Parenting is a daunting task. There are many times Julio and I have wondered, “What in the world are we doing? Are we doing the right thing? Are we totally messing up our kids?” We thank God for our children, for the gift that they are and for God who has entrusted them to us. We pray for them and our greatest desire is that they will choose to love God and follow Jesus. We know the responsibility we have as parents in raising them up and modeling for them what faithful living looks like. Just this month the president of the Evangelical Covenant Church wrote an article encouraging parents in their important role as teachers and role models, focusing on research that shows how important the role of parents is in the faith formation of a child. And so as a mom I desire to live out my faith in a way that impacts my children’s life, much in the way my parents and grandmother did for me. At the same time I am incredibly aware that as parents we cannot do it alone. That is why I’m so passionate about the church community living into their call to receive children, to love children, to teach them what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and at the same time allowing them to llive out their faith in a community of spiritual aunts and uncles. Incorporating Children in Worship, by Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom and David Bjorlin is a great new book on how church communities can incorporate children in their life of worship. As someone who was a part of such a church, I thank God for the church in my life, for the many men and women who were a part of my faith journey.
And so we pray for the Spirit of God to stir in the hearts of our children so that they discover this faith in Christ for themselves, while we as parents live out this life of faith in Christ and ask the church to be a community that fosters formation in children. I remember one night feeling frustrated as I tried to talk with our oldest son about what we had just read in the Bible story and he just didn’t have anything to say. Seriously, the kid just did not seem to be that interested in praying or reading Bible stories. So of course I began to question what we were doing wrong. And then I was shocked when around Christmas last year Samuel started to ask questions about Jesus, and Jesus’ life and what it meant to follow Jesus. He told me that he talked to God when I wasn’t listening. And it was right before Christmas that he told me he wanted to be a follower of Jesus and so we prayed and asked Jesus to be the Lord of his life. It was an incredibly sweet moment. And over the past year I have seen him exploring this life of faith. He is avidly reading the Scriptures, following along with the worship service at church, asking his dad what he can do to help the homeless men and women he sees laying on the streets.
This Sunday was a particularly special Sunday for me, as a mother, as I watched my children embraced by the church family who spent a few minutes in their service telling the kids in the congregation why they were special for them and for God. Then, the pastor invited Samuel to serve the bread for communion with Julio. Samuel knows just how special the Lord’s Supper is and so for him to be invited to participate was mind-blowing for him and the smile on his face showed it. Later that evening we had a small group meeting at our home. I was getting something in the bedroom when Samuel ran in and asked where his Bible was, that he needed it because he was going to study it with the group. So he found his Bible, found a chair and listened as the group began to talk about a passage in Acts. Samuel opened up his Bible to the same story of the first church and there in the circle engaged with the group. I’m thankful to the people in this group who have loved my kids and have made them feel like they are valuable participants. I’m thankful for Henry and Diana who are their spiritual uncle and aunt. I know their example and love has been significant in this journey of faith my boys are on.
And so I thank God and I pray that my children would continue to walk in the faith, loving God and loving others. I continue to sit with Sam and Ben at night, telling the stories of faith found in the Bible and in my own life. I listen to Ben pray for Sam when he’s sick and I know that God is listening. I know there will still be times that I have no clue about what I’m doing, when I’ll struggle with the decisions my kids are making, when I’ll wonder if what I’m saying makes any sense to them. And for those times I’m thankful for my church family, for those people who will set the example and love my kids, for those who will mentor my boys and will become voices of wisdom and discernment. I am thankful that we are not on this journey of raising children alone. And most of all I am thankful that Jesus calls children to himself.
“He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” – Mark 10:14-16