I want to thank Harold Camping.
Not because I think the May 21st-end-of-the-world pastor offered much useful information to end times conversations, but because he got people talking. Personally, all the hubbub spurred me to have the “S” talk with my kids.
On separate occasions, I talked one-on-one with my 16-year-daughter and 13-year-old son and asked: “If the world ended today, would you go to heaven?”
Both answered, “I don’t know.”
I followed up with, “What do you think you need to do to get into heaven?”
Their responses ranged from “I’m not sure” to “go to church and be a good person” to “believe in God.” Neither of them mentioned Jesus.
Their answers surprised and saddened me, since my kids have grown up going to church, Christian preschool, Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. Back then they were willing and eager faith participants with whom I’d sing Bible songs and teach simple lessons about God.
But as they headed into adolescence, these interactions became fewer. They became less willing to participate in faith conversations so I kept quiet, not wanting to force the issue and push them away. Besides, my husband and I were doing all the “right” things as Christian parents. Our kids go to church every Sunday, participate in youth group and go on mission trips. They see Dan and me leading and attending Bible studies, being involved in prison ministry, and listening to Christian music. We even eat at Chick-fil-A regularly!
But when it came to spiritual teaching, I became a “bring-er” and a “drop off-er,” trusting that youth leaders and teachers would get the job done. And I thought that leading by example would be enough. Sitting at the kitchen table talking with my kids about faith and salvation showed me it hasn’t been enough. While my kids know ABOUT Jesus, they don’t KNOW Him.
Wisdom says: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6, NIV) I believe “the way they should go” is to Jesus, and that knowing Him is the most important thing to discover in life. Therefore, isn’t my most important job as a parent to guide my son and daughter to this discovery and nurture them on their journey?
I am well aware that faith is a personal choice and my children will eventually make their own decisions about Jesus. Certainly seeds have been planted but I want to hedge my bets that they’ll take root and flourish. I want to transition their Sunday School faith to one that can withstand doubt, cynicism, intellect, relativism and all the other –isms that adulthood brings. I want them to rise above the statistics that say over 60% of young adults who attended church in their teens are now “spiritually disengaged” (i.e. not at all involved in church). And I want to introduce them to the Savior I know—the One who offers grace unconditionally and promises life abundantly, eternally.
I confess I don’t have a clear road map on exactly what to do next, but God has filled me with an urgency to be proactive in the spiritual nurturing of my children. To keep the conversations going. To share openly about my own faith struggles. To pray with them. To give them real answers to their tough questions.
I pray for courage to persevere and trust in Jesus’ words: “But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” (Luke 21:14-15)
The other day my already-resistant son asked, “Mom, why are you doing this?”
I replied, “Because I love you. When the end does come I want to make sure we’ll be in heaven together. And I want you to know for yourself how awesome it is to know Jesus.”
The end times will come when God decides. All we can do is get ready for the journey.