Since becoming a parent for the first time in 2003 I have been a Christian and therefore I’ve never parented as a non-Christian. Of course I was a very new believer back then, I had only made the commitment in early 2002 and my secular upbringing will have shaped my beliefs and known behaviours. But being a Christian is a holistic thing, I can’t chop and change. There is no option to be a Christian on a Sunday but not the other days, that’s called hypocrisy so every piece of parenting I have undertaken has been as a believer and therefore it is pretty difficult to say if it is any different to being a parent without faith or an alternate one.
However as I’ve pondered this question, I’ve come to the conclusion that ‘not really’ is the simple answer. Being a Christian parent means that I have a particular set of values that I teach my children and model in my day-to-day life. Values such as: being kind, accepting, giving, loving, being grateful and keeping a sense of humility. However, being human means that I am imperfect and not really able to live up to my own high standards or those set by Jesus when he walked on the earth but the wonderful thing for me is that I know I can repent of my sins and be forgiven. Trying to do the right thing with a good heart is enough.
I expect I have turned some of you off reading by now. ‘Oh my goodness you cry, more preaching!’ But that is not my style. I’ll tell you what I believe and you are free to choose for yourself. A few years back I received a comment on my other blog which said that the reader had not expected to like my blog as she was not into the ‘Christian thing’ but she found my blog to be such a warm place that she kept coming back. It really made me smile; the warmness is the Christian thing!
I think what I am trying to say is that being a Christian is really very normal. I do not wear socks and sandals, I do not preach at you when you meet me, I do not judge you for your choices. We all live in our own separate realities and we are accountable for our lives and choices. I am only answerable for mine but I am responsible in Christ for sharing my faith with my children. John 15:1-7 talks about us all being branches from Jesus, as the vine. My children are then a new bud on my branch but still part of me and my husband. This verse teaches me that as long as the choices we make are done with prayer and thoughtfulness then our children will be able to grow up feeling secure, having a sense of self-worth and purpose, being confident and will grow independent. They will find their own place in Christ as they mature; my husband and I have to be willing to allow them to take their own route but offer wise guidance and positive discipline when it is required.
Of course it is important to me that my children attend Church and as my husband and I both love Church we hope this enthusiasm will rub off on them. We have heard the odd grumble from JJ about not wanting to go but then on other days he is itching to get there so I think it is just normal near teenage boy stuff. The girls adore the music and dancing and as we go to a lively Church they get to run around and have fun. Going to Church is a small part of being a Christian; probably the overriding factor is that I seek to live my life as Jesus would have. That is a really big order and one that scares me just writing it down. I know some people reading this will know my imperfections and laugh that I seek to imitate such a pure and good man but I will keep on trying and in that, I hope to inspire my children to do the same. A quick reminder we use in tough times is ‘WWJD: What would Jesus do?’ JJ is starting to use this now, when he has a choice between lashing out or being loving he is asked to think WWJD and know that Jesus always took the loving response.
The secular world will have a lot to answer for as my children get older and I try to ensure that their choices are good ones, perhaps ones that do not fit with what other kids or teenagers might think is the norm. There have been many times already when I’ve been the parent that has had to say no and have one of my children stand out as different because I won’t allow them to follow what the world say is OK. There are films they are not allowed to watch, songs we won’t play in the car and clothes that do not adorn my girls little bodies.
On an almost daily basis my husband and I have to discuss these dilemmas and decide what is OK and what is not for our children. Sex before marriage and staying pure before God will be massive topics I am sure and ones which will present a challenge to me for I was not a Christian as a younger woman and thus did not get married a virgin. I will need to be open with my kids but also try to install the importance of our Christian beliefs.
I expect one of the main differences is that I am teaching my children the power of prayer and also to read God’s word in the Bible. On an (almost) daily basis I enjoy praying with each of the children. It makes me smile to listen to JJ’s selfish prayers, Miss E’s obvious joy at talking to God and Miss M’s bashfulness and asking me to talk to Jesus for her. Before meals we will say grace and the children enjoy taking turns doing this. These brief pauses in our day are powerful reminders to reflect on what is really important and to be grateful for it. Our time of reading a devotion for the day after dinner opens up conversations and expands their knowledge. It really is good to talk.
For my children it is completely natural to be driving along in the car singing as loud as you can that our God is so big, strong and mighty! I love that they enjoy worshipping with me, not just in Church but wherever we are. When I catch the girls playing and hear them marching in the light of love as they play their instruments I know we are doing OK with our parenting. I think my heart might break just a little if they were singing popular secular songs about ho’s and getting it on, it amazes me just how much children pick up on.
I was chatting to a Christian friend about writing this post and she said she tries to teach her son to be different. Not bad different, just different in a way that makes people ask him about it. I love that idea, I have often talked to JJ about shining his light and letting people see that he is a friend of Jesus (how cliché does that sound) and that is all about being positively different. I know it will take courage as he grows older to stay close to God and to be brave enough to tell his friends that he does not care if he is not cool, he still wants to be involved in our faith. My job will be to offer him room to make his own decisions, support when he needs it and love always, unconditionally.
Being a parent is one of the hardest jobs in the world, whether you are Christian or not. Thankfully it is the most rewarding too.
What about you? What do you do to help your children understand your faith? Or if you yourself do not have a faith are you endeavouring to expose your children to different faiths so that they may make an informed choice?
This post has appeared on Maternity Matters and Mummy from the Heart previously, but is an article written by me.