We Never Really Understand Our Faith Until We Have Children
I always thought I was a pretty faithful person. And, I'm sure I was, ... but then something changed.
I had children. And through this process of parenthood, I have since grown more in my faith, or at least in my understanding of it, than I could ever imagine.
If you know me, if you know my history, this is a bit of a shock. I have always been active in church. For as long as I can remember I was the "church kid". I read my bible, had perfect attendance at Sunday School, sang in the choir. When I was a senior in high school I was selected to be a small group leader at the National Episcopal Youth Event in Terre Haute, IN. I went on, afterwards to college, was active in my Canterbury group, and by my collegiate end, had already begun a career in youth ministry. I KNEW my faith. There was no way around it. I was well educated in it, and I had a true belief and understanding of Christianity. For heaven's sake, I was responsible for the Christian education of literally hundreds of youth over the years.
So, how can I say that I didn't really KNOW my faith in the way it would have appeared that I did? How? Well, because, apparently, the adage is true, "You don't know what you truly believe, until you teach it to your children." 10 years ago, I would have taken that phrase with a grain of salt. Today, I firmly believe it.
My children amaze me. Their faith, blind and simple as it may be, astounds me. I only wish that I could harness an iota of what they hold so firmly in terms of faith. My oldest reminds me when it is time to say the Angelus. My youngest recently found his brother's "Children's Bible" and in the course of the last month is through the Old Testament and into the Gospels. I would never had read that much as a child. Let alone, read the Bible that much! These two boys teach me things about love, God, humility, confession, intercession, and more, to the point that I could never list it all. But that's not even the greatest lesson that they have taught me.
The greatest lesson that they have taught me, is through the lessons that I have taught them. To ask, to delve, to question, and to absorb all that I can about God. You see, in the true nature of "little humans", they question everything. And in the true nature of a parent, I try, and fail, and try again to answer their questions.
And, every time that I try to explain something about the Catholic faith to them I realize more about it that I had not, myself, yet thought about. Its one thing to be knowledgeable about our faith. That is a great start. In my world, as a catechist, teacher, youth minister, pastoral assistant, I have had to step outside of my own understanding of Jesus and speak it in other words, to help others understand. But the real test, the true litmus of how much the teacher believes what he is teaching, is when it is taught to the little children whom God has put directly in his or her care. I don't know if I can even adequately put this into words, but I look at it like this: What I believe about God, is MY belief. When I catechize another, it can become their belief, and that is completely THEIR choice. BUT, when I teach my own children, it better be absolutely beyond reproach, because at their tender ages it is 100% MY RESPONSIBILITY. They can't go home from CCD or Sunday School and have Dad or Mom correct them. Because I am that person. The buck stops here, so I better get it right!
So, when I teach my kids about God. Or better yet, when I answer the millions of questions they throw at me about him, it makes me stop for a moment, to reflect a little (or a lot) more heavily before answering, and many times it causes me to afterwards say to myself "Wow! I really do believe that. I just never thought about it before."
Because of my boys, I have thought, and re-thought, examined and re-examined my belief in God, the Church, the Sacraments, human nature, sin, repentance, forgiveness, dogma, doctrine, and more.
Why them, over anybody else? Because the burden of saying it right, teaching it clearly, witnessing to it in life, and continuing that walk for their sake is ALL ON ME.
But, why should it stop there? Well, frankly, it shouldn't, The burden to know our faith, teach it, live it and persevere in it, should extend to our daily lives, in front of everyone we meet, no matter what, always and everywhere.
Do you share what you say you believe? Do you live what you say you believe? Do you REALLY put the burden of your witness to another human being on your own back? Is your witness to it as important to you as it would be if everyone watching was your own child? What if your example of the faith was the only one that each person you met would ever see? Would it be strong convincing enough to bring them to Christ?
We have all been told to live our faith, share our faith, bear witness to our faith, yada, yada. Its old news. But during this Lenten Season, try a new mantra.
Live, share, and bear witness to your faith at all times and in all places, as if your very own children were watching and listening at every moment. And then step back and notice the impact that it has on your own faith.