April showers have brought a big muddy mess to our backyard. Every time a child or the dog goes out to play, a ritual of foot washing commences with each re-entry to the house. The muddy foot and paw prints are my least favorite part of spring. They require an ongoing process of reminders, clean up, washing of clothes. Parts of the yard are bare of grass, and reseeding projects are staring me in the face. The well-worn path from our door to the trampoline needs some strategic innovation before summer arrives. Last week, we got the flower beds ready, spread seeds, and put down new topsoil and mulch. Nothing much is there yet beyond the mud. I wait in the mess of spring for the freezes to end and the planted seeds to start to sprout. In a few short weeks, this mess will turn from my biggest frustration to blooming beauty.
I spend a lot of time talking with parents of young children who are struggling through a similar mess. It has nothing to do with mud, but it has a lot to do with planting seeds—seeds of faith.
It turns out that for faith to grow, there is some drudgery.
We wake up early on Sundays, get them dressed and cleaned up, and arrive in worship with our best-laid plans. Often times, coffee spills, Cheerios get stomped into floors, a child squeaks at an inopportune time, and a parent finds himself in the back of a sanctuary just praying that the crying will stop and no one is annoyed. We try to read our Bible as a family as the youngest does a cartwheel through the middle of devotion time or a random question distracts the whole point of the conversation. We feel like we aren’t doing something right. This is a struggle. I’m trudging through mud. I need some strategic path to raising my child in the faith.
The truth is this: faith is not a strategic path or a five-step plan.
It is mud, it is rainstorms, it is wishing I could just skip church and put my kids to bed without prayer time. It is being unsure how to answer the questions of faith as my child ages. It is prayer and encouragement from fellow mentors and friends that the tilling is worth it. Raising children in faith is a worthy mess and one that we aren’t meant to struggle through alone. As we enter this spring, I encourage to you embrace the mess and rest in these encouragements.
Remember we are all messy
When looking around the church on a Sunday morning, you may look longingly at a family with children all sitting still in worship or in beautiful matching clothes while you didn’t get to comb your daughter’s hair. I promise, somewhere in their path is a mess too. It may look different, and it may happen at different times, but we’ve all had mud on our feet. This family of Christ is for the messes, and you belong here.
Get in the mud and plant the seeds
While challenging, joining in the process of planting is part of a parent's job. You may have wonderful Sunday School teachers, youth mentors, pastors, and leaders who are providing excellent programs for your children at church. Yet, I promise, those leaders are looking for you to join in with the planting. If you don’t have resources to bring faith development home, ask the leaders in your church or seek out other resources you could share with fellow parents.
Embrace the washing
One of the most significant gifts we can give our children as they grow in the faith is a home that repeatedly models the repetition of repentance and reconciliation over and over again. Just as dirty feet, floors, and clothes need washing, so do our relationships. Model what it means to apologize, reconcile with your children after a disagreement or power struggle, and demonstrate that forgiveness is alive and well in your home. The washing is necessary, so let us teach our children well.
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:9–10)Scripture: ESV©.
Learn how to raise your children in the faith with David Reuter's book, Teaching the Faith at Home.