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The God Of My Children

by Alex Iwashyna

in Christianity, God (spirituality and religion)

BrokenTree

My daughter: Oh no. The tree broke!

My son: Don’t worry, N. It’s okay. God takes care of all the broken things.


These moments fill my heart with assurance that God is as much an experience as an idea to be discussed, but I have rested too long on those alone.

When we left our church in the summer of 2010, formal homeschooling had been the plan, but it never materialized. After a year without a church home, we began looking for another church instead. The idea of giving our children religion on our own was overwhelming.

But the more I spoke to people about their churches, the less I thought we could belong to another church. I could either attend a church with the fellowship and music and excitement for God I craved and spend an hour afterwards un-teaching my children about sins and intolerance, or I could attend a church aligned in my values but without throngs of young families singing and clapping along to Christian rock.

(The music may seem like a minor issue, but I feel closer to God in “Our God is an Awesome God” than listening to any sermon.)

I gave up the idea of a church home.

Scott and I continued to be examples of faith, but we did these things when our children were either asleep or playing. We were Faith by Osmosis, and while those moments of trust in the goodness of God were apparent in our children, they also began to be taught by others and their own misunderstandings.

“I know what’s bigger than infinity. God.”
“Where does God live?”
“There are no toys when we die.”
“Your feet are in a prison. A prison stronger than God.”
“Boys can only marry girls.”

I answered questions and comments the best I could, but I became uncomfortable with no formalized time for my children to grow closer to God, and while I don’t believe God needs us to give Him attention, I believe those with faith need formal time to learn what is truly important, remember who we want to be, and let go of the trappings of prestige and material pursuits.

I have always been drawn to Christianity no matter how much I struggle with the more vocal and literal contingent, and perhaps because the conservative movement seems to think it speaks for all Christians and the liberal movement is beset by eye-rolling at religion, it is vital, for Christianity as a whole, that liberal Christians don’t hand over our religion because we aren’t worried our children will go to hell.

I don’t read “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6) as narrow. I don’t think Jesus believed he was the ONLY way or his way would be defined by his name. My children are welcomed to practice any religion they want or even to leave formal religion. I would be disheartened if they became atheists for more than a few years because my relationship with God has changed my life in profound ways and I wish that comfort and steadfastness for my children. I feel grounded, capable and willing to love more than I did as an atheist although I would not be offended by their decision to renounce God.

However, we have to start somewhere. Armed with who we are and what we believe, my husband and I found a curriculum, Joyful Path, from The Center for Progressive Christianity, and are preparing lessons each week. We also plan on visiting churches and other places of worship as well as teaching about non-Christian religions as we find people who are willing to host us for a week or two.

I’ve never wanted to home-school in anything, but I have so much to learn and say about God from doctrine, from my experience and from my heart. If we don’t make time for our faith, who will?

Photo disclosure: I didn’t get a chance
to snap a photo of the tree my kids
remarked on, but that tree is similar.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Itsadomelife March 15, 2012 1

What a really great post. I’ve struggled with religion and God most of my adult life. My parents had their beliefs, but never really shared them with my sister and I. They decided we should come to our own conclusions about God and religion with as little interference from them as possible. That sounds good in theory, but it has been a little difficult for us because we never really have any starting point to spring from or to develop from (or even to reject from). Now that I have my own child I am considering how to approach her spiritual education. It’s nice to know there are people out there thinking about this as much as I am. Thanks for writing this.

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Rob R March 15, 2012 2

We have an interfaith home with me being mostly non-Jewish and my wife being more into the church stuff. I go along with what she wants simply because it’s easier and I dare say I enjoy some of the Christan rock, though as I tell my wife, I only listen to the melody, not the actual words.

My 5 year old has gotten really into God of late and has started a sudden obsession with saying Grace before every meal, including second dessert. This was totally unpromted by my wife, but nonetheless she likes that he feels like there is something bigger than him, despite the fact that he will usually do something selfish 5 minutes later.

Kids are kids.

