There was this boy in my church growing up who so openly displayed his faith, it was quite admirable to behold. On Good Friday, he would be up on the cross unwavering in his very real portrayal of Jesus’ final moments. On Christmas Eve, he would be in the manger in a protective stance over the Christ child. In between, he could be found reading, singing, and helping lead youth group. I would often be in awe of his vulnerability in showing his love for God.
Several years had gone by since those days. I moved and married, attended a new church, and hadn’t really thought of him until a mutual friend mentioned he took a trip out to visit him. As he talked more about his visit, he explained how much this friend had changed. Not only did he no longer practice the faith, he had become an atheist. I couldn’t hold back my shock—not only was it completely unexpected, but I felt let down in some strange way. We all thought if anyone was going to keep the faith it would have been him. His faith made faith itself more real and tangible to us. I couldn’t help but wonder what happened.
After that conversation, I didn’t think about him again until I became a mom—intentional about guiding my children in growing a relationship with God. I realize now the outward appearance of faith doesn’t always signal faith that’s deeply rooted. I also know there is likely much more to the story and many more factors at play than I am privy to. However, it is a humbling moment to think as parents we can do all the “right” things—inviting God into our homes, reading the Word together, welcoming their questions, praying and most of all being love to our people and still not land at the place we hope.
When it comes to my kids and their faith, I want to make sure I’m talking all the right steps to raise children who not only know and love God, but have a deep and lasting relationship with Him. But if I am being completely transparent, what I would like most is some sort of assurance that if I do A, B, C all the way to Z, I will get this desired outcome. I want to know for sure. I want a guarantee.
But the way of the cross was never a contract. It is always a collaboration, a communion, a relationship. Yes, we have a life-changing promise to hold onto, but not because of anything we do, it’s because of everything He is. So we can take our concerns straight to the throne. As Ephesians 3:12 tell us, “In Him and through faith in Him we may enter God’s presence with boldness and confidence.” We pray, we give our best and we have to release the rest. Sure it sounds simple, but we know it is anything but. It’s like planting seeds from an unlabeled package, not knowing when or what kind of harvest there will be. We water, we feed, we uproot the weeds that threaten, but only God knows the outcome. And we’re just not used to that way of life. We’re conditioned to a life of knowing.
Still, it’s this unknowing that requires grit and patience—there will be times it will bring us to our knees. If we want to leave a legacy of faith for our children and theirs, then we must be ready to get our hands dirty. We must stay in the fight with an unwavering faith of our own. We must extend grace when our hearts are bruised and beat up. Because in the end we can’t make our kids love God, we can only show them God’s love. And pray, mama, pray.
This is the key. Prayer and endurance, not giving up when it gets hard and messy, when we doubt our kids, ourselves, our parenting. When we even doubt God. But when the arrows start flying at us, when we’re exhausted, we must keep the faith first (and read words written from the heart to remind us of just what we’re fighting for).
When we cry out to Him, those moments are almost always followed by a kind grace—a teacher calls with praise, a friend pulls you aside to tell you about a thoughtful thing your kid did that you didn’t even know about. Or, in the most generous moment, your child comes to you having experienced a transformation through the Holy Spirit at work in their own heart. They see grace, mercy and forgiveness first hand.
We may not know how this all turns out, but what I do know is I will be right beside you as you dig, offering seeds of wisdom, grace and encouragement. I also know it’s never too late. I know incredible mamas who have kept the faith for years. I see you. I stand with you. I know we serve a God who keeps His heart and arms always open, always glimpsing at the horizon for His prodigals, ready to embrace and rejoice. A hope I still hold for the boy I once knew. I hope I hold for all of His children.
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