Many years ago I pitched a book idea to an editor in hopes of landing my first book contract. With outline in hand and abounding enthusiasm I presented a summary for “How to Raise Kids to Love God for a Lifetime.”
The editor listened attentively to the pitch and then asked me only one question: “How old are your children?”
‘They are three, four and seven,” I told her proudly.
“That’s great,” she said with a sincere smile. “Pitch me this book when they are 23, 24 and 27.”
That was twenty years ago and I am embarrassed now as I look back and realize how much I had to learn. Raising kids to love God is not as easy as “6 simple steps” or “the A-B-Cs of faith building”. I can safely say that after 27 years of parenting, I have discovered no magic formula to passing on and building faith in children.
What I have learned in all these years is the effort required to hold firmly to my own faith on the roller coaster journey of parenting. While there are those few rare exceptions, the parenting journey for most of us is not just treks to the mountaintops but slogs through the deep dark valleys. Some days are ecstasy and some are agony. Many are monotony – diapers, baths, laundry, homework, sideline vigils, discipline, refereeing, more discipline, chores, and so on and so on. Remember, mom spelled backwards is mom…see, the same old same old forward and backward.
It is hard to believe in the moment when that little bundle is at last snuggled into the arms that waited nine long months to carry the precious burden, that it could ever become tedious. We dream of magical mommy moments, landmark achievements, unforgettable firsts and an earthly legacy we can leave behind. And all those things will certainly come and each one is such a gift that we cannot help but raise our hearts in thanksgiving to the One who gives all good gifts. Those days seem to be our rewards for trusting in our loving and kind God. Those are the easy days. Those are the mountaintops.
Not all days are predictable, though. Some mom days are even unimaginable- probably because we bought into the pitch that if we do everything by the book, we will always get the happily-ever-after. The irony is that our Book tells us plain and simple: “In this life you will have trouble.” John 16:33 The real trick to parenting is holding firm to faith when those days of trouble come, believing Jesus when He says, “Take heart! I have overcome the world!”
What if your child has an accident? What if your child is rejected? What if your child gets lost in drugs or alcohol? What if your child’s hearts gets broken, her faith wavers, he rejects you, she runs away, he lives for sin, they fight for mental health? Those, my dear friends, are the testing ground, not just of our children’s faith; they are the testing ground for our faith. Is God good when bad happens? Can we trust Him when things seem out of control? Will our faith stand when our children seem to crumble? In seasons of uncertainty will we turn to our faith for strength and meaning or away from it in bitter disappointment?
When I was young I thought I had something to teach about raising kids to love God for their whole lives. Now I realize that in being a mom, God has been teaching me to love Him for a lifetime no matter what. Being a mom has been triumph and trial, celebration and crucible. It has been my own schoolroom where God has put my faith to the test in heart wrenching and heart stretching ways, teaching me that finding Him as a refuge is as significant as finding Him as a rescuer. I can testify with surety that “he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.” Psalm 27:5
This mom journey with both its blooms and its thorns will change not just our lives, but our faith in deep and profound ways. We can hope along the highways and byways of it, we pass to our children some of the faith lessons we learn on this unforgettable adventure through motherhood. Mostly, if we are honest, we will discover that Motherhood is not just about our teaching at all, but about learning from the One who wrote the Book on “How to Raise Moms who Love God for a Lifetime.”