Mother Teresa wrote these words. “You will teach them to fly, but they will not fly your flight. You will teach them to dream, but they will not dream your dream. You will teach them to live, but they will not live your life. Nonetheless, in every flight, in every life, in every dream, the print of the way you taught them will remain.” Scripture puts it this way, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6. It all seems simple… right? But even though this verse sounds simple, this is overwhelmingly complicated. This verse has many different interpretations, ranging from these words being a sort of guarantee that if you raise your kids in the discipline of the Lord they will always stay on the right path… to saying train up a child in his own way and when he is old he will not depart from it. Others believe this doesn’t have as much to do with moral or spiritual direction but instead it means pointing kids in the direction of their gifts and talents.
Whatever your interpretation, raising up kids is one of the most important jobs ever. Not only are we responsible for their health and safety, we are responsible for introducing them to Jesus and helping them grow that relationship. This is not a job for the faint of heart! And in fact, it takes a village. It takes different generations for perspective. It takes different voices so that within safe guidelines many can sow seeds, weed and water young faith. It takes us being an example of what we hope our kids will be, knowing each of them will bring their own personality to their faith. It takes time to grow faithful humans.
As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and other significant adults, we have responsibilities. When we baptize someone, everybody makes promises. All those promises point to raising a child up to know Jesus. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 tells us, “These commandments I that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk down the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” This is not about forcing kids to believe one set of beliefs. It is instead demonstrating what real faith looks like. Do the kids see you pray? Do you invite them to join you? Do they see you spend time in your Bible? Do they have an age appropriate Bible so you can study together? Do they see you love God and love others? Because, our kids will either learn from us the things of faith… or they will learn from others, things we might not want them to believe.
Kids watch everything we do. And they listen to everything we say. Having worked with kids and youth for years, I have heard things I am sure did not originate from the child. And I probably know things a handful of parents would be horrified I know. Because kids are like sponges. And they will soak up everything…good, bad and ugly. That is one of the reasons we encourage kids to be in Sunday school, VBX and at camp. In those early years, their faith grows by leaps and bounds. I have seen it over and over again at camp and VBX. And while some seeds grow fast and furious, others grow slower. Some seeds even lie dormant for a long time before they grow. I remember well one summer camp years ago when we had a night for talent, no talent and skits. One of the kids, a sixth grader stood behind a table to start her skit. When it was time, she took the towel off the table to reveal a paper cup and a paper plate. She had a slice of bread on the plate and juice in the cup. And then she began…in the night in which He was betrayed Jesus took the bread. She had all the words of institution memorized and proceeded to consecrate the elements. It was humbling and amazing at the same time.
I saw a tee shirt once that reminds me of how we are to model our faith for others, including our kids. It said…be the moon. Reflect the sun. The moon is the lesser light just like we as creatures are less than the creator. But we are also called to Let our lights shine before others, so they see Jesus in us. That includes our kids. Through all of this, keep in mind that none of us is called to walk this journey alone. We walk together. That is the importance of community for each of us. We worship together. We pray with and for others. We spend time in fellowship with one another. We study together as well as in private. And in all of that, our kids see what it means to be part of a family of faith.
Sometimes it may seem like we have failed. Our kids have walked away from all things God. That does not mean anyone has failed. God has plans for every single one of us. We do not know what those are. We are called to be faithful, to live a life worth imitating in Jesus Christ. We continue to pray… and leave the rest up to the Holy Spirit.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W