I grew up in a Christian home, and as such I learned fairly early about what it meant to have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. What I semi-consciously struggled with, all the way into adulthood in fact, was the idea of having a “relationship” with God. It wasn’t so acute that I thought to even ask anyone what it meant, but I’m not sure anyone could have helped. After all, a relationship is one you experience by definition, not something you get intellectually. Now as a parent, a parent who is part counselor (I had a family practice when we lived in the US, and now I train counselors in Russia), part spiritual director, and part practical theologian, I feel like I have all these great tools and understanding that I want to pass on to my kids. Problem is, just as it was for me, I can’t give them a relationship with God. I can only point the way. And point I do. A lot. And yet with my oldest child at 15 and the next at 12 as of the beginning of writing, I’m not seeing the fruit I want to see in terms of a living relationship with their Savior. I’ve decided to write a book to help bridge that gap. This time I want to give them a path to interact with the Word directly, not just through my teaching them about that Word.
My purpose in writing this workbook is to give teens with a basic background and background of Bible knowledge new tools, concepts, categories, and ways to grapple with and practice experiencing and building a tangible relationship with the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) in such a way that consciously engages their own spirit, soul, and body to make it personal and real. I aim to do so through significant engagement with the Bible, prayer, written exercises, journaling, and interactions with peers and family.
I’m writing it for my two eldest, Lydia and Kerith, but I’ve decided to open it up to participation by others, and I already have several takers. Write me if you’d like to take a look at the outline.
6 thoughts on “My new writing project for teens”
Given the natural tendency of adolescents for independence in both thought and actions, aren’t you concerned that handing your kids a guide book is a sure way to have them not follow that path? Besides, remember Proverbs 22:6 and trust your children to seek out truth and knowledge of the divine.
Guide book sounds pretty pejorative and shows how little you understand what I wrote. Actually, independent striving starts pretty close to the beginning of life, but all children need guidance. This is exactly the point of the verse you inappropriately reference. It does not teach us to ignore kids, but train them exactly as they are designed by God, so that they learn the capacity to walk in that design as they mature. The older they get, the more they need to move from knowledge to personalization and application. So my book seeks to do exactly that. In fact, embracing doubt and learning how to process that is vital to their growth.
But even if I do write a guide book that holds their hands, spoon feeds them, and gives them pat answers (how you could read anything like that in what I wrote is beyond me), that is no more likely to turn them away from Christianity than your lack of guidance will push your son from no faith towards Christianity. The path is theirs, and I can’t make them do anything, nor do I want to. What’s worse than guidance is insulting their capacity to seek, struggle, and own it for themselves. You and I grew up with a mere intellectual faith. I’m looking to teach my kids how to integrate their heart into theirs.
The proverb says “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” This is great advice for parents. Fathers like you and me have tremendous influence on our children, and I try to the best of my ability to train my son in the way he should go. Your idea of writing this “workbook… with… tools, concepts, categories, and ways to grapple with and practice experiencing and building a tangible relationship with the Godhead” is interesting to me. There have been recent articles about writing a letter to your child, and I wonder whether this method of communication with one’s kids works well. In particular, I think that a teenager seeking her own path may be resistant to being told what she is going to have to grapple with and how to do it. But maybe I am wrong.
Now this is what you say about seeking a “relationship with God” when you were younger. “It wasn’t so acute that I thought to even ask anyone what it meant, but I’m not sure anyone could have helped. After all, a relationship is one you experience by definition, not something you get intellectually.” So this is what I (rather poorly) asked about before and what I think teenagers may have a hard time with. Do you really think that your planned workbook would have helped you and that it will help your kids, or do you think that it is something that each individual has to learn how to experience on their own? I have mentored many students, most for years at a time. I find that they all have different challenges, and though I help them in many ways, it is what they learn themselves and of themselves that makes all the difference.
“You and I grew up with a mere intellectual faith.” Wow. I would not have guessed that we had such different experiences. The faith I grew up with was based on the heart, not the head. I heard the voice of God.
Now that is amazing! You’ve had me pondering this revelation all week. I really did assume that your upbringing was like mine, more about what was true rather than getting to know the One who is truth. And yet, as I re-analyze things, I see that there was something about what you had that I did honor and wish for myself. This only begs the question, “what, then, on an emotional level, caused you to reject God?” You always put it off as an intellectual decision, but there must be an emotional component to it.
“what, then, on an emotional level, caused you to reject God?” I discovered that I am very good at fooling myself and that I don’t want to live my life based on anything other than the truth. Several things happened at the same time. I loved a girl that I knew God wanted me to be with, but after a long relationship, in the end, she didn’t love me. A mentor asked me to explain how I could believe the flood occurred, when it is not possible with the current constituents of the earth. I read the bible from the beginning to near the end. I got tripped up on the genealogy of Jesus in Luke. (I didn’t know at the time, that that was a famous problem struggled with by Augustine; I had found it myself, and it was the first of many problems I was to have with the bible.) Each of these things sound small, and at the time, none of them was enough to cause any problem for my faith. You asked about emotion, so I must say that when I lost my faith, I was profoundly sad. I had lost everything – my community, my family, my purpose, and my understanding of life. I found that I could make myself believe almost anything I wanted to make myself believe, but some things about Christianity just didn’t square with reality or my view of right and wrong. I let them go so that I could find truth.
I don’t believe the premise of Christianity as I understand it. There was a first man, Adam, who ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, exactly as God commanded him not to do. Every child is born with this sin upon his head. God sent his son Jesus as a blood sacrifice, to take away the original sin of Adam in each man and every other sin he commits. Every man must accept this as the sacrifice for their sins, or God will condemn them to torture for all eternity. Not one of those things makes any sense. A loving God would not condemn his children to the fire for all eternity. A loving God would have understood Adam and would not have set Adam up to fail. A loving God would not blame the children for the sins of their fathers. The whole blood sacrifice idea seems crazy and irrelevant. Why would such a thing be required, and who is requiring it? I think these things may have had relevance to bronze age cultures (when people made blood sacrifices and burnt offerings), but the religion based on these ideas in the current time does not make sense and was only palatable to us as children because it was taught to us by those we loved and respected. Eventually I found I could not defend its ideas even to myself. When you look at your newborn child, you know that they are not evil. There is no evil thing in them, and to espouse a religion that says otherwise is not possible for me.
There is truth and beauty in the world, and for my life, I want to find it, tell others about it, and celebrate it.
What strikes me about your comments are two things. First, I see (for the first time) that the whole unraveling of your faith began with an emotional incident over a girl. Second, that despite the loss of your faith, you have not lost faith in objective good. As a scientist, you realize that the world must be built on objective truth. Every one of your concerns is absolutely reasonable, and worthy of attention. Would that I could help you think them all through again, starting with your interpretation of who God is based on your breakup. What if, after such an examination, it turned out that God were good after all?