A few days ago, my preschooler asked me what would happen if a tiger bit Jesus. He looked up at me with big, wide eyes and earnestly waited for my response. I could tell he was very concerned and he desperately needed to know the answer to this deep, theological question. A thousand questions popped up in my mind all at once. Should I say Jesus would bite it back? Is an animal capable of recognizing its Creator? Does crushing a snake’s head give evidence that Jesus would kill the tiger?
I was a little bit at a loss to answer this tantalizing hypothetical, until I pulled myself together and thought a little deeper.
My son has nightmares about tigers. He often wakes up crying in the middle of the night and tells me that tigers are going to get him. He also has a little brother who bites, and the most pain he has probably ever experienced in his life came at the hands (or rather, the teeth) of his brother. By knowing my son, I could translate his question to, “What if the scariest thing in the world that can cause the most pain, happened to Jesus?” My son had just asked me, in the way he knew how, if there was a God who was greater than his fears.
I was then able to say, “Jesus is not afraid of tigers. God is even bigger than tigers, and you do not need to be afraid.”
My son looked back at me and said, “No. Jesus would have an ‘owie.’ Bye Mom.” And he ran off to play. Insert face-palm here.
Make Room for Questions
This was the first time I can recall hearing my son ask a question about Jesus. Kids start by memorizing simple truths (ex. Jesus loves them, the Bible is God’s true words). The next step on their spiritual journey to Jesus involves asking questions. The “why” stage can be humbling for us as parents when we find it difficult to answer all the questions that come up. On the flip side, it can be even more discouraging if our kids are not asking questions at all and seem disinterested in spiritual truths all together.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)
Here are three things you can do today to create space in your home for the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of your kids.
1. Tell Your Kids Your Story
Tell your kids why you love Jesus in specific terms and stories. It may feel awkward to bring up—and we all have messy parts of our story that we may need to spare our kids the details—but the incredible story of your reconciliation with God is too great not to tell. The foundation of our faith is built on relationships and truth. When you tell your kids your faith story, you build trust and a firm foundation for them to begin their own faith journey.
2. Create an Environment Where It is Okay to Ask Questions
Questions are a good thing. The number one sign that a child of believing parents has established his own faith is their asking questions. A child who just spouts memorized material has not necessarily accepted it in his or her heart. Encourage kids by asking them what questions they have about God. Ask them what they do not understand. Do not be afraid of not knowing the right answer. You can say, “I’m not sure about that. Let’s open the Bible together and find out.” There are a ton of resources available at the Family Resource Center (http://mercyhillgso.com/familyresourcecenter/) and contact information for the Mercy Hill Kids staff. They would love to equip you with answers to the hard questions kids ask.
3. Grow Together
Once school starts, it can feel impossible to sit down with everyone in your family and do family Bible studies/devotions. Gospel-centered homes can grow together as families with things you are already doing. We have a kids guide at the Mercy Hill Family Resource Center each week that mirrors the community group study guide. When you are waiting in that school pickup line, sitting on the bathroom floor while your preschoolers take a bath, or in the car ride to soccer practice, you can pull up the guide right on your phone and go through a couple questions to create opportunities for gospel conversations. It is a great tool for your family that’s available every week. As you engage with the gospel and grow through community groups, you can transfer it right into your home.
Parenting is daunting, exhausting, and yet full of so much joy. It is such a privilege to get to tell your kids about the amazing Jesus you love.