The Bonding of Souls: Passing on a Common Faith
- Thursday, July 28, 2005
I always find it funny when a young girl wears her mother’s clothes or shoes. In the country church where I pastor, there are two teenage girls who consistently wear something I saw on their mother recently: jewelry, shoes, or some accessory. I knew of one young lady who feels such confidence in her mother’s modest taste of clothes they share each other’s entire wardrobes.
Young ladies are not the only culprits when it comes to borrowing their parents’ clothes. Recently, I preached a funeral for a family who needed some additional pallbearers. I asked Drew, my teenage son, to help out -- figuring that his 6’, 180lb frame would be adequately equipped for the job. When he emerged from my bedroom wearing my most expensive suit, I realized that it was happening to me too.
I am thankful, though, that my children and I continue to have more things in common as time passes (even clothes). As a parent, you look forward to the day your children will share interest in your talents, gifts, and hobbies. After all, they are your flesh and bone, and they should automatically inherit some of the same interests you have... shouldn’t they? You bet!
One evening, while my wife was at a Ladies Missionary Fellowship meeting, I organized a family activity I thought would burn a minimal amount of energy: Art! I gathered up about 20 sheets of paper and a plastic shoebox full of colored pencils while my five-year-old daughter collected magic markers from various “hiding places” around the house. Within minutes our dining room table was accommodating four aspiring artists: Meghan, Ethan (my six-year-old son), Aidan (my eight-year-old son) and me (the 40-something daddy).
After seeking some inspiration in a few Ideals magazines, I resurrected my long-forgotten artistic skills to sketch a weathered old barn resting on a rock foundation. Not too bad, I thought as I colored my thumbnail sketch. Those painting lessons my parents financed for me back in the summer of 1974 really did pay off. I bet I could make good money as an artist. Just then, my fifteen-year-old walked into the room
“Hey Dad, what’s that?”
“Oh...Uhhh, nothing, I’m just grading Meghan’s art paper...” (shuffle, shuffle).
“Da-ad, did you draw that?” (enter: Dane my thirteen year old son).
“Uh, yep, you guessed it,” I replied with waning confidence.
“Cool barn! What’s that junk behind it?”
“I don’t know, Dane. I thought it would resemble a tree with enough wax build-up.”
I thought I saw my two teenagers roll their eyes and wink at each other...what do they know about quality art?
Soon it was time to get the three little ones off to bed. It was then I discovered that while me and my older sons were talking about childish things, my understudies were creating complete portfolios. Aidan drew several landscapes -- one of Mt. Calvary with its three lonely crosses. Ethan produced one detailed pencil sketch of two American fighter planes bombing four United States Army tanks (do we need to talk about this?). Meghan, my sweet princess, drew, colored, and markered in mass-production. Her works were the most avant-garde designs I’ve ever seen. Suddenly, Picasso made sense to me.
What surprised me more than the artwork was the realization that, through their art, each child demonstrated an interest in something that either my wife Jennifer or I love.
In a variety of ways our passions and talents are becoming a common bond -- a source of mutual communion. I began to ponder all the things my wife and I enjoy doing; Jenny enjoys, singing, sewing, baking, quilting, scrap-booking, gardening, game playing, and puzzle building. I like sketching, riding horses, playing my cello, writing, and hiking. Together, we both enjoy playing piano, cooking, reading, camping and serving the Lord. Each of our children possess some of those talents, gifts, but in varying quantities and forms. I don’t really know if it’s “in the genes” or not, but God has given us a wonderful ability to connect with each of our children in a positive, non-competitive way. What an immense joy.
My eyes opened that night at the dining room table when God brought four obscure artists together. But I also realize the true beauty of parenting goes even deeper. When I was born-again, I was given something that could produce a more powerful bond than mere genetics, earthly talents or gifts: the ability to share my faith in Christ.
Indeed, my greatest thrill as a pastor and a parent is watching each child advance in their relationships with the Lord. Slowly but surely, we observe them owning the faith of their parents. For the youngest ones, it may only show up in bedtime prayers, Bible stories and Veggie Tales songs, but for the older ones it comes through in impromptu discussions about death, events in the news, or the nature of man. Little by little, faith takes root and Christ forms in them. One principle at a time, the Scripture is being tested and incorporated into their hearts. And they are finding – just as their mother and I have -- that God truly is sufficient for all their needs.
How can you be sure your children will follow in those same footsteps? In commissioning His followers to walk by faith, abide in Him, and become examples of believers in word and deed, Jesus knew the most convincing sermon was a changed, faith-filled life. If Christ looks so good shining through you, your children will want to share in the experience. This is why it’s so important to pursue your own faith with all your heart as you parent your children.
You may share clothes, musical interests or hobbies with your kids – or you may not. But the greatest joy will be in seeing your children share in your faith, just as I share my father’s faith, and knowing that a common spiritual inheritance surpasses any earthly fellowship known to mortal man. Perhaps this is what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13, italics mine).
Parents, dream of all the potential gifts and talents you can have in common with your children. Notice when they “catch your vision.” Take advantage of the times they show personal interest in your life and slowly build on those areas. Thank God for the little gifts of familial bonding He has blessed your family with.
As they gain interest in spiritual things, encourage them to seek the Lord in their own prayer life and Bible reading. Let them hear how God has answered your prayers, delivered you from harm, healed your hurts, provided for your needs, opened doors of testimony, and brought good out of an ugly situation. These are the things which inspire your children to courageously step out in faith for themselves. Before long that bond of righteousness will knit your souls together in a way that makes all other common ground even more precious.
“That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:21-23).
Ah, the bonding of souls! How convincing, evangelizing, and indescribably wonderful!
Pastor Timothy Palla resides in southern Ohio with his lovely wife Jennifer and their five children; Drew, Dane, Aidan, Ethan, and Meghan. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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