Preparing our children for God’s absence

It’s Coffee Break and we’re mothers sitting around Bibles talking about the faith it takes to send our children out the door each morning, and I say, “If it was up to me, I would keep Aiden inside forever.” Everyone nods.

But thankfully it’s not up to me. Because keeping him inside would hurt him more, in the long run, then sending him into a place full of beauty and ugly and good and bad and hurt and holy.

We’re all homeless, living in this place where, as Frederick Buechner puts it, the absence of God is so very present.

As parents, we give birth to these innocent rolls of flesh that smell of baby powder and we wish to keep them safe, because we know, deep down, that our love is one of the most obvious manifestations of God in their lives. As soon as they walk out that door, the love of God won’t always be a tender hug or kiss away and they’ll start to feel his absence. And with the absence of God comes the risk of pain.

So how do we as parents prepare our children for this absence? How do we inspire in them a body image that is so secure, they’ll know who they are, and whose they are, no matter the growing pains?

We do this by teaching them who their true Father is. We do this by being God in their lives, through our character, our words, and our sacrifice, and we do it by showing them, through our own habit of folding hands and repentant heart and tears for the brokenness on earth, our own longing for his presence. We show them what it means to love ourselves as Image Bearers, but also, how to tap into one’s SOUL IMAGE (something I will be talking about in future posts) when everything about the body becomes strange and unfamiliar.

In short, we teach them how to find their way home.

We are strangers on this earth. By knowing this, our children, as they grow into awkward, will understand the reason they feel lost. They will understand that the vacuum inside is a desperate longing to be with their true Father.

In order not to deal with this empty feeling through disordered eating, we need to teach our children, as little as they are, to reach inside the sacredness of prayer and touch the hem of Jesus’ cloak. We need to give them the tools to find heaven on earth, because otherwise, they’ll become swallowed up by the darkness.

By giving them these tools—this Soul Image—we prepare them to step out that door and into a world full of mystery. We also prepare ourselves, as parents, to deal with the separation, knowing that our children, as lost as they might feel, know who they are.

And then, we let go…


To watch a video from FINDINGbalance, and/or download discussion questions, click here.


12 thoughts on “Preparing our children for God’s absence

  1. “In short, we teach them how to find their way home.”

    Thank you.

    This is the answer to a question that has plagued me for years.

    Thank you for writing on this topic.

    I have avoided having babies for years. I saw “hurt” modeled and was terrified that I too would model the same hurt. I worried that I was capable of causing the same anguish and the same horrible feelings. “What if” plagues me daily.

    These words that you have written give me so much peace. Maybe it will be okay. Maybe I can simply “teach them how to find their way home”. I think I can do that.

  2. oh tiffany, i’m so glad you’ve found some peace… i think it’s only natural to worry you’ll cause your children harm/pain… it keeps us humble and needing God, every step of the way. but you have so much love to offer–don’t let the fears stop you. none of us is perfect, but as long as we keep God as our focus, it will all be okay. 🙂 love to you, sister. xo

  3. dear ember, thank you for setting an example for me as a sister, as a friend… and for letting me watch with joy as God’s love overflows from your heart to Aiden’s, to Trent’s, to so many hearts! : )
    I love you! keep watering seeds of hope as you soak up his light each day… you’re wonderful.

  4. This is so true. What I am finding, though, as the mother of two teens now, is that it is much harder to convey this than I had once thought. I’ve always brought my faith into my mothering, and always shared this with my children. Now, as teens, they are beginning to resist this faith, and even reject God. It’s painful to witness, though I know that God won’t give up on them, and some rebellion is normal. Still… I have been so humbled. And as a mother of little ones I never thought it possible. It’s perhaps one of the harder lessons I’m having to learn — that ultimately, they get to decide whether to draw near to God or not.

    • i am so glad you shared this, roxane. and this is something i hope to address in an upcoming post; about a child’s decision, no matter a parent’s effort, to reject or choose this love… i wish i could fix your situation but all i can do is share one step at a time and hope that somehow God heals in the midst of everything. i want to encourage you friend, because even though i didn’t let my mum hug me and didn’t want anything to do with her or with family or with God, really, he redeems. and now i can’t get enough of my mother, or of God, or of family… but it’s so hard to see that at the time. i’m going to try to write more posts through the struggle… just working my way up to that… thanks for patience, and for sharing your heart, because it helps me know how to write. i am praying for you. xo

  5. this is brilliant. i’m currently wrestling with my/our philosophy on our children’s education–what standards should we have? what are we trying to develop? how do we protect and what should it look like? it’s a hot topic, i know…but we’re definitely leaning towards releasing our sons, slowly, non-christian education and all, and then being the landing pad for them, the safe place for them to wrestle with the world, all in the hopes that they learn the skills of having integrity, of owning their faith, in an ugly world.

    • wow april. i love that you’re thinking this way… i think it will truly benefit your sons; you’re trusting in God to protect their minds and hearts, and allowing them to be lights in a dark place. and yes, the landing pad–that’s exactly it, friend. thank you so much for sharing. xo

  6. 🙂 i’m so very glad that I’m not the only one who wishes we could keep them forever!
    I love your words…such a great description of what I’m striving for each day!

    love ya girlie:)

  7. This is such a wonderful place. I’ve been reading through the posts this morning, and I need my box of tissues nearby. I love this sentence:

    “We’re all homeless, living in this place where, as Frederick Buechner puts it, the absence of God is so very present.”

    To live here as strangers, to walk by faith that all the hurts will someday be healed, to model hope for our children in the midst of a world filled with so much darkness, to love, and to let go… all of these things you have written so eloquently.

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