I am so excited to start a new series, called “Parenting and Faith.” Spiritual education is a keystone of how I am raising my sons, and I am always inspired to hear how other parents are working to raise their children along a spiritual path. So on the fourth Thursday of every month, we will be feature a post from a different blogger on “Parenting and Faith.”
We begin with this incredibly honest and thoughtful post from our friend Christi Madrid of Learning to Be the Light.
A Christmas Eve service excluded, my family and I haven’t been to church in a year. I don’t know if I’ve given up on church exactly, but I know that I wasn’t getting what I needed — and neither was Daniela, my 10 year old daughter.
Faith has always been the foundation of my life. Faith and dreadfully boring church services. From the time I was a small babe until I quit my Christian college, I went to church three times a week, at least. I know every Bible story by heart and can still recite most of the Proverbs. I learned the Golden Rule, but I also learned that God is angry and punishes unbelievers with an eternity in a fiery hell. When I compare that concept with the Christ I met in the New Testament, it just doesn’t add up. I can’t reconcile a loving, merciful, patient father-like God with this being that says “I give you one human lifetime to figure it out or I’ll throw you in the fire FOREVER” (Cue evil villain laugh). I tried to wrap my head around it and failed. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t believe it. Stepping away from my childhood faith felt like a complete and utter rejection of my upbringing (which is probably a slight over reaction.) But as scary as that step was, raising Daniela to have that kind of faith was even scarier. I still don’t know what I believe about a lot of theology, but that’s okay. There is freedom in not knowing all the answers.
But what to teach Daniela? Thankfully, she is exposed to many different faiths in her family. Her dad and I practice a non judgmental, loving Christianity. (What does it say about Christianity when it’s own follower feels the need to preface it with “non judgmental” and “loving”?) Daniela’s mom is Catholic, and her stepdad is Muslim. She will grow up with a diversity of religion and knowledge that makes my heart sing. My desire isn’t that she be able to recite whole chapters of the Bible or even that she profess to be Christian like her Dad and I. My desire is that she grows up knowing that everywhere she sees good, she sees God. It’s not so much that God is love, but that love is God. I want her to recognize that God is bigger than churches and religions and cultures. God is even bigger than the names he is given: Jehova, Light, Jesus, Mother, Allah, Spirit, Guide — as long as it’s love, it’s God.
Teaching my daughter about faith looks a lot like hard work. It’s waking up at 6am on a Saturday to help feed breakfast to the homeless in our city. But even more importantly than that, it’s getting to know them not as homeless people who need breakfast, but as people with names and hearts and dreams and problems. People no different from us.
Teaching Daniela a faith that she can be proud of looks like loving people for who they are, not for what they believe. It’s attending a Hindu Holi festival instead of our religion’s Easter. It’s getting involved in a Pride Parade. It’s cuddling fussy babies in the church nursery. It’s whatever you do to give back to your community. Ultimately, It’s a love and respect for humanity that Jesus exemplified in the New Testament.
I don’t know what role church will play in Daniela’s childhood. I do know that she questions everything she hears and I’m enormously grateful for her inquisitive spirit. Not only does it keep me seeking truth, but it allows me glimpses into what her 10 year old mind is challenging and that gives Marco and me such pride! Kids should be taught it’s ok to respectfully question things.
And it’s okay not to have all the answers. Especially when it comes to God and religion. Room for “I don’t know” is important in teaching a child to develop a healthy respect for other ideas and opinions. I think the alternative, having a fixed answer for every question in life, leads to a closed mindedness that ultimately isolates; and there is little love in isolation. Whatever she believes, I know she’ll get there through lots of thought and prayer, but she’ll hold on to love. Because where there is love, there is God.
Christi Madrid is a Florida based blogger who grew up in Northern Michigan. Together, she and her husband strive to rear their daughter to be a globally-minded citizen; confident and empowered in her world identity. Christi blogs about step parenting and her personal passion of Learning to be the Light at ChristiMadrid.com. You can also catch her on Facebook and Twitter.