Saturday, January 31, 2009

Kids and Faith

As parents we learn to never take on a conflict with our children unless we are sure we're going to win. Unless we're willing to follow through with the punishment or other measures the child needs for training on a certain issue, then we avoid the conflict; otherwise we might be "training" our children that they can get away with inappropriate behavior.
As a young parent I tended to apply the same principle to faith, but I now think that was a mistake. Usually, if I didn't think there was a strong chance that a payer would be answered "yes", I kept my prayer requests private and didn't involve the kids. In a few cases even prayers I fully expected to get a "yes" ended in disappointment and I worried it would hurt my children's faith, but it hasn't.
When discussing discouragement and a seemingly unanswered prayer with my now much older 17 year old son, he said "You're looking at it wrong, God isn't some prayer vending machine where you always get what you asked for." I see that faith is strong in all three of my children; they often turn immediately to prayer in the face of dangers and perplexities. I now wish that I had included the kids more often when they were younger in our family's prayer requests. I think it would have given them an even richer prayer life experience, and more data points in which they could see that God often allows the events of life to take their course, even with prayer, but finds a way to take care of us in other ways that make everything okay, even if He didn't intervene in the way we'd expected or hoped.
A sick cousin, Taylor, who dies and is not healed, and yet maybe got an extension on her life and had a greater bonding and parental relationship than most kids get in a lifetime. A car wreck that happens even though special attention was put on prayer for safety for that trip, and yet no one was seriously hurt in the head-on collision.
Not to say that God doesn't directly intervene and provide the miracle we would have wanted, but more often in my experience God finds a way to make things work out anyway. And I think now that those initial disappointments followed by discoveries of divine assistance is not something we should protect our children from, but rather an important part of developing their young faith.
There is a value in putting our hopes in the Lord, regardless of the outcome, and teaching our children to put their hopes in the Lord will be a strength to them their entire lives.