Hillary Short begins Chapter 2 of the book "Mama Bear Apologetics" with a story of her family whitewater rafting. During her family trip, when an especially strong rapid knocked Hillary’s sister-in-law out of the raft and into the water, her 60 year old mother-in-law leapt into action, pulling her soggy daughter back into the raft with one quick motion. It is a testament to the protective nature of mothers, and serves as a reminder that our parental is to protect our children from anything that could harm them.
But there’s another aspect of whitewater rafting that applies to helping our kids discern the truth. The Estep family went whitewater rafting this past summer on the Pigeon River near Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. I’ve only been rafting a few times in my life, but what I’ve noticed each time I go is that the “whitewater” sections of the river don’t encompass the majority of the trip. Most of your time on the river is fairly calm and scenic; the wilder (and more fun) sections of the river are short, intense, and a little scary. But every time I’ve gone, the calmer portions of the trip are where you learn to work together, listen to your guide, and practice the quick strokes that will help you safely navigate the rocks and the rapids.
It occurs to me that is kind of how it is in training our kids. There are times when our teaching them seem calm; they accept what we say with little pushback, and they don’t seem to be wrestling with any kind of a “crisis of faith.” Then, when we least expect it, all of the sudden things get really rough really fast. They begin to question a doctrine of faith, or they have questions we don’t know the answers to, or we discover they have been learning things that are contrary to the truth we have taught them. During these times, we might think we’re about to “go in the drink!”
There’s a lot of information in Chapter 2, and I won’t attempt to distill all of it today. But there are two main points I would like to encourage all of us with.
First, as tempting as it might be during the calm, scenic portions of parenting to relax, pull your paddle out of the water and just float, these times are wisely used as training opportunities. It is training for our kids in that we help them think through not only what we believe, but why we believe it. It is never to early to help them see that there is evidence to back up the claims of Scripture. Although they might not push back now, at some point doubts may arise as they grow to a point they no longer simply take mom and dad’s word for it. Knowing there are answers to some of their questions may make that process easier (for them and for us!)
These calm periods can also be training for us, the parents! Spending a little time acquainting yourself with the answers to questions your kids may have one day is a good idea now, before your kid starts to ask “why we should go to church anyway”. You don’t need to be an expert. Knowing some basic facts, and knowing where to go to find additional answers, will likely be helpful.
The second, AND MOST IMPORTANT point, is made by the author of Chapter 2 on page 42. The first step to defending your faith is knowing your Bible. Knowing arguments to refute bad ideas is good; knowing the Word is far better. When I have the chance to talk to teens, I always try to impress on them the importance of reading through the Word of God. One of the best decisions as a young person was to begin to read through the entire Bible once a year. I did that for several years. (Full disclosure, it’s been awhile since I’ve done that.) But I found that through reading all of Scripture, the pieces began to fit together better. I came to understand not just passages, but also how they fit within the entire story. And that helped to prepare me for the ministry to which God would eventually call me.
It is God’s Will that our children not just believe in Jesus, but that they become just like Jesus! That is the very definition of discipleship, for Jesus said, “everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” (Luke 6:40) To be like Jesus, they must be students of the Word, and if they are to be students of the Word, we should set an example and be students of the Word as well. If the entire Bible seems daunting, start with the New Testament, or the Gospels. As Hillary Short says, “we can’t defend Scripture if we don’t know it.”
Chapter 3 deals with teaching our kids to practice discernment. We will get into that subject next week.
Blessings to each of your families!
Pastor Jeff Estep