Children’s Surprising Spiritual Development
Q. As your children grow, what surprises or strikes you most about the way their spiritual life is developing?
Audra Haney: Norah is only two but her big personality seems to be coming on full force now. I guess, even with a toddler, the most striking this is how much is “caught rather than taught.” But, furthermore, I’m amazed at how much is just completely, uniquely inspired by the Holy Spirit outside of my own prompting.
For example, Norah has such a worshipful heart. She is innately drawn to praise music. And, while we listen to it some days in the house, I don’t encourage her to worship in any particular way. Lately, I’ve been stunned by moments when she throws both hands in the air, closes her eyes, and belts it out. Likewise, she is full of compassion. She can’t pass a crying baby or classmate in Mother’s Day Out without stooping down beside them, patting them on the back, and telling them everything will be okay. I know there is much I’ll need to do in order to intentionally disciple and “shepherd” the spiritual growth of my children, however, glimpses like these help take the pressure off me. It’s obvious that there is a loving, mighty, living God that is passionately pursuing my child and that means the world to this mama.
Jill Williams: As my children grow, it is striking how differently they respond to God and his Word. While this shouldn’t be a surprise since they are each uniquely made by Him, I have to remind myself to not compare their responses as a measure of their spiritual lives. Simply put, I have a thinker, a helper, and a free spirit. Each of them connect differently with their developing understanding of and desire for God. My thinker dives into C.S. Lewis, Peter Kreeft and other apologetics writers that many adults might find difficult to approach. My helper understands the needs of others deeply and fundamentally enjoys being with them, regardless of the particular role he gets to play. My free spirit embarrasses my other two regularly, as she expresses herself fearlessly in song and dance and other outward, life-giving ways. Each of their spiritual lives are rightly developing around these innate, God-given personalities. As their mom, I intentionally try to support and encourage their ongoing spiritual growth in ways that explicitly connect them with their Father through Jesus, as the Holy Spirit particularly works to grow them up, even if the process of getting there looks very different from that of their siblings, their dad or me.
Susan Heim: When my two adult sons were growing up, I was surprised to find that their spiritual life actually got richer as they got older. I assumed they would enjoy church activities as young children, drift away in the pre-teen and teen years, and hopefully go back to church as adults. But I discovered that the pre-teen and teen years were actually the best time for them to be involved at church. They found a wonderful youth group, which helped them to make friends who were also on a spiritual journey. This kept them on a straight path through those perilous teen years when it’s often needed most. It was almost as if my husband and I had a parenting partner to help us raise our boys. Now that my two youngest sons are in middle school, they have also found a youth group that they’ve embraced wholeheartedly. I would advise any parent of a pre-teen or teen to reach out and find a great youth group for their child. It provides guidance, support, and friendship during a time when children often become spiritually adrift. They grow closer to God while having fun! And it’s such a joy for us as parents to watch our children grow in their faith.
Julie Kieras: What surprises me most about my children’s spiritual development is how I expected, or hoped, they would have a natural inclination to love God. To my dismay, it has actually been a struggle to teach them to love the things of the Lord. I don’t know why I am surprised by this because the Bible clearly tells us the natural man doesn’t desire or even understand the things of God. Noticing how much of a challenge it has been to help them walk God’s way just underscores the need to live out my faith before their eyes. And I am always mindful to “train up” my children in the way of God’s truth. My prayer is for that fruit of “when they are old” to come to pass in their lives.
UPDATE: Just one day after this was posted, Julie sent this:
We actually had an answer to our prayers – today our 3 year old started crying about not wanting to get old and die (we’ve had a couple deaths close to our family this year), and I was able to talk to him a little bit about why we shouldn’t have to fear death because God made a way to Heaven for us. I don’t know how much sunk in but that was just an unexpected open door to his heart for which I am grateful and praying for more!
Kona Brown: I’m no farmer (in fact my slap-dash garden is a testimony to my lack of skill in the area of growing things!), but I would imagine there must always be a great sense of joy and wonder when seeds planted sprout up out of the ground. When a process at first hidden reveals itself as flourishing. With my far from perfect parenting in my far from perfect home where my far from perfect life is unfolding, I continue to be surprised when I, sometimes years later, see the seed of faith I might’ve forgotten I planted press a tender shoot up and out into the real life of my kids. When they spontaneously pray wherever we are because they feel pressed by the Spirit to do so, when “sorry” makes way for true repentance that reveals a heart that understands itself just a bit better, when one brother extends mercy to another, even just once, instead of demanding its own rights in an argument! However small or sparse these victories, I claim them, celebrate them! And I name and explain them to the boys, thereby holding up a mirror to show them how the character of Christ is developing inside each of them.
Chere Williams: It is such a blessing to see my daughter in her walk with Christ. There are times I question if I’m doing a good job laying down the foundation for her or if she is developing a personal relationship with God without my prodding. One rather tense afternoon I was asking Anya to take the dog outside. After some back and forth she stomped outside with the dog and then came back in huffing. I noticed she grabbed something and headed back out the door. After a few moments, I looked through the window and there she was sitting in a chair in front of our steps and neighborhood reading the Bible. Isn’t it amazing how God answers our questions and reaffirms us in the most beautiful ways? What strikes me most is that she is starting to carve out her own personal time to spend with God, read the Bible, and pray. On Wednesdays we attend Bible study. The first thing she asks on Wednesday morning is, “Mom, we are going to church, right?” Last week I was exhausted and told her we may not go. She cried! She said, she wanted to see her church family. Needless to say we went! As her spiritual life is developing I can see her growing desire for fellowship and how she wants to be among the body of Christ, which is an incredible gift to witness.
Charissa Kolar: In some ways I expected that talking to my children about God would be the same as talking to adults. In that they might be skeptical or have trouble relating to me. However, as I reflect back over time I am surprised how easy it was and still is to talk about spiritual things with my kids. Today my sons are ages 4 and 9. They are receptive to hearing about God and have faith that he is real and present in their lives. My older son reads his own bible stories and now we can talk about how to apply them. It is fun to have spiritual conversations with your children. You never know what they are going to say! (My youngest described the trinity as God the Father, God the Son and God the Brother.) Plus you get a glimpse of how they see life by what they gravitate towards in your discussion (justice, mercy, forgiveness, etc). Making the spiritual aspect of our lives common place at home helps lay a foundation for our kids. Our spirit is part of who we are and experiencing God is something we can have in common as a family.
Thank you, Mom Mentors! Learn more about them here and connect with their blogs. We would love to hear about your experiences, too! Do you have a question for them? Please post it below. And share your answer with us. See children’s books for growing up in God at grahamblanchard.com.
Text Copyright © 2016 Graham Blanchard Inc.
Art Copyright © 2016 Jeremy Tugeau