Take a moment before reading further, to time yourself and see how quickly you answer this question. What are three things you have taught your children that you never wanted them to learn?
All three of my own came to me in less than five minutes...
(1) That being busy online is a good way to cope with stress for which you have no other solution.
(2) That watching TV is an easier way & more satisfying way to laugh & feel happy than spending time with family.
(3) That you can't count on God to hold you and keep you when it all goes south.
What I hate about my own list is that I don't believe any of them now. But I must have at one time or another, because I have seen my son live them.
Future blog posts will be about trying to undo parenting mistakes, but today, I want to focus specifically, on the beliefs we unwittingly teach our children about God and faith.
Were any of your top three about faith?
Mom faith is the container that holds everything we teach our children about God and about faith. Unfortunately, it fills much more easily than it empties, and our children may spend a lifetime trying to unlearn the things we didn't mean to teach them. - Jeanine Byers
The Good News about Mom Faith
The good news is that it is never too late to begin teaching our children what we really want to teach. They never stop taking it in, even when they give us the message that they are no longer listening or paying attention.
But what we do will continue to be far more powerful than anything we say, and the truth will be more apparent to them than it is to us.
So we need to create, build and sustain the mom faith we want them to see and then, learn themselves.
Instead of seeing our worry, they need to see trust.
Instead of seeing our despair, they need to see hope.
Instead of seeing us flounder, they need to see us know where to turn.
5 Ways to Create, Build & Sustain Mom Faith
It didn't happen until I was already grown, with a son of my own, but I remember a time in my life when I counted on my mom's faith. Not to mention her connection with God.
If something happened that worried or upset me, I'd tell her about it, and she'd assure me that as soon as we were off the phone, she'd pray about it. And darned if those problems didn't transform as a result!
Even during times when I had temporarily lost my own faith, I knew that there was something going on, because of hers. I knew that she was connected to God, whether I was disgruntled enough to decide I didn't believe, at that time, or not.
For most of my son's childhood, I wasn't able to model that kind of faith for my son. I've struggled with chronic PTSD and anxiety for most of my life, and I'm not sure I ever had that basic sense of trust that is supposed to be our first developmental milestone.
Do you struggle with worry, or anxiety, or other issues that challenge your faith?
Here are several things you can do to nurture your faith in spite of them...
(1) Don't aim for perfection, but do aim for God: make a commitment to take every concern you have to God, no matter how small.
Do you need a longer quiet time? Does what you do during your quiet time need tweaking? Plan to spend time in all the ways that help you feel safe, and that make it easier to reach for trust, instead of fear.
(2) Ask for help with your unbelief: ask God to help you feel safe, to give you peace, to help you separate the truth from your own anxiety.
Ask Him how to doubt your feelings. And ask Him to show you anything in your life that is getting in between the two of you.
(3) Make a commitment: to give up anything that doesn't support your faith & take it right out of your life.
I know you do that with your children, but what's going on with you is even more important.
I'll give you an example. I know you can tell from what I wrote in the beginning of this post that I watch TV. And while grappling with my own lack of faith, I decided to give up a few of my favorite shows.
I hadn't realized it, but they had an underlying message that I was taking it without realizing it - that life never works out. That no matter how hard you try, it's not going to work.
I realized that I couldn't afford to let anything feed me that message, no matter how much I thought I enjoyed watching it. In one moment, I was enjoying the sense of well-being that laughter creates, and in the next, I was taking in the message that there's no point in having faith because nothing will work out for me, or anyone I care about.
Are any of your favorite TV shows sending a similar message? How about the books you read?
(4) Help your children separate faith from feelings. Don't let that remain unspoken because that's one they won't get by osmosis.
I began to point out to my son, when he was older, that I might have gotten stressed out about something that happened, but that didn't meat that there was any reason to worry. I'd been in the habit of being glad I felt better, without even thinking about the fact that my son had probably observed my reactions to whatever the stressful event was.
Also, give them plenty of chances to talk through their own feelings. But instead of just giving them suggestions, model what you do.
If you say, "read this passage whenever you feel worried and pray about it," they will believe that you are speaking to them from a place of not having the same problem.
Instead say, "when I feel worried, I look for a passage I think will make me feel more peaceful, and then, when I pray about it, ..."
Then you might say what works. That you have found that whenever you do x, it helps.
(5) Here's what to do if nothing is working for you, yet: throw everything at it but the kitchen sink. Peace can be found in the most unlikely places.
For instance, I have read novels that encouraged me. But for you, it might be singing hymns (I find that so helpful), or doing yoga while you pray, or talking things over with a friend that helps you work through worries or doubts.
Decades ago, when I was in therapy, I wondered if there was a ceiling on healing.
Were there limits to what was possible? Some ways in which I might not be able to heal from my difficult childhood or past? Struggles I had at the time that had no solution?
I was convinced that for quite a while that there wasn't much I could do. And now, I wish I could go back and tell that self to do all I could to cling to hope because it would help me to heal better and faster.
What would help you cling to hope?
Finding ways to hold on to your mom faith, and model trust for your children will bless you and your family for generations. I'm cheering all of us on!