Having shared on Monday a little about church life, I thought I’d continue, this time about church and teenagers. Many of us have older kids, I know. Well, I live in a family of males. Add to that our male Persian cat and male lizard, and it seems that males are my speciality. I'm mindful that males sometimes don’t gel with church so I have a job on my hands, especially now that my boys are teenagers.
Like Moses’ mum, here’s how I feel about those two boys of mine:
“She saw that he was a beautiful child” Exodus 2:2
They are my beautiful children; and as their mum I will fiercely fight for their faith. However, I have a wee problem: I’m not managing to get them to church. Aggggh!
I know many of you have this too. Honestly, if I could go back, I would have fought when they were tots to get them into church, but I didn’t. And so now here I am, with the nagging thought that I’ve had an epic fail. Gulp. What my kids believe about Jesus is the most important thing. And yet, I struggle to convey the Gospel to them. What am I to do?
Well, a while ago God gave me the most enormous dose of comfort about this. Perhaps I received it so that I could write it up, so here it is. I hope it blesses you.
The moment of comfort came one day as I was lounging, fretting, and teary. A thought was bubbling: “We’re not a conventional church-going family. Am I doing enough?” Well, at that I heard God laugh! Not audibly, but in my spirit. How crazy: He laughed.
I pause here and say this: If God laughs, there’s not as much to fear as we think there is. And it was a kind laugh, a laugh that seemed to say “You really don’t need to fear.” It was, I guess, like the time Jesus said to another mother (Luke 7:11-17) “Don’t cry.” Really. Don’t cry:
As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow… When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
Heading back to my own story, what happened next was that I heard words, which I'll paraphrase. They went something like this:
“Ann, if Travis and Miles went to church, it would be like a telephonist finding My Name on a switchboard. Instead, knowing Me is like speaking on a telephone, not just seeing My Name in theory.”
For my kids, then, might church only have got them to the point of seeing God’s name on a switchboard? Would faith take more? My pen was in my hand at this point, when I heard more:
“Do you have Jesus, Ann?”
Yes. I do. Then this:
“There will come a tipping point.”
“There are a lot of temporary questions.”
And that was it. And ever since, I’ve sat with this experience. I’ve sat with it for a couple of years now. Honestly, hearing God is an all-round mystery that leads to pursuit, and so I've been pursuing what He meant. Here’s where I'm at:
It’s not that church is unnecessary for kids. The opposite: Church is important. But some of us feel we’ve failed, and we despair. For those weary ones, I believe God is saying that even if we had managed church, our kids would need something extra. That something extra is Jesus; and as mothers and fathers that is what we fill ourselves with: Him. When we fill ourselves with His living water (John 4:12), eventually it overflows – And therein lies a tipping point. Our worries are temporary, for a tipping point will come.
May I testify today? My youngest has just started high school. Guess what? He's got a new best friend: A Christian. This weekend he's going away with that friend's youth group. Who knows where it will lead, but I'm encouraged.
Am I doing enough? I have Jesus.
What are your experiences of raising kids in or out of church?