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LB March 15, 2012 3

Yes, go to church — ones that, for now, fit in however loosely with your own values. I do not think we are called to be solitary Christians; we are called to be a community of believers. It is frustratingly difficult much of the time, but it is how love grows. Later, your children will know that door is open to them if they choose it.

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Katie March 15, 2012 4

You know we are in the same place as you on this. And I think it’s great that you keep working to bring God to your children despite how hard it is to find a church that is accepting as you (we) believe. How sad is that? It’s hard to find an accepting church.

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Michele March 15, 2012 5

We recently moved to a new community and have struggled as well to find a faith community where we “fit.” I come from the other side – the very churched with a strong evangelical background, only to turn more liberal. Now it’s more uncomfortable to sit through poor exegesis of scripture because someone wants to make more than a spiritual point. And I become sad.
But I trudge on, each Sunday, because I need the community of people who believe as much as I need belief. I need folk who remind me that I’m not right all the time (despite what I tell my husband). I need people who struggle and sin and seek forgiveness and deal with me while I do the same. And good churches have people who are honestly and earnestly doing that.
I wish more churches of America were pictures of the Revelation scene, where the diversity and differences are neither celebrated nor condoned but rather all emphasis was given to the reason we gather in the first place.
BTW, have you ever read any Lauren Winner? I think Girl Meets God might be up your alley. If nothing else, she’s a fantastic writer.

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Late Enough March 16, 2012 6

I haven’t read her, but I’m adding her to my goodreads list right now. Thanks!

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Racheal March 16, 2012 7

I’m so glad you wrote this post! We’ve been struggling with this — we want a church family for our kids but honestly I’m really tired of trying on churches. Will check out the “homeschool” idea – love that. xo

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Late Enough March 16, 2012 8

The curriculum has been great so far (it’s cheaper for an individual than the cost listed on the page I linked to).

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Vicki O'Neal March 16, 2012 9

We have shared your dilemma through the years and I am amazed to say we found a church home. Never thought I would say that. It’s Unity Christ Churc, Bon Air, VA. They have a very positive and inclusive opening statement- “We honor every path to God, every name for God, every lifestyle, every creed. God expresses equally on every path, etc.” A very diverse mix and a bit unconventional but so am I, lol!

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Late Enough March 16, 2012 10

That’s great to know. Thanks Vicki!

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AmyW March 16, 2012 11

Hi Alex,
If I attempted to describe this beautiful book I’m reading to you there is no way I could do it justice. Its called “A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love In Scripture” by Scott Hahn (A Catholic apologist, but all-around brilliant theologist who is very readable). The verse from John should be taken literally by Christians, but it must be understood in the greater context of Salvation history (which is what Hahn describes beginning with Genesis) and it makes sense and is truly beautiful. OK screaming kids…have to make dinner…brain shutting down…

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AmyW March 16, 2012 12

OK one other thought while i’m burning grilled cheese sandwiches. My point was that the Bible consistently describes our relationship with God as being familial. He is our Father in heaven and we are his children who he wants to be with him for eternity. This relationship is difficult as we all know :) Judiasm and Christianity share this similar view as it is present in new and old testaments. There is so much to attempt to understand or define for oursevles it makes my brain spin. Where to even start?

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Marinka March 18, 2012 13

I’m not a religious person and I love this post. I think we all struggle to share our beliefs with our children and I think it’s so great that you are doing what is best for your children.

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Caroline March 20, 2012 14

I am new to your blog but love you already, especially when it comes to religion! We don’t have kids yet, but I feel like my husband and I will eventually be in the same predicament you’re in now. Although I would be angry for anyone to call me an atheist, I also don’t completely align with the Christian religion due to the fact that I don’t feel it’s the ONLY way to God, and also due to my disagreements with the more conservative members of the church. And yet that strong church community is something I feel like I’m missing. Thanks for your honest posts, they make me feel like I’m not the only one :)

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Late Enough March 20, 2012 15

Thank you. Your comment makes me feel like I’m not alone either.

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