Feeling like you don’t know how to teach your children about faith? Me too.

Matthew 18: 2-4 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.  And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

One of the most humbling things I have encountered in parenting is the shear number of things I have discovered that I do not know.

It’s not that I’m afraid of not knowing things – it’s that I actually feel like I know less every year (day) that I’m alive.  Or perhaps, I am being humbled at a faster rate than I am learning things. 

Life has a way of doing that, doesn’t it?

My husband and I came into this parenting thing thinking it was out job to teach our children.  And it is, of course.  But there are things I thought I knew, and now I know that I don’t know them.  There are answers I have given that have now proven faulty, and things I’ve tried to teach my children, only to discover that they are unlearning something better that they already possessed. 

How is it that the things I thought I knew no longer feel certain, and the things I thought I was teaching, I end up feeling like the student?  Maybe children are an example of a certain kind of wisdom that life washes off of us if we don’t fight to keep it.  Or maybe these lessons required the accompanying humility that my children have ushered into my life. 

One way or another, I am a student in my own home, more than I ever could have imagined.  As parents, we may have more knowledge and experience, but I’m finding that some of the hardest things for an adult to learn come naturally for well-loved little ones. 

(I add the caveat “well loved” because, as we all know, sadly life hits some sweet children too hard and too fast, and they are forced for survival to let go of their innocent wonder, unquestioning faith, and fearless receipt of affection). 

As parents, we may know more of God’s Word, but our children know more about pure faith. 

We may know the gospel of Christ, but they know far more about how to depend on someone else’s finished work.*

We may tell them that every good and perfect gift comes from above, but they know far better how to ask and receive.*

I may teach them about the meaning of the Sabbath, but they teach me how to rest.* 

I teach them the words “God is love,” but they teach me how to live loved.*

I teach them that God calls us His children; they teach me how to ask for good gifts.*

I teach them that God says we’re made with eternity set in our hearts; they teach me to dream of a life of greatness.*

I teach them the words and the melody of “Jesus loves me”; they teach me what it looks like to walk as if it’s the song of rejoicing being sung over your life. 

Their imaginations are vast to consider the wonders of God. 

Their hands are not too proud to open up and receive a present. 

Their hearts are not too guarded to be loved unconditionally. 

Open, humble, dependent.  

Made in the image of the Ultimate Creative Genius, these little ones have an imagination that cannot be contained, an appreciation and wonder for things of beauty and curiosity.  I watch and learn again how to see God, how to find joy, in caterpillars and clouds and cotton candy.   

Before becoming a mama, Jesus’ words to become like little children rolled off of me with a nod and a passive agreement that I should learn to lean on Christ.  But watching my children has planted a longing in me to be transformed into the kind of person who knows how to climb into her Daddy’s lap and be held

Watching my children challenges every last cell of pride in me, and moves me to wonder if true maturity for the Christian isn’t completely upside down.  Not so much about improving, doing more good and less bad, and more about learning how incredibly broken and in need of help we are…relearning how to yell “Daddy!!” from the sidewalk where we skinned our knees.  Relearning how to say “Help!,” when we don’t know how to do something new.  Relearning how to hide behind my Daddy’s knees when something is new or scary.  Relearning how to say “I’d really like a hug,” or “Do you think I’m pretty?” or “Do you like my painting?” Relearning how to yell at the lies that come against us: “That can’t be true because my daddy says so!” 

A well-loved child naturally looks to a parent or trusted adult to know if their ok, to gain strength and confidence. And whatever they face as they grow up, I always want them to lock eyes with us, and ultimately with the Lord, when no other face or place feels safe.

And isn’t this what we are all trying to teach our souls to do with our Father in heaven?  To look up and lock eyes when we are afraid, confused, uncertain, or in need of a reminder of who we are?  To let God be our confidence, our hiding place, our refuge and strength?

I want to live like a well-loved child before my Father in heaven.  I know that my children know they are loved because they have no shame in expressing what they want and need.  They know the source, and they come with freedom and confidence, to me, to their daddy, and in their prayers to their Good, Good, Father…just the way the Bible tells us to come.  My children receive expressions of love and affection unreservedly, just the way I want to receive from our Heavenly Father.*

Motherhood has tucked inside a beautiful invitation to bear witness to the ones that Jesus called our example.

I’m through with trying to know it all.  When it comes to teaching my children about things of faith, I will take them by the hand, and teach them what I know,  with open eyes and an open heart to learn from them, too.  Being a mama has revealed to me the deep wisdom Jesus shares as he tells us to change and become like little children.

