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Why I Raise My Children With God
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Please consider this response to "TXBlue08's" recent piece, "Why I Raise my Children Without God." I commend CNN for posting this challenging essay. I do hope, however, that a sound and respectful counter is permitted.
I begin any consideration on the question of God with the realization that we cannot convince men (or women) of the existence or non-existence of God. Let's be honest with ourselves on that point. So, what is the value of the discussion then? Ultimately, it may be little more than a deep need to remind ourselves of what we believe. And it might be an opportunity to encourage those who see things our way - and discourage those who don't. We would do well to remember that there are really smart people who believe in God. There are also some really dumb ones. And vice versa. And as C.S. Lewis reminds us, whether we are atheists or believers - there will be times when we doubt our beliefs, whichever camp we fall in.
One experiences God. You can tell me about what love is or feels like - but it defies an acid test. This is the mystery of faith. Our level of understanding is constantly changing. The fact that we did not understand basic concepts in physics years ago does not mean those laws were not present before our understanding. And yet, many understood perhaps intuitively that there were physical "laws" at work in the universe before we could define them. I suppose for most of us, this is the sense of God we can work with - even if our faith is difficult to nail down. Not to avail ourselves of the power of something we don't completely understand is silly. We avail ourselves of much we don't understand. If we are honest with ourselves, we truly understand very little. Explain electricity. If you are an electrical engineer by chance, explain the neuroscience behind smell. Even in our respective areas of "expertise" there is much we cannot define.
Here are reasons I choose to raise my children in faith:
God is the ultimate parent and role model.
He teaches us to sacrifice for our children. He teaches us not to exasperate them and to lead them up in wisdom and truth. He teaches us that we are responsible for them (not the government or anybody else for that matter). He teaches us that there are boundaries that survive our constantly changing “values.”
What of God and logic?
Having watched innumerable lives changed by the power of faith and the unseen, I have no doubt that the author of logic refuses to be stuffed in a box. If one considers for one moment the possibility that an author of all creation exists - do we really think we can understand this with "logical" certainty? Try explaining quantum physics to your average grade schooler and we might get a sense for what the task would entail. Do tragic things happen which we cannot understand? Without question. But this does not logically eliminate the existence of God. Nowhere has God promised us a bed of roses. There is much that we cannot understand.
It is important that they learn how to pray, not how to simply "ask" for what they think they want.
Prayers and petitions are often misunderstood. How often it is that we pray asking only for what we want. How often it is that we come to God only when we find ourselves in a crack, yet again. Why do certain prayers seem to be answered and others are not? These are questions that defy our answers. It may be that they are answered (or not) in ways we cannot understand. What may look like a yes may be a no. What may be a no, may be an instruction to grow. What we think we are entitled to in physical and spiritual matters should not be the center of our petitions. We have been given a model for prayer. There is not a metric that we can use to measure results we deem "correct," even when we encounter the most painfully tragic events.
God is present with the innocent and the not so innocent.
Depending on where your faith lines up, belief does not equate to "happily ever after." Many who believe suffer tremendously. This is perhaps the best litmus test for true faith - courage in the face of sometimes horrible things. Faith demonstrates an ability to remain resolved in the face of circumstances we don't understand. Read the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Great men and women stand in the gap. The question we might ask is this: how do we shape up?
God is everywhere.
Look about you! The rising of the sun is a reminder that we do not have to live in darkness. We are not required to live in fear. If we seek God, we will find him. He is in the sunset, in the smiles of children, in the love of committed spouses. He is in the healing around tragic losses. When we don't see Him, it is often because we don't want to. It is said that God is a gentleman - He only comes where invited. Perhaps there is great truth in this.
God gives us a path for a life of spiritual peace if we are willing to work for it.
I have yet to meet a faith matured person who is not peaceful. I know plenty of "humanists" (what a comical notion) who's lives resemble the chaos that is within them. When we live a life of "imitation," of truly seeking to bear out love and service - we find peace.
God teaches anything but narcissism.
It is not all about us. God has a plan, and it is a plan of love and service. It may not be a plan which includes riches or fame or a path we picked out ourselves. But if we are submitted to it, God lays at our feet opportunities that always bring more fulfillment than what we'll find when we are out there "finding ourselves" and chasing the shiny things of this world.
When we raise kids without God, we harm them. Things unseen are real. Your love of your child is real. Pain is real. A lack of justice is real. The solution is a deep and abiding faith. But nobody can sell you on this. Much as the alcoholic must "reach a bottom," most of us get to the place where we know we need God. There are many great stories out there on how people get there. They’ll inspire you if you are not yet ready for God. Fear not. He is patient.
God bless us all.
Ryan Barnett is occupationally a lawyer and vocationally a writer on matters of faith. He blogs at www.ryanbarnett.com, and is the author of the forthcoming book, To be or not to be [a lawyer], Everything I wish they'd told me before law school.