June 4, 2009

She's a What?!

The gorgeous spring evening set the perfect backdrop for a relaxing Sunday dinner on the deck. As we enjoyed grilled salmon and fresh-from-the-garden salad, our family caught up on the weekend’s activities.

“Tell us about your weekend at the shore,” my hubby and I asked our daughter.

She filled us in on the details (at least as many as a 14-year-old willingly gives up), then she added, “Oh, did you know my friend is a wiccan? Isn’t that a witch?”

Calmly trying to not choke mid-chew, I replied as calmly as I could, “Yes, I think it is.”

“She had a maiden ceremony or something like that.”

“So, she worships nature and goddesses?” my equally alarmed husband inquired.

“I think she’s a ‘P’ something,” our daughter added.

“Pagan?” I guessed

“Yeah that’s it,” she confirmed.

Dan and I instinctively reacted, defending our Christian faith. (In hindsight, we may have come off a wee bit authoritative.) The mama bear in me struggled not to proclaim, “I never want you to talk to this girl again!” Yet, I think in our haste to establish our viewpoints, Dan and I fumbled a golden teaching moment and an opportunity for deeper conversation on spirituality and truth.

God created us all as spiritual beings. As such young people (and grownups too) yearn to find their place in the world, find meaning in life and connect to something bigger than themselves. In response the world offers an all-you-can-eat spiritual buffet from which to feast.

As parents how do we root our children in the gospel so when journey from our nests they can discern life-giving "food" from junk—and desire to partake of it? It’s easy when they’re younger. because we can exercise our control We bring them to church, enroll them in Sunday school, sign them up for Christian summer camp and drive them to youth group. Up through high school young people tend to mimic the faith they see played out in their homes. (Guess what spirituality my daughter’s friend’s mother embraces?)

But what happens to our teens’ faith as they transition to adulthood? Will their Christian upbringing hold up to their burgeoning intellect, new-found freedom and worldly experiences? How successful will they be in making their faith their own?

Statistically speaking, not very.

A dramatic shift occurs in the spiritual lives of young people as they venture out on their own. According to a study by The Barna Group (Ventura, California), “despite strong levels of spiritual activity during the teen years, most twentysomethings disengage from active participation in the Christian faith during their young adult years—and often beyond that. In total, six out of ten twentysomethings (60%) were involved in a church during their teen years, but have failed to translate that into active spirituality during their early adulthood.

“Only one-fifth of twentysomethings (20%) have maintained a level of spiritual activity consistent with their high school experiences.” The study adds, “There is also a substantial amount of unorthodox spiritual activity: three-quarters of America’s teenaged youths have engaged in at least one type of psychic or witchcraft-related activity during their teen years (not including reading horoscopes).”

We parents face an uphill battle to give our children the roots they need to make their faith their own. I haven’t made it to the other side of this battle, so I can’t offer any personal experience. But, I can look to the greatest book on parenting ever written. Here are some nuggets I discovered.

As parents we need to:
  • … equip our children to live IN the world but not OF the world. (2 Corin. 10:3)
  • ... be prepared to defend our faith. “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15)
  • … actively get involved in growing our kids’ faith. (Ephesians 6:4)
  • … show them how to be a light in the world, not a curser of the darkness. (1 Peter 2:9)
  • … teach them to “love their neighbor,” but be wise when it comes to choosing friends. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)
  • … open up dialogue about our faith and be willing to talk about tough topics without reverting to pat or “Because I said so” answers. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

And most of all:

  • … teach our children about the amazing grace of Jesus. There is nothing this world has to offer that can compete or compare! (Romans 8)
Ultimately our children are in the care and keeping of our heavenly Father. Despite our best efforts, they may still choose to fall away. That’s the rub of free will. Regardless, we can be confident God has a good and prosperous plan for their lives and no matter how far they may stray, He will always welcome them back with open arms. (Luke 15:31)

As parents, we need to put on the armor of God and prepare for battle! Are you up for it?


Terri Tiffany said...

Good post! I worried about our daughter as she grew up but what helped is she got a job as a camp counselor at a Christian camp--did it through high school. It made a huge difference but even still--she stuck her toe in the cold water now and then so to speak. We sent her to Word of Life Bible college for a year at a particularily tough time, she agreed as she always wanted to go--and thankfully met her husband there.

open up dialogue about our faith and be willing to talk about tough topics without reverting to pat or “Because I said so” answers. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

This point is the best--you have to be willing to talk and let them grow on their own some.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

It's a battle I've been waging for almost 21 years now. So far, very good. By God's grace the younger two will follow in line with their older siblings.

