Thursday, November 10, 2011

Authentic Faith---Not JUST your PARENTS Faith!

As a parent there are so many things I want to get right.  So many things become "priority" in teaching our kids. 

I often get overwhelmed.  Practically on a daily basis.  When those really hard days come, I try to stop (TRY!) and sit back and put the moment in perspective.  When I can't do it all, what are the things that absolutely matter most? 

That list is still long enough that it still can paralyze because it's so long.  Yet, it almost always comes to matters of love and faith. 

Though there are many important things, ESSENTIAL things, that I don't want to "mess up"----there is one that almost always rises to the top of the list. 

It's the matter of faith.  NOT religion.  Going to church doesn't make me a Christian anymore than standing in my garage makes me a car.  It's the real faith that I'm talking about.  The moving beyond religion.  The actual personal one on one relationship with Christ. 

It's easy to mess up as a parent.  Good grief----just look around!  I'm never going to get it all right.  I'm not even going to get a high percentage of it all right.  Yet, some things REALLY matter.

Matters of faith are one on the list that I hope to get as close to as right as I can. 

One thing that matters so significantly to me is passing on our faith to our children. 

One of my greatest fears since becoming a mother is that my kids would grow up and reject their faith someday.  If you look around you can see examples of that happening every direction you turn. 

Some people claim that if you shelter your kids too much they will end up running as far away from all things "religious" when they are given their first taste of freedom.  I can't say that doesn't happen.  I watched it happen from the first moment I walked on the campus of my Christian college.  I watched one "good" girl after another stumble and fall. 

On the other hand, I was as sheltered as you could absolutely get.  As a matter of fact, I had more freedom on campus than I did at home.  Most girls complained about the strictness of rules (curfew, dating rules, dress code, etc...), but I on the other hand LOVED it.   Kevin used to pick me up for dates at school because I could stay out SEVERAL hours later than if I were at home.  Most of the other girls left campus to date.  I was even engaged to him and my dad still had the rule that I couldn't call him on the phone----he had to call me and the time limit was 15 minutes. Yes---even when I was 20!   I was raised with very strict standards to say the least. 

Yes, I struggled with making decisions and deciding for myself what was right and wrong.  Sometimes I pushed the line WAY too close and even crossed over the line more times than I wish.  Yet, I didn't run from my faith.  I didn't turn into the "wild" girl.  Therefore, the "sheltering" argument doesn't hold up in my opinion.  I do believe there is some validity to it, but not nearly as much as people claim.  If I had gone "wild", it wouldn't have been my parent's strictness/sheltering to blame.  It would have been MY fault and because of my own sinful nature and selfishness.  "Sheltering" actual gave me the roots to STICK to my faith. 

So, how do you parent in such a way that moves your child from having your faith because they are trying to please you and living by your standards to that of having it for themselves? 

I don't have that full answer.  It's an answer I'm searching for because it matters greatly to my heart.  It's one of those things I do NOT want to get wrong.  I believe that God can fill in many gaps when I'm lacking, but this is one of those areas that I don't want to fail at. 

Though I don't have the complete answers, I do have some ideas of how to give it the best that I can.

It starts with my faith being authentic.  My kids have to see me completely sold out for Christ.  No sitting on the fence.  None of this one toe in God's world and the other nine in the world.  Not even 7 in God's word and 3 in the world. I'm either all in for Christ or I'm in the "world". 

That doesn't mean that I'm going to be perfect and without sin.  It means I have to be transparent enough to let them see my struggles.
  • When I fail, they have to see me seek forgiveness and make restitution. 
  • They have to see me step out in faith, even when it's hard or out of my comfort zone.  They NEED to see my leaning on God for strength.  They need to see the Holy Spirit living in me.
  • They have to see me offering them grace and forgiveness.  They need to see me accepting it for myself. 
  • I need to live a life of gratitude and make sure that I'm pointing out OFTEN that our blessings come from God's favor. 
  • I need to live a life of joy and passion.
Ouch!  Guess I have LOTS of things to work on!

