My son is entering Kindergarten this year. It’s a big step for him socially, educationally, and also spiritually. As he’s growing into a real “big kid” I wonder often, how can I tell if he’s also growing in his faith? How will I know that he’s growing closer to God and not just assimilating to Christian culture?
I didn’t grow up in the church myself, not like my husband did. I don’t know what it’s like to grow in faith as I grow from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. I don’t know what it’s like to be surrounded by good, loving, God-fearing people in a safe, silly, God-fearing home like ours.
For me, becoming a Christian after high school, I felt the difference. I felt the disparity between my life before and my life after Christ. I felt my intense need for Him, His forgiveness, His grace. I understood the stark contrast between those who were walking in obedience and those who didn’t know Him yet. But my son doesn’t have that comparison.
He has parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, even great-grandparents, all who love and follow Jesus. We have an encouraging and inviting church and Christian community full of amazing friends. I am incredibly grateful for all of these people, for their influence on my kids, for their support of our family, for their prayers and example as we strive to raise Christ-followers together.
Looks can be deceiving.
As much as I’m grateful for our community, I’m also wary of it. Because the worst thing that could happen is that my children would learn to live like us, look like us, talk like us, and not truly know, worship, and follow the living God. Unfortunately, if it looks like a Christian and if it talks like a Christian, it isn’t necessarily a Spirit-filled Christ-follower.
So how will I know if my kids are growing in their faith?
In the last month, I’ve been really thinking this over and worrying about it. I wish I could say I’ve been praying about it more than I have. (Because, you know, I feel like I’m already doing enough by thinking and worrying. Which actually accomplishes nothing. But I’m too busy thinking and worrying to actually DO something like pray. Sheesh.)
I’ve been thinking and worrying about how to spot the signs, how to see the fruit of spiritual growth in my kids. I believe, in His kindness, God has pointed out a few things to me.
It was raining when the kids woke up the other day. I absolutely love the rain, and in my rain-loving hysteria, I gathered all three of them from their rooms, and I squealed and scampered and rushed them outside to feel the raindrops on their skin. (I think I scared one of the twins. Also, possibly some neighbors.) My son embraced the fresh rain with open arms and joyful heart. “Come dance with me, sisters!” He invited the twins to venture further into the yard and copy him in his raindance. I stood there, collecting that image in my heart, locking it away forever, my babies giggling and dancing, my oldest the happiest of them all. And then he said it. Unprompted, uncoached.
“Let’s sing a song to God about it!”
He knew from whom this blessing flowed. He knew the Maker of the rain, the skin to feel it, the dance to express it, the pure joy of all of it. Our God made it all. And my little man needed to worship Him for it.
In that moment, I knew he was headed in the right direction. He was headed toward Christ, with a grateful, worshipful heart.
I was driving my son home last Tuesday. We discussed his friends, his classroom, the games they played and books they read. And then he asked, “Mom, what’s mercy?”
This is just the latest of a long list of challenging questions.
“Is the Father Jesus’ God?”
“Why isn’t everyone Christian? How can we MAKE them believe?”
“Is Heaven near Jupiter?”
And on and on and on they go.
What these questions tell me more than anything is that he’s pondering. He’s wondering and thinking and chewing on this God and who He is and what He’s done and how it all fits together and how he fits somewhere in there, too. And I know my God promises that if we ask and seek, we will find Him. I may not have the answers (in fact, I usually have really terrible, flustered, stuttering responses.), but I don’t need to. If he is seeking and asking, God will answer.
I walked into my son’s room one morning to get him up for school. He told me of an issue he had been thinking over, one that I’ve prayed with him about. He wanted to talk about it, and tell me that he had been thinking about it the night before and this morning. I tried to console him, but before I could start in providing a mother’s comfort, he finished his story by saying, “But anyway, it’s all okay because I talked to God about it!”
Stop it. Oh.my.goodness.
Here I am about to say “it’s going to be okay”, providing false comfort, while thinking about how much time I’ve spent thinking and worrying about this same issue. How I DON’T know if it’s going to be okay, but that’s just what we say to kids. And then here he is, schooling me on the comfort to be found in the Lord. I mean, after all, talking to God about it is the only thing that makes ANYTHING okay. It doesn’t solve our situation or give us easy lives, but it makes it all truly okay. Talking to God brings us peace and comfort and renewed trust in His goodness. Sheesh, kid. Thanks for preaching to your mama out of the blue.
This is just the tiniest beginnings of his growing faith, the very first fruit of a life that learning to look to God for truth and love in difficult circumstances.
None of the Above
As I sat down to put these thoughts into words, I actually did finally pray about it for real. The loudest and most certain answer I heard was that none of these things truly tell us anything about where our children are with Jesus. Perhaps they worship or don’t. Maybe they ask questions or not. They may share insights or remain quiet. The truth still remains that we will never really and truly know.
This is one area where God is really growing me. I want to know. I want to be 1000% certain without a shadow of a doubt that my babies know Jesus.
God keeps pushing me. He keeps tugging on me and making me trust Him with this. Making me find hope in the signs of faith that I observe, but not to trust them. In the end, the signs of faith are precious gifts of encouragement, but they provide no certainty. I must ultimately place my children in God’s hands, trust Him with their faith, and be content with the glimpses of His work in their lives.
Perhaps in stepping back, in praying and trusting more, in thinking and worrying less, I’ll be the own who grows in faith by HAVING faith that my God would grow theirs.
Marie Osborne is a wife, mom, coffee drinker, loud laugher, & Jesus follower. When she isn't laughing with her husband, texting with her girlfriends, singing with her preschooler, or chasing after her toddler twins, she's probably writing at her blog while binge watching Netflix.