The Heritage of Faith

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“I see a house overflowing with things of the Spirit. I see passion and abundance. I see coherence: mind and soul, strength and heart.”

Sept-HeatherA new friend of mine from church came over for dinner the other day. She was looking at the homespun art we pin up to the walls: swirls of watercolor, stick figures and drawings.

“I see you teach them about God,” she said approvingly.

I glanced at the wall, surprised, feeling like a fraud. Why would she think that? I wondered. Then I saw it: one of the works—mine—had Praise Ye The Lord lettered in capitals over a wash of pink and blue.

My internal reaction, to feel like I’d deceived her, told me something.

The perfectionism that follows me around like a little nipping dog has its teeth in my parenting, big time.

Especially when it comes to passing down the heritage of faith.

The truth is, there is little formal or scheduled or official “teaching” about Jesus in our home. No family devotional time, no daily Bible story. We pray at dinnertime, but not in bed. It’s not that I’m opposed to these things. It’s not for lack of trying. But if I ask one of my kids if I can pray for them, the answer is usually no. If I ask to read about David or Paul or Esther, they most often turn me down in favor of Rainbow Fairies.

It feels disrespectful to force the issue. (Also, when I do, it rarely goes well. Ahem.).

But holding off makes me feel guilty. Shouldn’t I be doing more?

That’s that nipping dog again: the question kills me over and over.

Frankly, that question is a trap. That’s what recovering from perfectionism is all about: realizing that given my nature, the answer to “Could I do more?” is always: Yes, because it’s never enough. Never, never enough.

That’s why I don’t force the daily Bible, and I try not to wince when they say no to prayer: I am trying to question the question itself, and the assumptions it makes about the world.

I’m trying to question whether heritage is something passed down in checklists. Whether faith is something I ever have to fret over. Whether Jesus’ love can be taught, really, or whether it’s something that must be lived, together. Whether I am really the one that builds my kids’ faith, or whether Jesus is.

I’m trying to rest in this: if God is truly joyful and life-giving, couldn’t I trust that they will long after Him if they see the joy modelled and proclaimed? Might I concentrate on living my faith in joy, first?

Believing parents are always mulling that verse in Deuteronomy: These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

So often, I hear in these words a sense of condemnation. A sense that I should be driving myself harder, driving my kids harder to do God-type activities.

But it’s not just strength I’m loving with. Not just mind. No, it’s soul and heart, too. Perhaps I should take it seriously if the latter two are lacking.

Because the God I long to share with my kids is bigger than my bullet points. He is wholeness. He is a place to dwell.

The truth is, when I’ve sensed my kids really learned something about Jesus those times weren’t planned. No, we were coming or going. We were about to fall asleep, or had just woken up. We were going about our day, and suddenly God was there, asking to be shared. I was unprepared, but Jesus wasn’t.

Looking again at the verse with less-driven eyes, I see parents living life with their kids, with God coming along with them, always. Maybe that looks organized and neat; maybe it looks as messy as my house after 3 p.m. But regardless, I see a house overflowing with things of the Spirit. I see passion and abundance. I see coherence—mind and soul, strength and heart.

I am trying to see this passing on, this heritage as something that flowers naturally.

It’s not about checklists or schedules or efficiency; no, it’s about life and joy and everyday. There’s no question of trying. There is no question of enough.

No, if I am going in and coming out with Jesus, if I am lying down and getting up with Jesus, if we are sitting with Him in our home and singing His name, He is there, and He is enough.

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Image credit: Tim Lewis

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