As a parent, you want your kids to contribute positively to society, be a kind person, get a job, do the right thing. As a Jesus following parent, you want your kids to make the decision to follow Jesus. The kicker to the whole Jesus following kids is that you, if you’re like me, want them to make the decision on their own.
I don’t want my kids to wake up one morning in college and decide that the whole Christianity thing isn’t really for them. I don’t want them to ever think they went to church and checked the boxes because that is what I wanted for them. I want them to want it. I want them to decide on their own. I want them to question and dig deep so they come to the conclusion that God is who He says He is and He can be trusted. I did all the questioning in college and my mom encouraged me through it. She never once abandoned me or told me I should just believe because. She sent me things I could research and I am pretty sure she prayed a lot. And through that experience, I came out stronger with a believe in Christ that is all my own.
My daughter was 7 years old when she was baptized and we actually tried to deter her. She was young and it wasn’t that she didn’t understand, we just thought it would be better if she understood more. Reagan came home from Summer Rocks (our church’s version of VBS) and knew we were going to the final day “celebration” that night. She also knew there would be an opportunity for her to be baptized. I had the paper they send home with all the parents explaining baptism and what to ask your kid to make sure they understand. We asked all the questions and she answered all the questions but we still told her another time.
My son was a little different story. He would make comments (often) about not wanting to go to church but he was too young to stay home and so he would go. He didn’t have a choice about whether to go to church or not but he did have a choice of what to believe. I think he was taken back when I said, “I don’t know if you believe in God or not, but I believe…” when we were talking before bed. I don’t know for sure but I am guessing that in that moment, he realized I wasn’t going to force him to believe anything nor did I assume that just because we did, he did too.
He turned 7 and it was all I could do not to compare my kids. She was baptized when she was 7, why not him? Why was he not making the decision? What was I doing wrong as a parent?
The reality is, Will is not Reagan. He thinks differently and processes differently and that is ok. I rested knowing that God had him and one day, he would make the decision to follow Jesus and be baptized to show the world.
One prayer that I have been praying since my kids were babies was that the Lord would be speaking to them, even as tiny babies. My prayer was that they would learn to recognize His voice so when He called them, they would know it and listen. It was a sheep and Shepherd kind of thing. With that prayer, I could rest and be patient.
Last month, Will went to camp with our church. He is one lucky kid because Adam went with him as a camp counselor. At camp Will heard about God being there, always, and he heard about next steps. For some kids, it was simply learning more about Jesus. For others it was deciding to follow Him. For others it was being baptized or serving. That was the night Will decided, on his own, to be baptized. The perk of having your husband as a camp counselor is that you get pictures and updates and when I read the words that Will wanted to be baptized, I got teary.
Just a couple weeks ago, Will was baptized, by Adam, with lots of family and friends watching. We can cheer him on now and always. The best part about this, is he never heard it as an expectation from us. He never heard it as something we wanted him to do. Of course we did but more than that, we wanted him to make the decision on his own.
Now both of my kids are Christ followers and there is nothing, as a mom, I want more than that. We are all on the same page and we can talk about how we live and treat people and I can always bring it back to the decision they made.
I continue to pray that they would hear God’s voice over everything else! That it would be the loudest influence in their life. I am also praying that it is the loudest influence in my life because I know they are watching me closely. They watch how I spend my time. They watch how I react to situations. They listen to how I talk about people or speak to people. They are watching to see how Adam and I interact and treat each other. They are watching to see if I am doing what I ask them to do. They are always watching and listening and I need to step it up.
This parenting gig gets harder and harder the older kids get. It’s a different kind of hard, an emotional and mental challenge. Stay strong parents! Encourage your kids to make decisions because they know right from wrong. Let them stumble, it is how they learn. Be there without judgement when they need you. Show them by your actions and words how to treat people and behave. Even as they get older, they are watching. Give yourself grace and be gracious with others. And let’s be there for each other rather than being the one upper. (And if you don’t know who the one upper is in your life, maybe take a long hard look in the mirror.)
We’ve got this because God’s got us! And aren’t you so glad He does?!?!
KATY MORDKA // Explore more of Katy’s writing