QUESTION: I’m a divorced mother of two children who are now adults. All through their childhood and until they graduated from high school, we attended church regularly together. Both of them turned out well and are successful. They’re both married, and both have children but neither family goes to church. I’ve had to back off encouraging them to raise their children with spiritual values because they “don’t want to hear it.” When my grandchildren stay with me, I take them to church and they attend Sunday school. I think they’re telling me the truth when they say they like to go.
Is there any way I can get them to understand the importance of families being involved in church? Should I just stay out of it and continue taking my grandchildren to church when I have the opportunity?
~ God Loving Granny
Dear God-loving Granny,
I’m so happy to answer your question as I called my own grandmother “Granny” and I credit her greatly with my pastorate. She, too, was divorced but she had one son, my dad. I was an “oops” child, and my parents were immature, but though Mom was raised Pentecostal and Dad a Lutheran, neither was religious. We attended Granny’s Presbyterian church on holidays, and occasionally on ordinary Sundays, but that’s it. Granny consistently influenced me then as she’d have me sleep over on Saturdays and church would be a certainty the next morning. Afterward, she’d make me meticulous lunches or take me for pancakes, and those are the church memories I cherish from that time.
Her persistence built in me a foundation. When my family moved, church was over (for years) until Mom started going back. But with high school, my faith was so challenged that I became agnostic. College graduation brought me back, and that whole waffle period was a spiritual journey in which God constantly pricked my conscience. As my mental objections were quelled, the church days with Granny added fuel to the conflict within that brought me ultimately to my reception of Christ as Lord. That conversion inspired Mom’s leap of faith, and I returned to Granny realizing that she wasn’t all that theologically sophisticated. She was just faithful, and “faith pleases God” (Heb 11:6). It also “moves mountains” (Mat 17:20) which is what I was.
My advice is this: focus on your grandkids; go to church and challenge them. Instill in them thoughtful, spiritual values: love of God, then love of church. Don’t be a nice memory, be an ultimate one. Make Jesus primary, and pray. Your grandkids may be your children’s saving grace. Do what you can, and know that grannies are great in the eyes of Christ. Your influence succeeds you and you’re more important than you know.
Today, I think of myself as theologically Baptist, and I pastor a Congregational church. My granny, though long since with Jesus, is still making an impact because you are reading this now. As Jesus would say, “Go, and do likewise…” (Luk 10:37).
Rev. Bryan Griem
Montrose Community Church
Dear God Loving Granny.
I am a firm believer that when we raise our children in the ways of the Lord, they most probably will have their own faith, or at least return to it at some point in their lives.
The issue here is just that: If your children are not attending church or instilling those beliefs into their children, encouraging them may only make them not want to hear it with increasing determination as time goes on. So for this season, and it may be a long season, you do need to “stay out of it” verbally. However, there is something powerful that you can do. You can pray, fervently, and with a quiet spirit for your children. Let God do the work. He loves your children far more than you ever could (which I know is difficult for mothers to believe).
Now, what you can do in the practical sense is just exactly what you are doing – continue to take your grandchildren to church. My grandmother was a huge influence in all her many grandchildren’s lives. She read the Bible with us, prayed with us, took us to church, and taught us daily practical lessons about God.
Our faith does not need to necessarily be spurred from our parents. Other family members, friends, mentors, youth groups, any of these areas and more can lead to a strong relationship with God. Your grandchildren are blessed to have you. Keep praying and doing the amazing job that you are doing with them.
Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian, LMFT
Thrive Center – Montrose
QUESTION: My husband and I have been married for 15 years and do not have any children although we wanted to have a family. Because of our ages, he is 42 and I’m 39, we decided to adopt older children. Now we’re about 75% complete with the adoption process and my husband is getting cold feet. The children we’re interested in are 7 and 5, two little brothers. My husband tells me he’s heard horror stories of adopting children who have been in the system (these two were taken out of the home at ages 4 and 2) because they are calloused and untrusting. My spin on it is they will be grateful to have a family and parents who love them.
I’ve really been praying about this because I can only imagine the happy times we’ll have with the two little dears. I know there will be trying times as well because most families have them, but I’m willing to take the chance. I don’t know what to say to my husband or what to do.
~ Almost a Mom
Dear Almost a Mom,
A family is a wonderful and complex structure with many unpredictable challenges. Under the best of circumstances, natural born or adopted, kids pose those challenges equally and frequently. You both need to search your hearts and souls honestly and most prayerfully to openly discuss how you feel about the most life-changing event you can enter into after marriage – parenthood. A house divided will fall. Children are highly intuitive; if your hearts hold them with reservation, they’ll know your love is conditional. Part of making this decision is being as prepared as possible; learn as much as you can about the history of the brothers and any emotional needs they may have. With this insight you will be better able to judge whether or not you are personally equipped to provide a family setting for these “little darlings.”
If you decide to go forward, I would seek professional guidance regularly to aid with the family’s cohesion. Yes, these boys will be grateful to have been adopted but their being calloused and untrusting at their tender young ages won’t simply wash away in this gratitude. There is healing work to be done.
Raising children is very much about fulfilling their desire for love and nurturing, and that’s perfect because for parents it’s all about “being” that stable love.
I believe God intends love and healing for us all. Deep in your hearts you know if you can fully step into the commitment of loving and parenting these boys. Talk through everything, and if this is right for you, God bless you and these boys. Should you decide this adoption is not right for you, then that is the right answer at this time. This decision takes great courage. Remember, no child comes with a guarantee.
Kim Winders, RScP
Center for Spiritual Living – La Crescenta
Dear Almost a Mom,
First let me applaud your decision to adopt. Second, let me applaud your decision to adopt two. Third, let me applaud your decision to adopt two older children. Fourth, let me applaud your decision to adopt two brothers! It is a kind decision you and your husband have made. You won’t regret it. Recently in the news there was indeed an instance of an “adoption gone bad.” But the truth is, the vast majority of adoptions here in America are not horror stories but love stories. As for the two boys, do you think being “calloused and untrusting” might be a necessary defense for life as they know it?
I’m glad you recognize there will be trying times but I’m also glad you recognize all the happy times in store as well. Nobody can break your heart like your kids and this goes for our biological kids, too. So often, the greatest joys in life come from the greatest risks. God hears your prayers. I can’t help but think of Psalm 68:6 – “God sets the lonely in families.” These boys need you. But couldn’t it also be true that you need them even more?
Tell your husband these things and ask him to put himself in the place of a bewildered 7- year-old little boy who wonders why no one wants him.
Rev. Jon T. Karn
Light on the Corner Church – Montrose