This week has been a bit of a whirlwind. It began with brining home a new puppy in Monday. She’s officially eight weeks old, just finished weaning, and she’s definitely still a baby. Bringing a new pet into our family has been the best of times and the worst of times, all in the same week. Add in some travel and a weekend service commitment with a group of middle schoolers and I was clearly running on fumes. That’s what made this weekend’s activities such a revelation for me.
As I’ve shared before in this space, I’ve been on an interesting and often challenging faith journey over the past few years. Despite outgrowing much of what I’ve been taught over the years, I’ve come to also appreciate the spiritual foundation that my parents faith tradition provided me. I specifically say, my parents faith tradition though, because that’s what it was. As a child growing up in the church, I didn’t really have much of a choice. We were indoctrinated for our own good. At a developmental stage in our lives where we didn’t quite have the handles to make sense of the world around us, we were given a framework.
Now as a parent I can appreciate this approach. In fact, my wife and I have emulated it. We’ve been intentional about the types of values we want our kids to embody, and we’ve strategically placed them in situations that reinforce those values.
The problem with this approach, is what happens when the frameworks your provide your kids serve less as guideposts and more as unyielding rules? Or worse, mental and emotional constructs that hold them back? Truth be told, I worry about this sometimes. Most parents probably do. The saying goes, that we’re all going to mess our kids up in some way, and probably not the ways we’re thinking. We overcorrect from the previous generation only to have to dial it back later.
I want the girls to grow up and embrace a faith of their own, because then, it’ll be real to them. And at the same time, I want them to encounter some of the fundamental truths that Samantha and I have learned. But how do you do this without forcing the issue?
It’s one of the reasons I got involved volunteering at our church in youth ministry. I wanted to come alongside my daughters as they progressed to the next phase of finding a faith of their own. While I’ve had some conflicts with problematic aspects of our doctrine, what I’ve appreciated most is the space to initiate dialogue about what we believe and why. As a parent and a small group leader my focus has been less on having the “right answers” and more on being open to the questions, and this has led to the best conversations with my middle schoolers. I’m talking proud moments of insight and agency that I never could have engineered on my own by simply forcing them to believe something. It’s also affirmed what I know to be true about keeping the faith. Because when you keep the faith, the faith keeps you.