March 10, 2015

Raising Christian thinkers - When kids ask the big questions

I have never been the type who likes simple answers.  I tend to think, if it seems simple, you're not looking closely enough.

I get nervous around people who:
  • have many very strong opinions
  • are certain about most things
  • don't ever admit to being wrong
  • never say "I don't know"
  • can sum up their thoughts on a subject with a bumper sticker
There are a lot of things I believe in, but many of those are "best guesses for now."  In the park of my worldview, there's almost no place to sit because I keep re-painting the benches.  

It sounds all romantic and open-minded until your own offspring start asking you big questions about the truths of life.  They want to understand why we go to church, and specifically why the kind of church we attend. They want to know what I think about world events, politics, social issues, etc.  Of course they do.  And when it's possible, I give the closest thing to a concrete answer I can give.  It usually starts with, "Well, I believe that..." and includes "but there are other really smart people who think differently." 

The stakes were raised when they became two-household kids.  When their birth mother and I divorced and both remarried, the families they were seeing on a weekly basis looked very different.  One house featured very conservative / Southern Baptist / traditional-Southern values, while the other held a progressive / not-so-Southern-Baptist worldview.  I imagine it was difficult for them to reconcile that both families could be "okay" or "doing it right".  My boys, especially my oldest, would ask questions trying to pit our views and behaviors against each other, trying to figure out which way he should behave.  But I have been careful not to take the bait.  I want them to understand there is room for wildly different approaches to faith and life within God's universe; that they don't have to choose which of us is "doing it right."  It's tempting to toss in the occasional "well, I prefer to do it this way..." or "well, I don't like that because..."  But they know what I believe from my choices.  

I could write them out a list of core beliefs of my faith and approach to life, but it's MORE important to me that they approach life as thinkers, testing worldviews against what they know to be true and against their experience in life. Test a person's beliefs against that person's actions.  Does it work? I often disagree with their birth mom's way of doing things, but if I bad-mouthed her or her ways,  they'd be right to dismiss my worldview as hypocritical.  If I can't show grace and tolerance, (which are at the heart of my worldview) why should they accept any of my ideas? They shouldn't.  

I guess what I MOST want to teach my boys is a posture.  A posture of humility, of thoughtfulness, and of compassion toward those who are different than us in their beliefs or actions.  

I'm sure they are frustrated when I don't give them the straightest answers on major issues, but I honestly believe that encouraging them to think and love their way toward truth will be immensely more valuable than to give them a platform of doctrines.  

They're entering their teen years now.  Come back in 8-10 years, I'll let you know how it worked out.  

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