Sunday, February 15, 2009

In the way that she should go

"I don't like Church."

As a Christian and a dad, this wasn't the sort of testimony I wanted to hear a child of mine make. But the dreaded words shot from the mouth of my daughter, Cadence and pierced my heart a couple Sundays ago. I was slightly devastated. Okay, maybe a little more than slightly.

It was a protest Cadence was making to her mom's instruction to ready herself for Church. It took me a while to put things into perspective and admit to myself that it wasn’t the end of the world. Initially, all I could think was that we somehow failed as Christian parents. Our daughter was lost in rebellion against God at age five. Woe was me. But I was wise enough not to confront her about the statement that morning. My wife, patient as usual, corralled the child into her room and into an outfit and off to Church we went.

The statement stayed with me for a while and this morning I was especially reminded of the supposed admission of distaste. I was walking up the steps with Cadence when I informed her that it was time to find something to wear and hit the shower so we can get to service in good time. "Awe," she groaned at the news. I couldn't stifle my reaction. "Hey!" I snapped. She went silent and proceeded to her room to pick out an outfit with the most somber of countenance.

Minutes later, she returned to me with her choice of pink sweater and skirt. But while she was in her room, I was taking a moment to consider her feelings—and my reaction. I decided that it would be a good idea to make an admission of my own.

I told her that there are honestly times when I don't want to go to Church (imagine that). I told her that, at times, I'd rather stay home, watch movies, play videogames and try to scrape some self-time together before returning to work on Monday. I let her understand that I empathized with her feelings this morning.

"But," I continued, "it's important that we do go to Church just as it is important that we get out of our warm, comfy beds and go to school and work." It was an inference that I didn't imagine having to draw for her for another seven or eight years when she might legitimately have a few conflicts of interest in the practice of Sunday worship at Church. But here I was with my five-year-old discussing the sacrificial choice we sometimes have to make of the things we want to do for the things we need to do for the nourishment of our faith.

I didn’t get theological on her though. Instead, through a few simple questions, I brought to her attention that which I have observed of her countless times at Church; she has a great time, every time. I reminded her that she's always glad she went to service. That she always enjoys the singing, playing, laughing and learning she experiences with her friends and the children's ministry staff. Remembering theses facts, the idea of leaving the comforts of home didn't seem so tough and we proceeded to get ready, this time with a rather lifted countenance.

So essentially, I had to relax, relate and release some honest, empathetic feelings to help my (expediently) maturing daughter stay on track with the principals we've always tried to instill. As Christian parents, we decided a long time ago to let one proverb serve as the core of our brand of parenting: Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it (Prov. 22:6).

I understand now that success of the 'training' requires empathy and transparency from the trainer.

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