Schooling our children in faith

The oddest thing to ever fall out of my dryer was a rabbit tail.

Laundry piles have always been indicative of lifestyles. For years, I washed a cycle of scrubs. When Wade and I first married, I remember being shocked over how much space his clothes commandeered in the basket. Then there were baby clothes, burp rags, and countless bibs. Depending on the time of year, now our loads of laundry vary between slews of hunter’s orange or snow suits, baseball uniforms or beach towels. But one day, from one little boy’s freshly laundered pants, out hopped a rabbit tail.

I’ve dealt with the usual suspects in the lint trap: candy wrappers, Nerf bullets, pocketknives, coins, even a couple of tennis balls and acorns. A real, fluffy rabbit tail? Not my normal. I’ve heard of a rabbit’s foot, but the explanation I received was, “That takes too much time, Mom, and a keychain. I didn’t have either.” 

Time. 

I guess it’s Time who is to blame for all this. Tiny babies become teetering tots, who grow into funny, shaggy-haired, toothy, little boys. Time, you’re a relentless thief.

Admittedly, some days can be long. Nights spent rocking crying or sick babies seem longer. Yet, the reality is we’re only granted a short amount of time with our children. We have so much to teach them in those years, like how to talk, walk, read, and write. As parents, we are the primary educators of our children, and God has equipped each of us to be that first, most-instrumental model. How terrifying. 

It can be overwhelming to think of all the things that a child needs to learn to be successful, but maybe we’re defining success all wrong. What if authentic success isn’t measured in grade point averages, college acceptance letters, job titles, big houses, or bank accounts? After accumulating some years on this Earth, I’m convinced that only one thing matters. There is only one assurance for peace, joy, contentment, and purpose. His name is Jesus. Sure, reading helps us know His Word. Writing helps us share and communicate it. Math helps us count our blessings. Yet, Love is learned not just in a classroom, but over time, and everywhere, and from every image-bearer of God. What message of love are we sharing?

When we think about catechizing our children and wooing their hearts, we often come to the Chicken-and-the-Egg question of which comes first? Should we start with setting the foundation with Sacred Scripture and Tradition, or is all of that for naught unless they’ve first encountered Christ? I’ve wrestled with this, and I fall back on the simple but profound theological answer of “both, and.” We all need both study and encounter. Perhaps even more firstly, before the Bible Memory Verses and Liturgical Living, maybe first in the lineup is patience. 

As those primary catechists, we can take our pedagogy from the apostle Timothy who wrote, “In season and out of season… be unfailing in patience and in teaching,” (2 Tim 4:2). Significantly, he places patience before teaching. Our model instructor is the Teacher, the Rabbi. Oh, how patient He is with us! Imagine when God set man in the garden, what if He wasn’t mercifully patient? Despite our stubbornness, ignorance, obstinance, or our lack of focus or enthusiasm for His catechesis, He continues to patiently pursue our hearts through only goodness, truth, and love. 

As parents, we want to give our children not an understanding of Jesus (Who could know your ways, God?), but a living-breathing-thriving relationship with Him. All good, healthy relationships touch base or encounter each other regularly. They don’t ignore each other until it’s vacation time or Valentine’s Day, so we cannot relegate encounters with Christ to one day a week or retreats and conferences. Faith formation should be a constant wave upon wave, a never-ending experience of love washing over our children and over this world.

When it comes to teaching children, I think everyone likes to fall back and say, “There’s no perfect answer,” but I disagree. The answer is Jesus. The School of His Sacred Heart is in session in every season with opportunities for love—to experience it, to receive it, to offer it. Maybe the next step as a parent is this: love and then step back. Trust the Creator of time, the only One who is not bound by it. 

Yes, Time is teaching me some things, but mainly patience. I’m still unsure about laundered bunny tails. 

*Feature photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Author: Neena

Neena is a Kentucky wife, mother, and beekeeper. Her first novel, THE BIRD AND THE BEES, is a Christian contemporary romance available now. Visit her at wordslikehoney.com.

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