momaha.com blogger, Chris Donnelly
Another Wednesday. The kids get home from school to a melee of snacks (because heaven forbid they eat their entire lunches at school) and homework before rushing off to their church youth group.
As they studied, I sat on my couch fiddling furiously on my iPad. The iPad alone is enough to draw my oldest son's attention, but if I’m frustrated by whatever is on it, then he assumes it must be really good. At this particular time a friend’s son, who I have known since he was a boy, was being featured in an Israeli newspaper. His (rightfully) proud momma had posted a link, and I was trying (unsuccessfully) to get a translation from the original Hebrew.
The photo on the cover showed the young man, who is a Rabbi now, in his traditional Orthodox hair and attire, which only further drew my curious son’s attention from the task at hand.
My son’s questions, beginning with, “Who is that and what is he wearing?” sparked our first discussion about differences in faith and religion. I’m sure there will be many more, but this was the first time his attention was peaked.
While I appreciated that unique moment with my son, I didn’t realize until later that it had also been an important opportunity to model behavior for him.
You see, my wife and I made the decision long ago to raise our children in a Christian home. Since then, we have talked at great length about what it actually means to do so and what values we want to emphasize.
Church-based religious training will be important, we know. The Wednesday night programs and Sunday school classes will be a start, but there will have to be more in order for our kids to really have their hearts rooted in their faith.
As I reflected on my discussion with my son, I realized that another important component of our kids’ spiritual lives will simply be us, his parents. Religious training is necessary, yes, but who our friends are, what we say about them, and how we behave towards others will be just as influential.
As my son and I talked about differences in Christianity and Judaism, he heard me not only explain our faith but also express respect and love for someone of a different faith. And I hope that example lingers in his memory bank somewhere. That is a lesson that has to come from my example. Some things cannot be taught otherwise.
My wife and I are no experts in religious matters, but we do know that our children's faith and attitudes in the future will be directly influenced by our behavior right now.
Chris Donnelly is married with four children. You can read him every Thursday on momaha.com