By Ligia Cushman, MA
If I’m being honest this is my favorite time of year. Easter Sunday is a fun time to dress up and celebrate our faith with our dear friends and family. This time of year reminds me that as parents we hold a position of influence, encouragement and counsel for our children. Entire books have been dedicated to children and faith. Books like, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side by Natahsa Crane pointing to the absolute necessity to raise your child in the faith. While others like Simon Worrall illustrates the dangers of vertical proselytizing faith on young children.
So who is right?
For our family, the answer has always lead back to relationship. Webster’s Dictionary tells us that the word relationship simply means “the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected.” I will be the first to tell you that in our home we are not religious. Yet our IG feed may contradict that. We go to church most Sundays, our son enjoys youth group and we serve. Yet I would never describe us as religious. Religion is defined as an organized system of doctrine with an approved pattern of behavior. Sounds fun, right? By its own definition religion has no room for grace or forgiveness. On the other hand, Relationship in faith introduces the notion that we are accepting of God and are close to him on a personal level. In our home we know that religion calls for the practice of rules while relationship calls for advocacy, engagement and love. We chose the latter.
A Mother’s Influence
Mothers in particular have incredible influence over their children. My own mother has guided us in our faith since we were children. Mom is still a fierce woman who believes that with faith we can accomplish anything. Growing up my mom knew something that I was still too young to grasp. She knew that in teaching her children to live a faith based life that in part she was helping to raise the next generation of world changers. She taught us to sacrifice and love through our faith. As we raise our son here are seven ways our faith is creating a world changer.
Seven Ways Faith Creates a World Changer
- Faith must be nurtured. Contrary to popular belief, the church will not be the biggest spiritual influence in the lives of our kids. The best way to nurture your child’s faith is to model it in your own life. Model faithfulness. Model service. Model humility. As parents we fail all the time, but our kids are watching to see if we really believe what we say, and they will know this from the lives we lead. In my blog post “The New South,” I discuss one way that we nurture our son’s faith is by attending a multiracial church where he gets varying human perspectives. Attending our church models that people of faith look different and that is a beautiful thing.
- Faith helps develop gifts. One of the most powerful things a parent can do is to help identify their child’s gifts. Now these gifts aren’t the ones you wish they had. This is about the gifts you see in them right now. The ones they were born with. Take time to speak honestly with your child and let them share their vision with you. Not from a place of pressure but as encouragement. Help them to identify what role their gift plays in their story.
- Faith is what gives hope. I have often shared with our son how faith had given me a sense of peace during the most difficult times in my life. When we talk about his bio mom and where she might be he holds on to faith as his guide that she is ok. He has hope that he will see her again and that hope gets him through tough times. We will not always be there to help our children navigate their stories. Hope can help when we can’t.
- Faith can grow. The first time I saw my son’s faith grow was when he asked to be baptized one Sunday morning. The touching moment reminded me that like anything faith can grow. My hope is that as our son experiences new moments, good or bad, in his life that he understands that growing faith is a life-time process.
- Faith can fail. In Luke 22:32 Jesus says “…but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” Living a faith filled life can be a challenge in a world that has hard terrible news to consume every single day. A major discussion at our house lately is how sometimes our faith can fail. It’s important that as parents we allow our kids to ask the tough questions about faith, be honest about what we don’t know and what it means to be human. This is what grows your child’s worldview and we can help them navigate that. Teaching our child that failing faith is part of the human experience will help develop the man he becoming.
- Faith means to trust. When my son is worried about something we have to talk through it. He can worry about everything from potential storms heading our way to making new friends. He often tells us that “the world is unpredictable.” He is right. It is. What role does faith play in changing this for our son? Lately, our conversations have been geared towards ‘what does it mean to trust?’ What our son is learning now is that his faith and trust go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other.
- Faith results in action. Hebrews chapter 11 talks about the most faithful people in scripture. It begins with, “By faith (an individual) (did a thing).” It wasn’t enough for the author to point out that each of these people HAD faith; the focus was on what that faith actually produced. Our son is learning that through authentic faith he can be a world changer. Just recently after the Parkland, Florida shooting where 17 students and faculty were massacred our son struggled to find his voice. In his prayers every night he asked for a way to serve our community. Through our talks he realized he couldn’t just sit back. This would require action. His heart acted to lead our family to the March for Our Lives march here in town.
Ultimately, I hope to raise a man who is living out his faith in the world. I hope he allows his faith to calibrate his heart, which will lead him to be bold, serve others well and cultivate his purpose.
Recently Ligia was a guest on the Multiracial Family Man Podcast where she discussed her Dominican roots and growing up in New York City. She is married to a White man, and together they have a multiracial son, whom they adopted. Ligia and her family live in the South, where she is an active advocate in the adoption space. Listen as she talks about her Multiracial experience, her views on race and adoption, and how the multiracial experience differs from North to South." To hear her interview click here https://www.ligiacushman.com/blog/2018/3/6/my-first-podcast-interview.