only do so much. God needs to fill in the rest of the blanks. Thus, in the end, I believe one of the best ways I can love and serve my family is to pray for them. Prayer is such a beautiful mystery. When we pray for people, we feel connected to them in a way that simply doesn’t happen otherwise. When I am praying for my kids or for my husband or for my kids’ friends or their mentors, etc., I will often get insight into something they are dealing with that they have never even told me. It’s like God gives me a sneak peek into their heart and life as I take the time to pray for them. I have found, also, that the more I am in prayer, the more God is able to give me creativity and discernment regarding the nitty-gritty of my specific assignments along the way in parenthood. Prayer is a huge key to both my kids’ future and to my own present peace of mind.
And now I come back to where I started today and I ask myself “How can I, a finite, flawed human with baggage of my own, possibly help my kids find the real, true, intimate, weaved-into-every-part-of-their-lives connection with God that I long for them to have?” And this is it: He will show me how. As I seek Him first; as I do my best to learn about Him and connect with Him and hear Him and do what He tells me to do; as I live this authentic, raw, imperfect journey with God in front of my kids; and as I pray for my loved ones diligently and strategically, God will give me the step-by-step wisdom and guidance I will need along the way. He will lead me and show me when to read them a Bible story, or when to let them watch a particular movie, or when to pull out the Narnia tales, or when to send them to youth camp, or when to encourage them to connect with a particular mentor, etc. He will do His part— the big part. My job is merely to follow His lead and to trust Him for whatever outcome may occur as my precious children continue to grow and live their own journeys.
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What about you?
Who has been someone you can look to as an authentic, real-life person you can watch and see how to live the flawed-but-faith-filled-life? What is one of your current challenges in parenting?
Please feel free to share your comments or your own journey in the comment section below.