We can have the right answers, spend a lifetime going to church, become a Bible scholar, and still what we need most to know the heart of God, is to approach him with a heart like a child…bringing only our need.  Hallelujah.


*Bible references:

Matthew 18: 2-4 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Hebrews 4: 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

John 16: 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

James 1: 17 NIV Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Hebrews 4:9 NIV There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God…

John 19:30 NIV When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

1 John 4: 7-8 Beloved, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Ecclesiastes 3: 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Zephaniah 3: 17 The Lord your God is with you; the Mighty Warrior who saves.  He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.

A powerful prayer when your parenting needs a dose of hope

Version 2

Every loving mama who holds a sweet babe in arms, also cradles an earnest ache to do it all right for her child.  Every loving mama wants to love generously, speak gently, provide for every need manifestly, and nurture in a way that builds her child’s sense of identity, purpose, and belonging.

Every loving mama climbs into bed at night and wakes in the morning longing to do it better, desiring to be more intentional, intending to chose words more carefully, wanting to make absolutely sure that her children know how loved and special they are.

Every loving parent intends to gently shepherd the next generation into a radiant future.

I don’t know about you, but no matter how much I want to be that parent, when my nerves are frayed, and one of my children pushes just hard enough, just long enough, just in that particular way, something entirely different bubbles up in me.  Irritation takes over, and harsh words beg to spill out of my mouth.  Distaste sits on my tongue.   My thoughts unsettle me, as the ugly ones jostle around in my spirit with all of the love and hopes and dreams and good intentions.  When I feel most disrespected and defied, my dignity revolts a bit, and I can look in those little eyes on those little faces with nothing much to say other than “How dare you?!”  And “Because I said so.” 

I know the mom I want to be in those moments.  And friends, thanks to the grace of God, most of the time the words that actually come out of my mouth are words of life and blessing and gentle correction.

But this bizarre concoction of feelings – passionately wanting the best for my children, and the simultaneous sourness that makes kind and gentle words the furthest from my mouth – leaves me with a war waging inside of my mouth.  At times, it feels like a tossup which side will win the turn to speak.

When all is quiet, I know that I know that I know that my children are a gift and a blessing from the Lord, and that God is equipping my husband and I to love and shepherd and guide them into abundant living.  I know that there is hope.  I know that am seen by my God on these long days, and that He delights in all of the moments when I have died to my dignity, to my comfort, to my right to respect.  I know that God sees me and loves me and that his grace is sufficient.

But in the heat of the moment, I sometimes just need some practical tools to stop impatience and frustration from spilling out of my mouth before all of that beautiful perspective has a chance to make it to my lips.

I have often found one simple prayer to be just what I need to bring a jolt of hope and a fast dose of perspective.  I am learning to whisper in the quiet of my heart one simple prayer that helps words of life win out, when a fiery battle is waging.

This humble prayer shifts my priorities, and gives me new eyes, lifts me out of the emotions of the moment.  It helps me to shed my desire to defend myself and demand respect.  This unadorned prayer cools my boiling blood and brings fresh perspective.

I weakly stammer it out in the quiet of my heart… “Lord, give me your eyes for this child.” 

It’s simple and obvious, but the reverie slows my breath and widens my view.  I breathe in a glimpse of my children’s true identity as precious masterpieces of a loving Creator God, who knit them together carefully and beautifully and reverently… as I consider a God who intends to continue his work on my children.…  as I consider the possibility that our God will choose my children for remarkable world-changing things that will require their strong will and determination and deep commitment to justice, though it is currently being used to argue the disparate number of Cheerios in their sibling’s bowl.   

I summon it up from the deep places where my hope and fierce love for my children dwells…”Lord, what do you see when you look at this tiny person?” 

As I pry my hands open with the question, God deposits vision and hope that fuels my perseverance.

When I look at my children with the lens that God offers, I see leadership instead of bossiness.  I see discernment instead of fear.   I see creativity instead of awkwardness.  I see compassion instead of fragility.  I see tenacity instead of stubbornness.  I see courageous nonconformity instead of obstinance.  

This prayer is multiplying my joy, and changing the way I parent.

Try it with me, Sister?

When the days get a little messy, dare to ask the Lord what he sees when he looks at your little one.  Let your imagination run wild with God’s beautiful creativity on each of your precious children, and let it reshape the trickiest moments of your parenting.