The year I turned 24, I spent an unreasonable amount of time debating what color my hair should be. I indulged a mild obsession with the TV show Friends and regularly debated the merits of a Ross-and-Rachel combination. I quit my nursing job with good friends, sweet patients, and flexible hours to accept a temporary desk job, hoping to make more money in a less physically demanding environment. In September of that same year, after a summer of swollen feet and watching sitcom re-runs from a side-lying position, I gave birth to my first baby.
In my bleach-blonde, 20-something brain, having a baby seemed like the next logical step in “adulting.” We planned and prayed for this baby but had no idea how to parent her. When my husband and I began to talk about having kids, we received the same advice from every parent of older children: “There is no ‘right’ time to have a baby. You’ll never possess enough know-how, confidence, or money.” Eighteen years and three kids later, these words still ring true.
At 24, despite my questionable tastes in media consumption and fashion, I was mature enough to recognize just how much I didn’t know about parenting. As a pediatric nurse, I understood feeding schedules and diaper changes. I could care for my little one physically, but I felt unprepared for guiding her emotional and spiritual development. I had precious little life experience, and my faith, while sincere, was still evolving.
With each child, I managed nap schedules, temper tantrums, and sibling rivalry through trial and error. But the awesome task of discipling and raising them to become Christ-followers became a point of worry. The children acted as mirrors to my every shortcoming, reflecting a daily need for redemption. I saw my imperfections and feared that an obvious grappling with my own faith would hinder their spiritual growth.
But as I wrestle with God and my hit-or-miss attempts at discipleship, I find great comfort in reading the Gospels. Over the years I’ve learned that when I struggle to mirror a vibrant faith for my children, I can look to the disciples, who sat at the feet of a flesh-and-blood Jesus. I recognize in their peak-and-valley faith a faint resemblance to my own.
Most disciples weren’t educated or esteemed, and their faith often failed them—but Jesus handpicked these men to carry out the work of His kingdom.
The disciples were a rough-edged, motley crew who spoke the language of salt and earth. Most weren’t educated or esteemed, and their faith often failed them—but Jesus handpicked these men to carry out the work of His kingdom. Throughout the Gospels, they failed to understand Jesus’ actions and motivations. They questioned Him as if life-long skeptics, and He repeatedly called them out for their unbelief. For example: The disciples bore witness to the birth of God’s kingdom on this earth, yet Jesus had to shake them awake after they fell asleep during prayer; James and John wanted greatness in the coming kingdom and asked their mother to speak to Jesus on their behalf; in a fit of rage, Peter cut off another man’s ear; after Jesus’ death, Peter denied Him, and the rest of the disciples scurried into hiding. Fear consumed them after three years of sleeping, eating, and walking beside the Messiah.
During their brief apprenticeship, the disciples failed often, but in spite of their failures, they continued to put one foot in front of the other. They walked mere steps ahead of the believers who came behind them. None of these men had mastered the teachings of Jesus or developed a superhuman faith before they set out to obey the Great Commission. In the power of the Holy Spirit, the disciples journeyed ahead of others—but never too far out of sight as they called followers to step into healing, belief, and redemption.
With these flawed but faithful characters as my example, I am freed from the fear and trembling that holds me back when I consider how I might influence others. I may not be a biblical scholar, perform miracles, or possess wisdom for each and every situation. But like the disciples, I’ve walked a few miles farther down the road of faith. I’ve left a path for my children to follow, and my footprints—sometimes stumbling, sometimes sure—will lead the way. With the Holy Spirit as my companion, comfort, and guide, I make disciples of them with the hope that, one day, they will develop their own imperfect, ever-evolving faith.
Source photo: ISTOCK; Photo-illustration by Patrick White