Most importantly, I think it comes down to living the same life in front of them that we do behind closed doors.  What I mean by that is this:  NO double standards.  That means if a word is not appropriate for them to say, it isn't for me either.  If a show isn't appropriate for them to watch, it isn't appropriate for me either (with few exceptions).  It means for us (and many friends disagree with us on this point, even ones I greatly honor and respect, and I'm OK with that), that we don't have drinks sitting in the fridge that are strictly for "adults".  If I don't want them to lie or break rules, than I should do my best to not do it either.  That means don't ask them to lie and say they are 9 when they are 10 if they get in somewhere free if they are under 10.  That means don't lie about their age so they can have a facebook account.  That means if a person in a store gives back too much change---don't pocket it.  Just a few weeks ago, I was able to use that as example.  We were shopping at our favorite craft/repurposing store and I bought several bags of things.  When I got to the van, I realized I had a small item in my hand that I had been carrying with my keys because I didn't want to lose it.  It was only 25 cents in value.  It was going to take me a minimum of 3 minutes to go back in and pay for it.  The kids would never have even known the difference.  I needed to let them see me do the honest thing.   The list of walking the walk, talking the talk and not living double standards could go on indefinitely.  We are often not getting it right. 

Other times they don't see the best of me.  The see my real struggles with anger and frustration.  They see my heartbreak and brokenness----and oh boy have they seen that this past year.  They see the results of broken relationships.  They see when we have need for God to answer prayers----in the little things and in the big things.  They see us openly seeking His will.

I think those are the keys to helping them develop authentic faith that they can claim as their own.  Being careful to not say "do as I say, not as I do" goes a LONG way in helping them move from "our" faith to "theirs".  They see our faith as VERY personal and deep.  They don't see it as a "Sunday only" kind of mentality.  It makes up who we are.  Even when we fail, it is still part of us and they witness the rebuilding and restoration that comes from a relationship with Christ.

I absolutely wish there were things I did more of.  There are always regrets of things I've done and even more regrets of things I wish I had done that I didn't do.  I miss teachable moments EVERY single day.  As a matter of fact, praying WITH them is something I wish I did more often and was more comfortable with.  I pray FOR them constantly, both in the moment and in deep prayer times.....but praying WITH them is a struggle.  Some friends are great about finding teachable moments every which direction they turn and though I'm decent at it, it doesn't come as easily as I wish.  I wish I had a "softer" personality at times and wasn't so easily frustrated.  That "soft voice" kind of mom----that isn't me (though I'm working REALLY hard at trying to change it). 

The point is this:  I'm not getting it right.  I'm not getting it all wrong.  I'm trying.  THEY SEE THAT!  They see that perfection doesn't get you into heaven.  They also see that acting anyway you want doesn't either.  They without a doubt know that I don't believe in religion, that I believe in relationship.  They know that their Dad and I are willing to be "outsiders" even amongst our friends if it means holding fast to our beliefs.  We openly talk about how hard it is to go against what the world says is right.  They see us make our stand and not back down just to make it easier on us (even though it's a struggle).  They know that we question what is right and what is wrong and we search for answers when we aren't sure.  They see us dig into God's word or seek advice when we aren't sure what to do.  We try our hardest to avoid the "because I said so" (95% of the time anyway... somedays that IS a good enough answer...). 

Our family is real.  Though we would like to be cover models for "Thriving Family" or some other Focus on the Family magazine/book or Sunday School curriculum cover----what you get instead is REAL.  The kind of fall on your face, run smack dab into the door, trip over your own two feet kind of family.  They get authentic.  I believe it's "that" authentic that helps take them from our faith to their faith and allows it to be authentic for them.  They don't see the "well, Dad (or Mom) said we shouldn't do this or that, but they do it".  What they see is, "Mom and Dad believe in this or that enough to not do it even when no one is looking."  That is authenticity.   They also know that when we drop the ball, we admit it and we do our best to make it right. 

I've read this statement in some form many times.  I read it again the other day on a facebook page and it really stuck with me. 

"In this house we do second chances, we do grace, we do real, we do mistakes, we do I'm sorry, we do loud really well, we do hugs, we do family, we do love."  

I believe that is the best way we are ever going to be able to take the God-given, God-entrusted gifts of our three children and teach them the keys they need to move from having our faith, to having their own. 

*P.S.  Don't forget to enter the Revolution Worship LIVE CD giveaway here.  It ends Friday.*


Jenn said...

LOVE this post! Thanks for the encouragement! I am reading a book right now called "growing grateful kids" and alot of what I read yesterday is what you put in this post... I'm just thanking the Lord for real people like you... that encourage me!

Tracye said...

I have that Susie Larson book sitting on my stack of "must" read books. I started it last year and was loving it, but so many things got put to the side when Dad got sick. I have it out ready to read and finish SOON! You've inspired me to move it towards the top of my list. I love how you encourage me to keep at things & love the accountability. (Your shirt made me smile today!)