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How Do I Justify Suffering To My Children When They Are Suffering?

048_editChristians often ask “Why does God allow so much evil in the world?” and “Why do good people suffer?” There are some pretty good resources out there that attempt to answer these questions and defend God’s creation. I like the book “Letters From A Skeptic” by Gregory and Edward Boyd for tackling these heavy issues. But as a parent I have to break it down for my children.

First of all I think it is better to have faith and be part of a church than to face this world on your own with the attitude that there is no higher power out there caring for your existence. Raising children in a church gives them community and an extended network of multi-generations who care about them. So I am committed to a Christian faith even when I can’t make sense of it.

I enjoyed the book “Miracles From Heaven” by Christy Beam because it detailed the suffering of a child and her mother through a medical battlefield. (A link to the story from the Children’s Hospital’s Point of view.) I absolutely could relate to the experience of visiting countless specialists and being condescended to by highly credentialed doctors. (A blogger discusses the story.) My son suffers with his own illness that puzzles doctors. I won’t go into detail about it because I don’t want to put his business on the world wide web. Some day he will grow up and want his privacy. But if you are a parent with a child who knows his or her way around the maze of a Children’s Hospital, send me a personal message and I will respond. I have learned a lot since I met the first specialist within days of his birth and he is ten now.

Siblings are preoccupied with fairness on the level of your-chocolate-chip-cookie-has-more-chips-than-mine. There is no way to tell children that God is fair when one child is chronically ill and the other is perfectly healthy. Some theologians tell you that God will be fair in the end of it all. That’s fine, but… well have you ever tried to explain to a jealous sibling that his birthday comes next week?

At Sunday School my children are taught to ask God for what they need and trust in the Lord to answer their prayers. In “Miracles From Heaven” a family’s prayers were answered in a way that absolutely makes no sense. (Link to the author’s Facebook page.) We pray when the odds are against us more than 100 to 1 (see Larry Jent’s blog). Still my children wait, as do many Christians, with child-like faith for their prayers to be answered.

Surprisingly my children have never asked me “Why does God…?” Maybe it hasn’t occurred to them to question the way of things because their Dad and I seem so confident and sure of our faith. Our trust in the Lord is undoubted so they can take that for granted. But when they do ask me, I will tell them this:

First of all, no one knows all the answers to all the questions we could think of, but that is okay. We don’t have to understand everything to accept it the way it is. We don’t even have to like it. I have a lot of questions that I would like God to answer and I have some complaints too. But when you suffer, I suffer because I love you so much and I can’t fix everything for you. I believe God feels like I do. God loves you a lot and is sad about not being able to make everything better for you.

Knowing how kids are I will probably repeat that message to their satisfaction dozens of times before they reach their teens. Then we will have deep, theological discussions. Some days they will be satisfied by my ideas and other days they won’t. Then I will be very glad to have a community of faithful people loving and praying for our family.

Agnes Raises a Good Question

How far would you go to make your children happy? Would you buy them everything they want if you could? Would you let them do anything they want so long as it is safe? Would you forfeit your own dreams or aspirations for them? Some people would turn to the Bible for answers to this question. Some say the Bible tells us everything we need to know to live. Continue reading “Agnes Raises a Good Question”

Let’s Humble Ourselves About Our Parenting Triumphs and Tribulations

Before I had children I knew everything about parenting. My husband and I would observe families with children and make lists of behaviors our children would never exhibit. We thought parenting was scientific. We believed. If we train them in the way they should behave then they will not depart from it. I didn’t recognize how critical and judgmental I was. It was just plain stupid of me to think that I could actually control how my children grow up. Continue reading “Let’s Humble Ourselves About Our Parenting Triumphs and Tribulations”

Liberal Christians Are Not Exempt From Being Kind

Christians are supposed to be kind to others. Everyone! I teach my children what I believe. I want them to believe: It is OK to put your foot down when someone tries to take advantage of you. Still, treat everyone with dignity and respect. This is the art of diplomacy. I don’t expect my children to be masterful, but I do insist they practice it. Continue reading “Liberal Christians Are Not Exempt From Being Kind”

Does a Wife Have to Obey Her Husband?

Before obeying, read with discernment
Before obeying, read with discernment

Nope! As a Liberal Christian I believe that the Bible is subject to historical and contextual interpretations. I like the explanation that Wikipedia provides of Liberal Christianity. And it is a good thing I am a liberal because this is what the Bible says on obedient wives:

 

Wives submit to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now  as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Continue reading “Does a Wife Have to Obey Her Husband?”

Gentle Parenting

Parenting seems to be twisted up with Christianity in some strange ways. There is a certain logic to the notion that God is our heavenly parent, just as we are parents; therefore our relationship with our children should reflect our relationship with our Lord. This is a great metaphor, but it is just a metaphor. We cannot literally take on a divine role with our children. Continue reading “Gentle Parenting”