Hard truth: Discipling your kids isn’t as straightforward as you’d like. Remember, Proverbs is a book of principles, not promises. So, when you’re doing the best you know how, season to season, to train up your child in the way he should go (Proverbs 22:6), that’s no guarantee that he’s going to come to faith early, root right away, or grow strong and steady from the get-go. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it’s not even a promise that when he is old, he will not stray from it. What I can promise you is this–owning your faith is right smack in the middle of it all. And that’s what our kids have to do for themselves.
This is the beginning of a series that is as close to my heart as anything could be. It’s about the spiritual life of my teenage daughter, Sarah. Spoiler alert– I don’t know how this series will end, or when. But I know that a lot of parents are on this road, so maybe we can do this together.
My daughter came to faith at the age of five. That’s what we Christian parents pray for–that our kids come to Christ early. But it’s also a little scary because it’s hard to tell if they understand what they’re doing. Five is really young. Do they understand their own sin enough to know they need a Savior? Do they understand that Jesus is God, and He alone can save us? Can they possibly understand that they are making a momentous decision that will change their lives…eternally?
Realistically, not many of us really get all of that when we come to faith, but the challenge is knowing if a young child understands enough to make a real decision. Because of that, we were careful and didn’t rush in at the first sign of her wanting to make a decision. We had a lot of conversations with her, prayed with her patiently, and when she prayed to receive Christ, we rejoiced. Then met with the children’s pastor.
Everything seemed right, so we went ahead with her baptism. And for a while, she seemed to be taking root. She would ask kids she met if they knew about Jesus, and she was excited to go to church. I would catch her praying by herself, once when she went to get the mail! (Who knows what the urgent need was there, but you go, girl!)
Thanks a Lot, Adolescence
As she got older, her personality changed, but not in any ways that had us concerned. She just went from being a very cheerful, perky little girl to a more subdued, wry adolescent. If you’re familiar with personality types, she’s a melancholy type, and that’s fine. She’s not unhappy or dark, she just has a different view on things than she did when she was little. And there’s a lot about her that hasn’t changed. By the way, she’s hilarious. And crazy talented.
From a spiritual point of view, we weren’t seeing fruit or growth anymore. Owning your faith has to be personal, so I can’t do it for her. What’s hard is discerning what’s spiritual apathy, what’s chalked up to personality, and what’s adolescence. Sheesh.
Who’s In Our Village?
She got to seventh grade, and she moved up to the Student Ministry at our church. That didn’t work out, but that’s a story for another post. I tried a number of things to get her back on track and get her moving toward growth again, and I’ll cover all of that in future posts. But as this was all going down, I knew that it was ultimately our job to disciple her and oversee her spiritual well-being. So, I never abdicated, but I did try to draw on the resources I had at hand. Nothing seemed to spark her, and I got more concerned. I didn’t want to overestimate the issue, but the stakes are too high to underestimate it, either.
She’s fifteen, and we’re still on this road…or trying to find the right road. I’m learning a lot, and it’s hard. These are the kinds of things I would rather learn from someone else’s experiences, while enjoying the security of knowing that my daughter is truly a believer, and everything is going to work out according to God’s best plan for her. As things stand today, I’m encouraged, but it’s still a work in progress. An urgent work in progress. I am ever aware that we only have a few more years with her in our home, and then our requirements on her and our influence over her drop significantly. Faith, faith, faith. While I’m working on securing hers, I’m definitely building mine!