Daring to Say 'I Don’t Know'
Parenting pressures are everywhere, choosing the right things for our kids is a constant struggle. We wrestle with the best way to spend our food budgets each week and how much a sport or hobby should intrude on an already over-scheduled family time.
We want to encourage them to attend church and remain active in the youth group... showing up with a “good attitude”! We hope they engage with their peers in a healthy way, acting with integrity when we’re not watching. It’s a tricky thing to be a good parent, and it requires a daily delicate balance for all of us... a huge challenge to get it “just right”.
Eventually we come across issues or circumstances in our kids' lives that just don’t quite add up. Pain that’s been caused by the seeming betrayal of a close friend or a church family they know; a moment of doubt and fear that suddenly caromed out of an NBC News story on Nuclear threats from the Middle East; stuff that is so big and so over our heads that we just don’t know quite what to say or do. A battle with depression or sadness, eating disorders, learning disabilities... health concerns.
Life is full of difficult moments, profound issues–complexities that boggle our minds. As our kids get older, they get wiser and more aware of the stuff that pushes us as parents to the edge ourselves. They start to realize that we as parents get caught off guard, scared and overwhelmed by life and a chain reaction of reasoned questions can begin to form in their minds. Questions that may not have a clear answer or easy response. But questions that we REALLY need to talk out with them.
Many Christian families simply retreat from that kind of stuff. Withdrawing to a set of black and white beliefs that have been carved in the family culture since before their grand pappy was born and have served to keep those sort of difficult questions from even being formed. Other families have adapted by discussing “everything”. Open season on any topic; from Politics to Racism to Socialism to Global warming and all that lies in between.
But it never fails... no matter how prepared you feel, no matter how strong your own personal relationship with God might be at any given moment, your child is going to ask an impossible question.
Like… “If Christians are supposed to be so loving and kind to each other, why did (fill in the blank) ________ say that to Mrs (fill in the blank) _________ or if we are supposed to give all we have to Jesus, why don’t we give money to the guys we see at the street side with cardboard signs ?”
As parents we don’t have to pop a biblical clicheˊ immediately into the awkward silence that follows to be “good shepherds” to our kids. Instead, we have a unique opportunity to show our children and teens the reality of Christian life and the ability for our faith to guide us in the complex and often murky issues we all face.
I’ve found that when I take the time to look my daughter or son in the eye and say... “You know, I’m not sure“. Let me pray about that or let’s consider that for a bit... they tend to open up further. To ask more questions, sincerely seeking my opinion and thoughts on the topic. It’s like, opening a dam and soon the real issues behind the questions start to come flooding out and into the light of day.
Our role as parents is more than just “teacher” it’s also guide. We can only guide our children by the example we set and in doing so, we can show them an authentic and “believable” life of Faith they can emulate. God has every answer covered, if we can direct our children to Him for answers, we are truly preparing them for the hard stuff that Life is certain to throw at them. If we act with the humility to admit an inconsistency in our life or a an area of weakness, we’re not failing them, we’re teaching them that God is a personal and compassionate companion, one that they can trust and follow long after we’re gone.
That’s a powerful gift to leave with anyone, and an essential part of effectively being a Christian parent. Don’t fake it, let them know when you're in over the chin and watch as GOD shows up to prove himself faithful to your kids…just as he did with you!