I really . . . honestly . . . did not give much thought to the opinions of my children (who actually were future children at the time) when I decided I was hearing God call me to be a pastor. It has only been recently, actually, that I’ve pondered-often-the effect my profession has or will have on my kids. I think about this particularly with reference to the individual, personal faiths of each of my kids.
I mean, how ironic would it be for me to spend my life nurturing the faith of so many and yet somehow miss the careful cultivation of my children’s faiths?
The problem I have found is that, while I am offered the role of pastor in the lives of some, I will never be pastor to my own kids. Aside from the fact that they call me Mom (and sometimes other things) but never Pastor Amy as many others do, really . . . they know too much. They see me at my worst; they know my biggest faults; they have no illusions at all that I am perfect or even deeply spiritual as I suppose some other people might. There’s no danger of them mistaking me with God, but I do worry that they associate God with me-the real me they know more than everybody else.
And, while I struggle to keep becoming-if excruciatingly slowly-a me that more accurately reflects the image of God, I always worry that associating the current me with any kind of impression of the Divine might be, shall we say, damaging to the fragile spiritual development of a little life.
I’m just saying.
The irony of all of this, of course, is that there are perhaps no other people in the whole entire world for whom I would want very desperately a life of vital faith more than my three kids. For me, faith is the force that grounds a human life; Jesus has saved me in more ways than one. I could never live a life devoid of faith . . . and the more of human life I see and experience, the more I desperately don’t want lives devoid of faith for them, either.
I think Henri Nouwen said it well in the book our small group is reading for Lent, Letters to Marc About Jesus: “Living spiritually is more than living physically, intellectually, or emotionally. It embraces all that, but it is larger, deeper, and wider . . . . The spiritual life has to do with the heart of existence.” (p.5)
Of course, wanting something desperately and managing to manufacture it are two different things-and, in fact, I do know that I cannot manufacture anything spiritual in anyone-but I often wonder what I can do to help my children set out on their own journeys to find God.
Most times I end up concluding that I don’t know there’s anything other than to keep seeking myself.
The other night, in fact, I invited Hayden (age 14 almost 15) to join me at Lenten small group. To my everlasting surprise he came. And participated, in what I thought was a fairly thoughtful way. The next morning when I woke up I encountered him on the couch, nose buried in our Lenten devotional book. There was, perhaps, great wisdom in not allowing Hayden to see the hot tears that sprang to my eyes when I observed this, but there they were: tears of deep gratitude for a faith community filled with adults who shepherd my kids in their spiritual development and tears of relief in the assurance that God loves them even more than I do.
I don’t know the answer to all of this, obviously. But I am starting to think, and even pray, that maybe in our shared life together just a little piece of my own longing for God might chip off and plant itself very deeply in the tender little hearts of my kids, so that no matter where they wander they will always be able to find their way back to the God who created them good and who will pursue them until they are able to live that truth with every part of who they are.