If you’re friends with me on Facebook, your Newsfeed has been clogged with pictures of my daughter’s college graduation. Oh, what a beautiful weekend we had in New York City celebrating with family and friends. We are so proud of her! After four years in the Bronx, she is now moving on to dental school in the fall. We have now officially graduated two kids from college and have three more to go!
Moments like these always cause me to look back and reflect, to consider where we’ve been and where we are now.
I had all five of my kids together for the celebration (3 20-somethings and 2 teenagers), and I couldn’t help but think of how proud of us I am and how far we’ve all come together related to all things life and faith.
As many of you know, for a chunk of years my kids went to an extremely conservative Christian school. That, combined with a lot of pre-faith-shift stuff in our own journey, deeply affected my older kids’ faith. They can tell their own stories, but a quick summary is that organized religion is not their favorite thing in the world. The baggage has been heavy, but over time I have watched the load lighten.
We have tried to help with that as best we can.
We laugh about some of the crazy stuff they learned in school.
We’ve shed tears that have needed to be shed.
I apologize, whenever it comes up, for the wackiness of those early years and that we did the best we could with what we had at the time.
We’ve worked at becoming safer.
We have tried to celebrate the good of what was (this is important, too) and honor that we just aren’t there anymore.
And each and every time, they always share essentially the same thing–“Mom, we are so glad you changed! Like seriously glad you changed.”
I am so grateful, too, for the wild and crazy Unraveling that we have had and how even though it was disorienting, bloody, painful and hard-to-say-the-least, ultimately it lead us all to a place of greater freedom and hope.
My kids are alright.
Yes, we are Focus on the Family and Growing Kids Gods Way dropouts.
Yes, we are heretics in some people’s minds.
Yes, we are definitely no longer the poster-children for Good Christian Parents.
But I know this–my kids are alright.
Their language is different than I ever expected.
Some of them say things about faith stuff that make even-me flinch a little.
Some are definitely are on the outside of all-things-church and some are participating in ways that are so free and easy and beautiful.
No matter what, when I see each of their hearts and their actions and their passions, I see God.
I see justice.
I see mercy.
I see equality.
I see relationship.
I see what they care about and how passionate they are about it.
Yeah, I see Jesus reflected in them.
They might not call it that, but I certainly do.
It makes me think about Faith Shift and a little portion that’s in the Appendix focused on faith shifts and parenting. One of the biggest reasons people “return” to systems they don’t even believe in anymore is because the nagging soul question in the whole process is “What about the kids?”
It’s so scary to exit all we once knew.
To no longer just-go-to-church.
To not be sure on what to even tell them about certain Bible stories and theological concepts that once rolled off our tongues with certainty.
To be truly confused on what to teach them and what not to (especially the younger ones).
To let go of control but keep living out our own story with as much integrity as possible.
It’s all quite complicated.
I wish there were easy answers, but each family, each kid, each circumstance, each story is so different.
What resonates most with me is to not get caught up in the short story that is usually based on fear and trust the long one instead.
Fear and shame can be such a huge driver behind so much of our faith stories.
As parents, that is what the world, the Christian media, and some churches often prey on. Oh, the times that fear and shame have felt consuming to me as a Christian parent are too numerous to count!
I know it was all part of our story. And trust me, it’s not that those feelings don’t rear their head now. I’m human. I’m a mom. I like to get things “right.”
But I am trying to let go of the unessentials and hold on to just a few important truths:
- God’s got my babies just like God’s got us.
- The whole law is summed up in loving God, our neighbors, and ourselves, and that’s plenty for a lifetime to keep working out.
- And most of all, God is creative. Like, really creative, always at work, in ways that are far more mysterious and beautiful and unexplainable than I could have ever imagined.
Yeah, the language is so different.
There’s so much I don’t know.
For today, I’m just grateful for kids who want to talk about stuff with me. Who like to be together. Who are growing up to be secure and free and strong (and wonderfully flawed and oh-so-human). Who send me links about justice and mercy and faith and politics and John Oliver awesomeness. Who might have forgotten (or in the case of the younger ones, never learned) all kinds of verses in the Bible but sure do know how to love people and each other.
It makes me smile. It fills my heart.
Yeah, the kids are alright.