It’s probably one of my favorite family pictures of all time. Two little boys, ages 4 and 2, wearing bib overalls, old fashioned caps, and bare feet. One holding a baseball bat, the other holding a baseball. Where did the time go? They look so cute, so much alike, but they couldn’t be more different now. Tommy, the oldest, loves baseball. He’s playing college ball. Tate, the younger, would much rather be holding a fork and a meatball. He could care less about anything sports related. We raised them the same. How could they be so different? It’s just one of the thoughts running through my head, looking at Tate as we drop him off for college.
He’s a good kid. He really is. Smart, funny, kind, good lookin (mostly from his mom). They both are. But so far as I can see, like baseball, Tate shows little interest in our faith. This is the one area where he is like his older brother. It hurts me to think about, let alone put it on paper. Stings a little more that way. Why? Was it something I did? We did? Was it something we didn’t do? It’s something my wife and I have been talking about a lot lately. Especially now that we have 2 of our 4 kids at opposite ends of the country, hours from us, beyond our immediate reach and with limited control.
Sarah and I have been married for 22 years. Faith in Christ has been at the center of our relationship. We love Jesus! What He has done for us is unfathomable. I can’t wait to see Him in heaven, and I want my boys (all my kids) to want the same. We’ve always gone to church. We took the kids to Sunday school and youth group. What happened?!?! Aren’t they supposed to be youth pastors, on their way to seminary, with half the Bible memorized by now? I’m joking, but only a little.
It’s really been on my mind. World events aren’t helping. We are desperate for a sign. Anything. Something that shows any hint that the kids care about the most important thing ever before it’s too late. The more we try to talk with the older boys about it the more we are met with resistance. Not anger really, just apathy. They don’t seem to care.
“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (KJV). I replay that verse over and over in my head. I even recite it when Sarah and I talk about the kids. I hold on to it as tightly as I can and remember my own journey. I wasn’t half as “good” as my own kids at their age.
I went to a strict Baptist church and Baptist school. Sunday morning. Sunday night. Wednesday night. If the doors were open we were there. In some ways it was ok. But, when I was a teen and heading to college, I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Towards the end of high school, I was a partier. Girls, booze, music, partying; if they preached against it, I did it. My parents saw it. Fought me on it. To the point of pushing me away from anything having to do with church. I wasn’t going to do that to my kids.
So we were much less “strict”. We went to a different church. We tried to live it out, not hammer it out. But did we do the right thing? I try to get a sense of that now when I talk to my kids. I’m a little more bold in conversation with them now. I think they can handle a man to man talk. If there is one thing to take away from this it’s do that more. Don’t be afraid to be direct. They do respond… sort of. Talk openly about faith. Plant the seeds!
I pray like crazy now. I recite that verse (Proverbs 22:6) over and over in my head. I pray it proves true for my kids. It did for me. After college, I moved away from home. In a long phone conversation, my mom told me to find a church. Believe it or not I did. That’s where I met my wife. We made those beautiful boys in that picture, which is on my dresser to this day. We also have another son and a daughter. I realize now my kids’ faith is their decision. God loves them more than I possibly could and He wants their love too. But as I reflect, I realize I should not have parented as a reaction to my own parent’s failures.
So learn from my mistakes. Don’t be afraid to have the conversations that you need to have. I see now I fought many of the wrong battles. I let the wrong things go and fought the stupid things. So talk to them. Have the hard conversations. And place your hope in God, not in them for their courses in life. I have to do that now because all illusions of my control have been stripped from my hands. I know that the final chapter of my children’s stories have not been written and God is true. So we pray, and wait; and have the conversations with them now that we should have had many years ago.