There’s nothing more precious than a child kneeling to pray or asking Jesus into his/her heart. To hear a little boy or girl tell a friend of God’s love or to see a child’s first pick in reading material a missionary story. And who can deny the sheer joy it brings to hear, “The B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book for me!”
It didn’t take long for my children to realize how proud it made their parents. So they would make sure I was fully aware of their actions. My daughter in particular seemed to make it a mission in life to demonstrate just how “Christian” she was, doing whatever was necessary to bring those things to my attention. I would see her glance my way to ensure her “good works” or “right choice” was witnessed. And if that didn’t work, she would go out of her way to tell me.
I didn’t see it back then. But I’ve since come to realize there came a point in her life that much of what she was doing was based on standards I had created. Christianity became about doing. It turned into almost a competition, to prove she was “more” Christian than someone else. The mistake I made was not emphasizing relationship and connecting her actions to the motives of her heart.
There were other standards I had created, without fully realizing it. Music was either “Christian” or “satanic.” Yes, I took this to the extreme. So the first time I heard my oldest son (who was in high school at the time) listening to something that was secular, I went into a tizzy. And while it’s true that some music would definitely fit that label, it’s not true for all music.
Setting standards built on a model or formula of Christianity can do more damage than good. And it’s not that I never talked about the importance of having a relationship with Jesus. It’s just that message ended up being overridden by some of my expectations and standards.
I’ve since learned the primary reason for parenting this way was fear. Fear of my children making the wrong choice, going down a dangerous path or deciding that Jesus really isn’t for them. As first generation Christians, my husband and I have had a lot of growing and learning to get through. Not only are we without a manual for raising children but we don’t have the blueprints for Christianity. So yes, many mistakes have been made along the way. And I’m sure many more are to come.
I don’t want my children to do things in order to get a “Christian” stamp of approval. I want them to experience how incredibly life-changing it is to surrender your life to Christ. And that is going to look different for everyone.
The one thing I can say about my children is they are more real to me today (with all their flaws and moments of doing the wrong thing) than when they were younger. There is very little pretending with me. I can see how their journey as a believer hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Yet it’s more genuine than their younger years. No acting. No putting on a mask. Just them…raw and ready to be molded.
I can also rejoice in seeing the growth in their character, witnessing the temptations that have come their way and them choosing (on their own) to make the right decision. Opportunities that have been in their face and they walked away. Times of confessing a wrongdoing. Moments of sharing—in prayer and conversations about how faithful God really is.
I’m a work in progress. My children are a work in progress. I’ve come to discover that with this, I want my journey in parenting to be authentic Christianity.
© 2014, Stephanie Romero