Romans 10:14-15 (NIV)The verses just before this selection were included in Friday’s lectionary: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame. For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile — the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ ”
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
And so while the context is clearly about believers in general, verse 14 and 15 especially present, to me, the primary issue facing parents who want their children to grow in faith. How can they call upon God if they don’t believe? And how will they ever believe if they don’t know about God? And how are they going to hear about God unless someone tells them? While Paul’s words here are inspiring those who would preach, they also inspire me as a parent to tell my children about God. And, as I have alluded to earlier, that doesn’t mean simply driving them to church to let other people tell them about God, it means doing the heavy lifting myself.
I don’t especially feel called to preach, at least not in the classic Sunday-morning-in-the-pulpit sense. But I do feel that, as a Christian, having children is in its own sense being sent. I am here for my children for many purposes, but one of them is to (as I have incorporated into the mission statement) encourage them to live lives worthy of God. Putting it another way, God did not bless me with children and expect me to leave them to believe in Him entirely on their own accord. Turning those blessings into praise, by both thanking God for the gift and also by meeting my responsibility as a parent, is pretty much the least I can do.
Having said all that, I must remind myself my children are very young. While there is much to be done here (everything from baptism to regular church participation to praying together and starting to have talks about faith) I am fully aware that all I am doing here is laying groundwork. I can’t make someone believe anything — they have to own it.
Yeah, when you have little kids, you can make them believe anything. I once convinced Jack I could turn up the volume on the minivan stereo just by thinking — because he couldn’t see me pressing the button on the steering wheel. (I copped to the ruse, but later that day he told his Sunday school teacher, “Dad lies. Mom always tells the truth.” Whoops.) Little moments like that, or even the “got your nose” game, remind us the power we have with our children. Of course, once they approach the age of reason, they’ll stop taking what I feed their mind and seek their own ideas — as they should. So I have to be careful to walk the line between “this is what you should believe” and “this is what I believe and I will be happy to tell you why.”
I never want to jeopardize my children’s trust in me, for any reason, and in matters of faith the absolute last thing I want to do is drive them away from God by insisting they stick close. I feel like if I try to lead them along the right path, rather than drag them beside me, they’ll be able to connect to God without the specter of me hanging in between. It just seems an organic faith would be so much stronger than something I try to build for them and one day hand off and say, “Well, it’s all yours now. Good luck!”
I say all this not to instruct other parents — by all means, I’m the last person to give advice — but to provide a road map for myself. I feel as if I write these things down, even if I keep revisiting the same themes, I will be able to take otherwise random thoughts and organize them, then take the collected reflections and apply them to real life. It’s like taking tiny building blocks and piling them together, day after day, week after week, until I’ve got a fortified wall. I just have to remember two things: One, the wall can’t be built all at once. And two, I’ll never building anything by just talking about it.
“How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?” Clearly they can’t. Which means I have a job to do, and it’s long past time to report for duty.
A prayer for July 14:
Lord, you have given me great blessings and great responsibility. I promise to do my best to share my faith with my children, to understand exactly what it means to me and to make sure they know what I believe. Please God, give me the wisdom to know what to say and when to say it, the strength to stand up when it may be difficult and the courage to trust my heart. Your power is immeasurable, and I am humbled by your love for me. Amen.