I love Tim’s comment from a few weeks ago, “if we as parents had no spiritual expectations for our children life would be easier.” Not only would it be easier, it would be truer, and better for them, as well. And this goes way beyond parents and kids; it’s true for all our relationships in the body of Christ. Spiritual expectations almost always end up in spiritual manipulations. We have expectations; we try and skew reality to meet them. In the worst cases it can turn into spiritual abuse.
That’s what Tim went on to write about in relation to his own kids. “I believe the biggest mistake in parenting I ever made was using my children as evangelical tools while being oblivious to the actual spiritual needs of theirs. I assumed they would just follow our footsteps. The kids we reached out to by using our children weren’t worth the spiritual loss of my own [kids].” Tim admitting to using his children as spiritual cases-in-point was tantamount to abuse and cost them their own faith. I’ve seen it time and time again in Christian colleges. Kids who were forced into a show of faith, throw that faith off at the first opportunity. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are lost forever, they just have to start all over again, finding God and faith on their own terms — something they should have been encouraged to do all along.
I was so guilty of this with my own kids. I would take them with me on retreats or speaking engagements and they would embarrass me with their non-evangelical ways (I have their mother to thank for that). So I finally stopped taking them. What does that say about my relationship to them? That their reflection on my reputation was more important than my relationship with them. As long as they conformed to my own expectations of them, I didn’t care what was really going on inside their hearts and minds.
All of this to say, we’ve got to let each person develop in their own way. Remove spiritual expectations and just love people. Ask questions, encourage their own process. Faith is nothing you can force. Faith comes from within and it is born of God. You can’t do a thing about it anyway. You can’t create it for someone. You can create an environment for it to grow; you can ask leading questions; you can encourage all points of view; but you can’t create faith. You can only feed it where you find it.