When my boys were little, I always wanted them to associate God with something good and special. I wanted them to notice the beauty in God’s creation round us—the wildflowers growing along the sidewalk, the ladybug spontaneously landing on their arm, even the worms that would dot our driveway after it rained—eww, I know. I wanted them to see God in beautiful celebrations and meaningful moments like holidays and birthdays. I wanted them to talk to God in the bookends of their day, when they woke and when they went to sleep.
But my boys were experts at things like details, spontaneity, and pulling me into a world different than mine that was run by tasks and to-dos. My thoughts were often parked on keeping track of all the things—Did I move the laundry over? What could I throw together from the fridge for dinner? Would they nap today?
When I stepped into their wondrous little world, it was like magic to me, and an ever-present reminder that I only needed to look around to get out of my own head. My orderly way of life with checkmarks and careful lists was upended in the very best way when they would pull me in with their laughter and joy over the smallest, most ordinary thing. I’ll readily admit I didn’t always welcome the interruption, but I learned to appreciate the way in which they just simply saw the fun and goodness in everything.
While I was no stranger to seeking the beauty around me, I felt and delighted in it all as a child too; but as I grew I put aside those childish ways and traded them in for all of the weights of adulthood—bills and tight deadlines and less sleep. And while none of those things were resolved when I became a mom, in fact they mostly just grew bigger (the bills to pay, the schedule to keep and the sleep I sorely missed), it was all oddly transformed by the meaning and purpose behind it. I was responsible for lives other than mine, and I wanted them to know and love God.
And so those tidy boxes and compartments I used to keep everything in fell apart. I would make plans to wake up early to read my bible or pray, only to have one or all of my boys wake up shortly after. I would decide to write in my prayer journal while they napped, only to have it take too long to put them down. I was exhausted and did more crying out to God than fancy journaling. At first the frustration of not being able to see my plans through unnerved me, and if I am honest it still can at times, but it taught me something really valuable too—if I waited for the perfect time spend time with God, I would never spend time with Him.
So I began to apply this thinking to teaching my kids about God. Can I tell you something, sweet sister? It became so freeing. Because there is no perfect time or place. We didn’t have to have the perfect outing or activity planned, and we didn’t have to be sitting still (thank the Lord!). God is everywhere in everything, and so we can talk about him anywhere at anytime. And while we may know this truth, we don’t always apply it (and there is no guilt here mama, only grace). We have so much on our hearts and minds and sometimes it’s even what we think about ourselves—that we may not know enough and it would be better for them to learn at church, or that we need to make it crafty or creative and we’re not good at that, or that they just won’t listen to us. Even more likely if we’re honest, that we don’t want it to be weird. We can maybe recall those awkward moments from our childhood and we want it to be anything but cringey. And while these are all understandable feelings I’ve had myself, they really are just excuses to keep us thinking we aren’t equipped and we don’t have the time. I wonder who’d like us to believe that? No one and nothing good, my friend.
Really the best time to talk with our kids about God is anytime. Yes, He is present in everything good and special and wonderful, but He is also found in the moments we are frustrated, sick and worried. Many of us would say it’s here we feel His presence even more. Still there are some solid tips I have learned over the years. The HALT acronym is a good boundary to use, as it is hard to process anything when we’re hungry, angry, lonely or tired. So yes, while God is with us in all of it, if we’re trying help our kids learn a scripture verse or share a ‘teachable moment’ it’s probably not the ideal time. I try to remember when I have difficulty focusing is likely when my kids will too. That’s not to say we can’t converse with God in these moments, especially when we’re lonely or angry; but that they just may not be the best time for learning about God, maybe accepting and leaning into his grace would better serve us and our family.
There’s also one boundary I try to never cross and that’s using God’s words or scripture at my kids or twisting it to fit a situation. If what we’re doing or saying isn’t serving the Lord, then we have to know we’re misrepresenting God. Usually this is when we’re angry or tired and at the end of our rope ourselves. We have to be careful with trying to convict our kids by tearing them down and truly the Holy Spirit is the most helpful and graceful guide in this. I have made this mistake and while it’s not beyond forgiveness, it’s much harder to repair.
I also believe there’s one amazingly underrated time to talk with our kids in general, especially with accessibility to devices that travel so easily with us. Yet we learn so much when we’re in the car together. It can be tempting to zone out while the kids do the same in the backseat and sometimes everyone needs a breather. But when the kids are strapped in their seats, you have a captive audience (or at least one that can’t leave!). Turn on some ‘Jesus music’ or say a prayer together on the way to school. We can switch from sharing a gross story that happened at lunch to talking about a kindness God gave us in our day (hopefully not the same story). I think the most important thing to always remember is that God is much less concerned about the way we do it, than He is about the heart we do it with.
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