I’m a closet worrier. Without keeping my mind in check, I can go from zero to 5 million in about 3 minutes. Worry is the gopher burrowing holes in my heart.
Well, lately that gopher has been digging in some deep places. Specifically regarding Micah and his very real aversion to almost anything to do with God. Prayer? He rolls his eyes at it. Worship? He pretends to be asleep. Church? He’s getting better, but he drags his feet very slowly on even the best Sunday mornings. The only thing he likes (and he does genuinely like it) is reading his picture Bible.
Oh my word, I’ve swung all over the spectrum on this one. Having a deep relationship with the Lord, I desperately want my kids to know Jesus like I do. Better than I do. I want them to know the riches of His love for them. How He keeps them and cherishes them. And I want them to know the fullness of living a life of willing and beautiful sacrifice to Him, because only He can fulfill their desires.
Micah’s go-to response, in everything, is to be silly. But in my best Christian-mom efforts to instill good ol’ godly reverence in my son, I started shutting him down. Out of anxiety over his spiritual future, I became stern. If we asked him to pray, he would do it in a robot voice. What did I do? “Stop it, Micah. Be respectful.” If I tried to tell him something about God, he’d do a silly dance. “No, Micah. Stand still. Listen to me.”
No. No. No. Stop that. Be still. Be respectful.
Ugh. No wonder he dislikes anything to do with God. I’ve removed God from the picture and given Micah the law. And the law never saved anyone.
But thank God for my own godly mom. Speaking truth in love to me, she showed me how I am handing Micah a God of rules, not a God of relationship. He sent Jesus to die for our sins because He wants relationship with us. If He didn’t, He would’ve kept the law and spared His own Son.
So, would He rather Micah pray in a robot voice, or not at all? Would He rather Micah listen to something about His character while doing a silly dance, or not at all? He created my kids with their personalities because He wanted to create them that way. He isn’t offended by them. He joys in them. He wants relationship with them as they are, not as I think they should be. I felt the Lord speaking to my heart today that I can’t worry about instilling every godly value into them right at this moment. Of course Micah can’t sit with complete reverence during a whole worship service. He’s three! But he can learn to worship little by little, and as he gets older, he’ll understand what reverence means.
Just as the Lord takes us from one lesson to the next, so it is with my kids. My aim in raising my kids to love God isn’t to shove it into their hearts. Right now, I can teach them to respect God by helping them learn to focus when we pray and to use words that are respectful, even if they’re jumping up and down while doing it. I can let Micah pray about monster trucks because God loves to listen to his little voice thanking Him for the green ones. I can let them learn by degrees, just like God lets me learn. And I can teach the overall concepts like respect and holiness and righteousness as boundaries, but give freedom to my children within them. Freedom to have individual, creative expression with God, which will foster their personal relationship with Him.
Of course I won’t let them be blatantly disrespectful to God. There is a line that cannot be crossed. But you know what? Rarely ever have they decided to be blatantly disrespectful, and usually my response to a personality expression is from anxiety, not conviction. As I remember that Jesus says the kingdom of heaven belongs to ones like little children, I must also realize His grace extends to and covers the childishness of childhood. And maybe I could stand to learn a few things about this myself.
So, here’s to my new strategy: care as much about portraying my relationship with the Lord to my kids as I do about telling them to pray and worship. And help them see that participating in prayer and worship and listening to God’s voice is actually exciting. It is not about a list of rules, but about a thrilling encounter with a real Person.
Update: I’ve had this post in draft for about two weeks. Of course, I didn’t publish it because I was worried – what if this new strategy didnt work? What if I looked back and found a flaw with this theology? What if, what if, what if?
Well, here are the results: Micah’s attitude has completely changed. From the very day I changed my strategy, his heart softened and he became responsive. In fact, the last couple of nights, when we asked who wants to pray first, he jumped up and down shouting, “I do! I do!”
This goes to show me two things. One, he sensed my anxiety and rejected the pressure. The more I came down hard lined, the more he stiffened against it. And two, it needed to be his choice. Of course it did! The act of choosing God is so foundational to our relationship with Him. By me easing up and giving him the freedom to make that choice, Micah found he does really like it after all.
Have your kids struggled with this? What have you found to be effective in reaching their hearts?