My mom had many moments of desperation parenting! As I have.
In my mom’s desperation parenting of me, she completely changed her focus in ways that I did not understand at the time. I only knew that Mom started telling me daily what she was talking to Jesus about and how he was answering those prayers.
My mom’s telling me of her first-person encounters with Jesus nourished my faith.
And it grew!
No one-time moment of conversion followed, but I became a believer by seeing her relationship with Jesus and following in her footsteps.
Many years later, a similarly panicky scenario unfolded for me. Though my daughter had publicly professed her faith in Jesus at a young age, preadolescence brought a crisis of faith.
In childhood she had experienced God’s nearness in profoundly personal ways, which she was no longer experiencing. Because of this change in her experience, she began to seriously doubt the existence of God.
My own panicky-mom time followed. For about six months I agonized and prayed. My husband and I prayed together for her faith continually. I also prayed with her regularly before bed, after asking her how she was doing. These conversations involved her telling me her frustrations with not hearing God’s voice and not being sure he was real. After that, I told her stories of my own and others’ experiences of the seesaws of spiritual journeys. I even told her the story of St. John of the Cross and his “dark night of the soul” experience.
In my desperation parenting nothing seemed to help.
Feeling like a total failure as a mother, I just kept trying. Night after night I prayed with her. She did not pray, but she did not object to my praying with her. But she was used to it, having grown up with nightly family prayer time.
Somewhere during our struggle, I began crying out to God, “Please, Lord! Show her who you are. Don’t leave her in the dark! Show her how real you are. Allow her to see you for you are, as she used to do! This is your beloved child. Do not allow her to wander away from you in her pain. PLEASE show yourself to her!”
At some point, she started telling me she was “doing better,” so we stopped having these conversations. But I kept praying for her.
A year or so later she said to me, “Mom, do you know how I finally knew God was real?”
I was stymied. But I had always wondered.
She explained, “Because when I don’t know what to do, I go to you. And when you don’t know what to do, you go to God.”
A wave of relief and amazement washed over me. God had used me—his broken vessel—to show his power through.
Is God using your experiences of doubting as a child? Or of having a child who doubts? Is there a way you can make that more likely?
As a budding eight-year-old atheist, I traumatized my parents by throwing over Christianity.
Ours was an overtly Christian household, with both parents having the gift of evangelism. And my dad was a pastor. I had definitely believed when younger. But the influence of an excellent third-grade teacher—a strong humanist—changed that completely.
One night after family devotions, I announced to my family, “I don’t think I can believe all that stuff. Mrs. Allen says there is no God. People just created the idea of God as a crutch to lean on. He’s only an idea for weak people.”
My parents were shell-shocked. My dad spent countless hours explaining to me all the proofs of the reality of Jesus Christ. No dice. After months of frustration with my stubborn disbelief, my mom—in her desperation—decided to do the only other thing she could think of.
She began sharing with me daily examples of her prayers to Jesus.
She also shared how he was answering them. Bingo. I don’t remember what she was praying about most days. Certainly things in her kids’ daily lives. Probably about how yucky she felt while pregnant. I know those are the kinds of things she asked me to pray for after I grew up.
One answered prayer stands out hugely though. That day she ran into the house over-the-top excited because her dentist had prayed to receive Christ with her. We all knew she had been praying for him. She knew he had tough stuff in his life, but she also knew she couldn’t take up appointment time to talk about Jesus with him. On the day of her excitement, he had told her that he had purposely scheduled no one after her, so he could ask her more questions.
It turns out he and his new wife were going through a really rough time with their newly blended family—three teen-aged daughters. Mom’s joy had attracted him. He wanted that for his family. Later the whole family became Christians after my parents met with him and his wife together.
That day I saw the reality of Jesus Christ in the power of my mom’s personal relationship with him.
I now see that she had finally resorted to what the disciples did as the first ones to introduce others to Christ. She told me about her daily companion and Lord of her life. I had no moment of sudden realization–simply gradually returning to believing in Jesus Christ. I’m sure my parents wondered for a long time whether my faith was solid or not. I can’t tell you a time either, but I know Jesus spoke through my mom’s uncertain words to me.
I know many parents and grandparents want their children to know Jesus Christ as Lord. But sometimes they’re unsure what to do. They feel they don’t know enough. Or they feel not good enough to be the best examples.
What has nurtured your faith in the most noticeable ways? Is there an eight-year-old atheist or some other child in your life you could share that experience with?