I don't hold all the answers, but it looks a great deal like the Scripture references you quoted at the bottom of your post. And yes, God's arms are welcoming. They welcomed me home after a season of adult rebellion that didn't hit until my late 20's.

Amazing grace indeed.


Laura said...

What an eye-opening post, Kelli. And, oh, my goodness, one I needed to read. My guys are just hitting the social set and I need tutored in the right questions (and the right answers).

This article is so well-written, and so informative. Nice and concise...have you submitted it anywhere? I be the P31 woman would love it!

Kristen @ dancing in the margins said...

I will never forget the day my junior high theology teacher looked me in the eye and said, "God doesn't have grandchildren."

It was like a light bulb went off in my head and I knew I wasn't getting to heaven or getting to experience Jesus through my parent's faith.

It had to be my own.

Changed my life. And my outlook until this day.

Awesome post!

Kristen said...

You know, I'd LOVE to put this in the magazine. Would you be willing to lend it out for an issue?

Donna Teti said...

Hi Kelli,

Interstingly my daughter now almost 24 drives highways in Ct and NY everyday. I of course am always warning her to be extra careful. She told me the other day , " Dont worry mom, you are always "in my head!" Everytime I am on the highway I hear your voice, "look in your side view, Look in your rear before you hit the brakes." When I am driving I always hear your voice.

You make a great point that we need to teach all we can while we have them in our midst with hope and trust in God that we will remain "in their heads"
whne they go out into the world.

Wonderful Article

Sue J. said...

When all you see is the title on your blog roll you wonder....what's coming? You could have substituted other words in there, and it still would have set off alarms.

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6 (And, no, I'm not on chapter 22 yet!!)

We do need to be training for as long as God allows our children to be within range of us. Even as we are training, we can't lose sight of the truth, as you have said--they are HIS children, and, ultimately, HIS responsibility. We need to have faith in His Word that if we do what we are supposed to do that He will do what He has said He will do.

I think it's really hard to prepare and be ready for these out-of-the-blue moments. Sometimes, our natural, faith-based reaction is what they will remember later. Otherwise, we'd just choke on our greens and transition to another topic, right?

His grace is enough!

Peggy said...

Great post......
After mannnnnnnny years without my Mom, I still hear her voice telling me of God's love, grace and peace.
You have told this story well, and I'm positive that God is working with you and Dan as you are raising two wonderful children.
You can tell them how and why, but remember that God IS in control of their precious lives.
Keep leadind them in God'd way, He will do the rest.
Blessings and Love...Peggy
Let's all pray for your daughtre's friend!

Saleslady371 said...

Parenting is the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. As I look back, I'm grateful that I found Jesus when my girls were babies. We shared our zealous faith with them. But they grow up and find their own relationship with God. And sometimes it's pretty scary. Now I'm a zealous prayer warrior!

Carmen said...

A really excellent post! I have 4 grown sons. It took a lot of prayer and tuning in to the Spirit. There were some little rough spots, but we came through them, praise God!

It's hard to know when and how much to say, and when to just keep quiet and be an example. We tried to live our faith in front of them...and when we messed up, we admitted it and told them what we should have done. We were pretty transparent with them.

My boys all went to a secular school. Their friends were and are still always welcome, and sometimes we got their opinions on the things their friends would do. They actually had really good insight...I was surprised at times. That's how I would have probably approached the wiccan thing (while my heart beat outside of my chest)!!

Something tells me you'll do just fine though. You keep yourself informed, and your caution about overreacting shows wisdom. What I thought was also really good, was the fact that your daughter felt comfortable enough with you to share something she knew may not be well accepted. You're approachable. That's a major thing!

I often reminded God (like He needed reminding...probably made Him chuckle) that they were his children first and that I hoped He would clean up my messes with them. He did! There but for the grace of God go I. I sure do love Him!
Thanks for a really informative post!

Julie Gillies said...

So true, Kelli. I know I would have choked on my food if my daughter told me such a story.

I always ask the Lord to give me opportunities to talk about HIM to my kids during the day. He usually takes me up on it. :) And my son read a fantastic book and took a class several years ago called "Understanding the Times", a book on various worldviews. That helped him to understand the various mindsets out there.

Thank God for the power of prayer, right?