When My Children Walk With Jesus, I'll Thank You Again: Insights on Raising Your Kids in the Church
Last week I spent an hour with Bill Hybels and his daughter Shauna Niequist. She shared some things her parents did to help her have what we might call "sticky faith" as an adult. She didn't always want to live the way her parents had modeled or asked (does anyone ever do this?) and their journey was revealing and helpful to see how a child can boomerang back with a zeal for the things she once tried to walk away from. Her insights were pure and spot on. His responses to her insights were wildly transparent, honest, and honoring to his daughter, son, and wife.
I've been thinking about it for over a week. It's hit me at a time in my life when I'm weighing the importance of certain things over others. Because of some of the stories they shared, my view of parenting as a leader in the church needs to be adjusted. I'm grateful for the way they shared. So grateful for the body of Christ.
Some things I'm going to adjust and some things I want to start doing:
1) Put the fire out.
Seriously, my hair is on fire most of the time. It's time to take a calmer approach to parenting and realize that it's ok to not be perfect. It's ok to not get some things right sometimes. And it's better to realize and accept these things in conversations with our families in stead of trying to cover them up, band-aid, or fan the flames.
2) Make it clear that my children are not employees of the church.
They are members of our family. They are members of the community of faith. I would love for them to feel that way more than they feel like they have to be involved because we are involved.
3) Make our house a shelter.
It's important to me to let there be more private moments that are cherished between us--making our house a sanctuary and a safe place to live and grow. (Feeling that one on the Facebook/ twitter/ Instagram front...ouch)
4) Give my kids some space to walk their own spiritual paths.
I feel like I do this when I don't make Kirra pray at night. Often times she doesn't want to, so I don't make her. I want to give her and Mya space to learn and grow at their own pace. She'll learn to pray as she watches us, and she'll figure it out in her own way.
5) I don't ever want to say "what will the church think"?
I hope that my children know that I'm willing to do life with them on their terms. I don't want to ever break relationship with my children when they struggle. What Bible tells us to yell, throw tantrums, slam doors, refuse to talk to each other, avoid hard conversations, ignore one another? I really don't want any of this to happen in our house. And I need community to help me stay away from the default mode of isolation in this. Ah, how I ruin progress so often with self-inflicted murmuring. I want to be a part of a community that will help me push through on this, not give up, and have conversations with us.
6) Always talk about the joys and privileges of being a part of the church.
I want the positives they hear to outweigh the garbage. I want that "extra vacation" week the day after Christmas (thank you church!) to be what Bill and his family liked to call "sweet revenge". When we're right there in the middle of intense ministry times, when every weekend before Christmas is spent, and when my kids are lending me out to other church kids. I hope we can say, as we float away on rafts in the gulf of Mexico, that yes, revenge is sweet!
7) Make traditions.
I've always been a big fan of celebrating BIG on birthdays. I guess because there were a few birthdays when I felt invisible. I want to celebrate with my children. Pray with them. Laugh so hard that we pee a little. New Year's Eve will be a time when we rally together and share the blessings of our year. I love the thought of sitting down together when they are older and rallying around all that God has done in our lives each year. Thanksgiving will be better for it. Vacation will be better for it. We'll all be healthier, happier, holier for it.
Thank you Bill and Shauna. Thank you for giving me a glimpse into the future to see what we could have. Thank you for setting an example for us, sharing your experiences so we wouldn't be at the end of our ropes. I want to tell a story like yours. When I'm decades into ministry and both of our daughters are joyfully serving Christ. I'll say, thank you Lord for people who were willing to be vulnerable, transparent, and honest about what it's like and how we might be able to learn from it. Thank you from my heart for this special gift.
Btw, I WILL be reading these books (Bittersweet & Cold Tangerines) this month.
Love what Anne Lammott says about books.
“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Looking forward to learning more on how to behave from Shauna. Life is sweet.