As believers, we long for our children to trust God wholeheartedly, no matter what life throws at them. But are we modeling to them what real faith looks like—doubts, disappointments, and all? And if not, what are we inadvertently teaching them about God? This article by Jenna Marie Masters demonstrates that by intentionally choosing to live out your faith authentically, and in full view of your children, you are giving them permission to be vulnerable before God and modeling to them that no brokenness is too great for their Great Physician to fix.
I’ve been drooling over extraordinary pillows for the past year. Yes, there is such a thing as extraordinary pillows. They live at Anthropologie, where it smells like a magical forest.
I want them. However, they’re a gazillion dollars. You can’t always get what you want, but Target came to the rescue with some adorable knockoffs. So, for Mother’s Day, I pointed them out and mentioned, “They would be a great gift from the kiddos!” (Wink wink.)
I see them enthroned as jewels on my decade-old stained couch, and I smile. They’re pretty. It’s as simple as that. Or is it?
It seems these lovely pillows have awakened some alternate ‘Type A’ personality in me:
“Do you really have to mash it behind your head like that?”
“Please don’t use the pillow as a food tray.”
“Why is every single pillow on the floor?!”
I’m dying inside, and my poor family is no longer allowed to relax. It might disturb the decorative pillows.
Of course, I’m being ridiculous. What’s the point of having pillows if I’m worried they’ll be ruined at the slightest touch?
Questions of the Faith
I’ve found myself asking the same question about my faith. What’s the point of claiming faith in front of my kids if I’m too afraid it will fall apart when life leans hard against it?
Do they see my shoulders tense when the dirty cleats of life tread on it? Do they sense that, deep down, I sometimes question if my faith can be destroyed? And, if so, what will this model to them about my trust in God?
But in the moments I’ve dared to pick up my faith, stomp on it, wrestle it, and punch it with questions and bitterness, I’ve realized that real faith is for real life. And real life doesn’t smell like Anthropologie. God doesn’t want us to be afraid to throw all our junk at it full force. The faith He gives is not a cheap knockoff; it’s the real deal.
Paul tells us, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9, NIV). If we’re taking our faith along for the ride, it will endure the same refining. And, let’s be honest, everyone who lives under the same roof will have a front-row seat—if we let them.
You can’t scroll through social media or flip through a women’s magazine and not find a list of ways to be a better mom. We are a generation of mothers who can Google anything and find out how to do things ‘right’, which implies we think we’re doing something wrong. Our children see us posting our ‘perfect’ life on social media. They aren’t allowed to eat the freshly baked cookies until we’ve photographed them from three angles. I mean, really. Who are we trying to impress?
When they see us strive this way, we normalize this behavior for them. They will grow up putting the same pressure on themselves, thinking something is amiss if they don’t portray perfection to others, translating this into their spiritual lives.
And the most tragic result is that if we try to hide our failings, fears, doubts, insecurities, and faith-faltering from our children, they will hide theirs from us. They may not want to get the pillows dirty and upset mama.
A BETTER WAY
I learned the hard way to be vulnerable and honest with my kiddos. Being a foster family introduced me to waves of emotions crashing at unexpected, inconvenient times. At first, when tears ambushed me, I’d rush to wipe them away or run into the bathroom and shut the door. Then I’d come out and my kids would ask if I was okay, and I’d answer like a ‘good’ mama, “I’m fine.”
My kids started to push back: “We can see you’re crying!”
I’d lie once more: “I’m fine.”
This is what it had come down to—I’d rather lie to my kids than tell them I’m struggling. And even worse, they knew I was lying. Ugh. This didn’t feel like being a good mom to me. I had to turn my heart toward Jesus and ask Him for a better way.
OUR KIDS NEED TO KNOW GOD’S OKAY, EVEN IF OUR FAITH IS NOT
I’ve fallen face-first into my faith and sobbed. I’ve thrown it powerfully against my closet doors and cursed it as a liar. But Jesus showed me that the real lie is thinking broken faith isn’t fixable. Maybe I didn’t want my kids to see when I was sad because, deep down, I didn’t trust that God could bring me out of it. What if God didn’t come through, and my kids saw Him let me down?
But God has never let me down. I wasn’t shielding my children from my struggle but from my testimony. We’re told that the enemy is overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11). How could I not model this for my children?!
Jesus helped me to break out of my pattern. If emotions hit me in front of my kiddos and they asked if I was okay, I began to answer with things like:
“I’m worried right now, but I’m going to take a minute to pray about it in my room.”
“It’s hard when I don’t understand what God is doing, but I know He loves us so much.”
“I’m feeling sad. Would you pray for me?”
I was beginning to see that clinging to Jesus in front of my children was an act of worship.
OUR KIDS NEED TO KNOW WE’RE OKAY, EVEN IF THEIR FAITH IS NOT
I began to ask my kids if any struggles were going on in their faith. I wasn’t sure what I expected, but it wasn’t the full handwritten page presented to me by one of my kiddos while I was washing dishes. A full page!
The wonderful thing was, I didn’t panic. Instead, I was at complete peace, my heart rejoicing. I had officially become a safe place where my kids could wrestle with their faith. And I knew God would meet them like He’d met the faith heroes that came before me. They were seeking Him, and, just as Jacob wrestled with God, my kids also would see His face.
GOD CAN MEND ANYTHING
We can lift our faith to the Lord, even if its tattered, dirty, and horribly misshapen with stuffing pouring out at every ripped seam. He sees the mess and doesn’t worry. He knit us together in our mother’s womb; He can knit our faith back together, too.
We must approach God with our brokenness, so we can experience Him as Healer. And when we do this in front of our kids, they will learn to do the same.
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