“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up…”
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 New King James Version (NKJV)
My daughter continues to be one of the most thought-provoking individuals in my life. While I get excited about the latest animated movie releases, she looks forward to the next great strategy for building something in Minecraft. The game is definitely above my skill level and when I am watching her play, I’m always fascinated by what she is able to create from nothing in this digital format. It’s truly amazing just how advanced our children can be in some areas of life while we’re still trying to figure out how to turn off the television with one of our ten remote controls.
What she hasn’t yet figured out is whether or not God, our Almighty Creator, our Redeemer, our Father…is real. Yes, you read that right. My daughter, a Christian girl who has had more than eight years of either attending or helping out in Sunday School classes at church, asked me with tears in her eyes how she could know for sure that God is real. And it hurt me that she would even have this question in her mind at this point, but last night I did my best to try and help her understand who He is and why she is struggling to believe.
The first thing I did was to ask her why she doubted that God was real. She told me that everything around her (except me) tells her that He isn’t really there. That He’s just a figment of our imagination and that there is no good reason to believe in Him. She said that people say that what’s in the Bible isn’t true and that it was just made up. So, I took a deep breath and I said, “Mya, do you know how old my big, green Bible is that I keep out there on the bookshelf?” She said no, of course. I then asked her how old the Bible in my hand was and the Bible on my nightstand and the other Bibles that are laying throughout our home. And then we laughed about the fact that I have so many Bibles.
She couldn’t tell me how old they were, so I explained to her that the one on the bookshelf was probably more than fifty years old and the one on my nightstand was probably at least sixty years old and that the one in my hand was about five years old. My point was not that the books were true and legitimate sources of information simply because they are old. My point was that they were all similar, if not exactly the same inside. And that they had been made this way for many years in an effort to make God’s word available in a consistent format for people to read. It was then that I realized that my daughter probably didn’t have a clue as to how the Scriptures came to be organized into these books called Bibles and why we should consider them to be Divinely inspired writings. I had no idea about much of this until I attended college at Liberty University just a few years ago, so why would I think that she would know these things?
Thinking for a moment on this, I decided it was probably time for me to put some of that learning to good use and share some of it with my daughter. In truth, I had always assumed that she was learning these sorts of things in Sunday School at church, but as it turns out that isn’t what they do there. Unfortunately, Sunday School lessons tend to consist of measured out portions of “curricula” that fit in with the popular messages of the day. In her classes, they had started to teach her the books of the Bible when she was younger, but by the time she graduated into the older kids’ class, the messages weren’t so organized and she didn’t feel that she was learning about God at all. Instead, she felt like she was learning how to look and act like a good, Christian kid but only on the surface. Now I knew why my daughter had opted to work in the younger kids’ room whenever possible instead of going into the older kids’ classroom. And when she wasn’t working in the kids’ room, she was in the sanctuary with me, trying to learn something about why we were spending our Sundays there.
While I understand the importance of fellowship and getting together to have fun under the security blanket of a “church” activity, these gatherings do not constitute “bringing up a child in the way he should go.” No wonder so many of us grown Christians don’t understand what it takes to be true Christians. We’re not learning why the Bible carries the authority it does within any meaningful context. We’re not even learning enough to know what books are actually in there. How many of us even know how many books are in there?
The truth is, and this is going to be very unpopular with some people out there but I gave up on being popular a long time ago, the church simply isn’t focused on learning how to be what God has called them to be. Those who are hungry for more meaning are quickly discouraged by the constant threat of action by those whom they allow to control their spiritual diets. Limited to the messages and the presentation of God’s word in the only context available to them at a given venue and accepting this as all there is to know about God’s plan for them. Opting to be spoon-fed instead of grabbing the bowl for themselves. Well, my daughter wants the bowl and I’m handing it to her. It’s time for her to know the whole truth of her Heavenly Father and what He wants for her in this life. No lesson plans needed.
I ended our talk by telling her about all of the resources that we have in our home that will help her find answers when she needs them. I’ve held onto my textbooks from Seminary and I would love it if she can also gain some deeper understanding by using them. She sees me praying each day and she hears me talking to God. She watches what I’m watching on television and she hears what I’m listening to. She knows that I believe, yet, this wasn’t enough to help her have faith. So, no matter how good I’ve been at trying to build a relationship with God, I’ve been a failure in one of my prime responsibilities as a Christian and as a parent. And realizing this, I took a moment to apologize to her for not considering that she might need to know what it is that I have learned that helps me to understand our God. I took for granted that she already learned more than I knew going into this because she’d had a bit of a head start on me. After all, she was the reason I went back to church after being out for over twenty years.
This post isn’t meant to bash anyone in the church or to imply that they aren’t doing the right thing. But it is meant to remind us that without the foundation of truth, all of the Easter egg hunts in the world aren’t going to impress upon our children the importance of the sacrifice that Jesus made to cleanse us of our sins. All of the cute little Bible lessons we can find will not help our children understand that what they are learning in church is purposely being left out of our schools because this society doesn’t recognize Jesus and doesn’t place any real value on what He did for all of us. We must strive to create within our children a context that weaves together the history of our God and of our society in a way that makes it plain just how urgent it is that we believe and obey His Word. As a nation of Christians, we are way too soft and when the demons come against our kids, they have got to know what is in the Book. They have got to know more than a few key parables in order to fight the one who seeks to destroy their souls. They have got to fully understand the books of prophecy and the covenants that were broken and the sacrifices that were made in order to give them life. What they don’t know WILL hurt them.
So somewhere in between all of the social functions and all of the yearly rituals, we need to actually teach them what it means to be Christians. It’s not just that we’re in the right place on Sunday morning. It’s not that we don’t curse, smoke, drink or otherwise outwardly sin. It’s not that we filter out anything that isn’t labeled Christian and look down our noses at people who don’t “get” our lingo. To be a Christian is to understand that if we are able to do anything at all, we should be on our faces giving thanks to the God who gave us life and that no one should have to tell us when to do so. We should naturally feel such commitment to glorifying our God that we seek Him daily for guidance and protection in these treacherous times. Anything other than that is useless…as it says in Ecclesiastes 1:14, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.” If we’re going to do this thing, it’s time we start doing it right.
Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6 NKJV