the kids are alright.

If you’re friends with me on Facebook, your Newsfeed has been clogged with pictures of my daughter’s college graduation. Oh, what a beautiful weekend we had in New York City celebrating with family and friends. We are so proud of her! After four years in the Bronx, she is now moving on to dental school in the fall. We have now officially graduated two kids from college and have three more to go!

Moments like these always cause me to look back and reflect, to consider where we’ve been and where we are now.

I had all five of my kids together for the celebration (3 20-somethings and 2 teenagers), and I couldn’t help but think of how proud of us I am and how far we’ve all come together related to all things life and faith.

As many of you know, for a chunk of years my kids went to an extremely conservative Christian school. That, combined with a lot of pre-faith-shift stuff in our own journey, deeply affected my older kids’ faith. They can tell their own stories, but a quick summary is that organized religion is not their favorite thing in the world. The baggage has been heavy, but over time I have watched the load lighten.

We have tried to help with that as best we can.

We laugh about some of the crazy stuff they learned in school.

We’ve shed tears that have needed to be shed.

I apologize, whenever it comes up, for the wackiness of those early years and that we did the best we could with what we had at the time.

We’ve worked at becoming safer.

We have tried to celebrate the good of what was (this is important, too) and honor that we just aren’t there anymore.

And each and every time, they always share essentially the same thing–“Mom, we are so glad you changed! Like seriously glad you changed.”

I am so grateful, too, for the wild and crazy Unraveling that we have had and how even though it was disorienting, bloody, painful and hard-to-say-the-least, ultimately it lead us all to a place of greater freedom and hope.

My kids are alright.

Yes, we are Focus on the Family and Growing Kids Gods Way dropouts.

Yes, we are heretics in some people’s minds.

Yes, we are definitely no longer the poster-children for Good Christian Parents.

But I know this–my kids are alright.

Their language is different than I ever expected.

Some of them say things about faith stuff that make even-me flinch a little.

Some are definitely are on the outside of all-things-church and some are participating in ways that are so free and easy and beautiful.

No matter what, when I see each of their hearts and their actions and their passions, I see God.

I see justice.

I see mercy.

I see equality.

I see relationship.

I see what they care about and how passionate they are about it.

Yeah, I see Jesus reflected in them.

They might not call it that, but I certainly do.

It makes me think about Faith Shift and a little portion that’s in the Appendix focused on faith shifts and parenting. One of the biggest reasons people “return” to systems they don’t even believe in anymore is because the nagging soul question in the whole process is “What about the kids?”

It’s so scary to exit all we once knew.

To no longer just-go-to-church.

To not be sure on what to even tell them about certain Bible stories and theological concepts that once rolled off our tongues with certainty.

To be truly confused on what to teach them and what not to (especially the younger ones).

To let go of control but keep living out our own story with as much integrity as possible.

It’s all quite complicated.

I wish there were easy answers, but each family, each kid, each circumstance, each story is so different.

What resonates most with me is to not get caught up in the short story that is usually based on fear and trust the long one instead.

Fear and shame can be such a huge driver behind so much of our faith stories.

As parents, that is what the world, the Christian media, and some churches often prey on. Oh, the times that fear and shame have felt consuming to me as a Christian parent are too numerous to count!

I know it was all part of our story. And trust me, it’s not that those feelings don’t rear their head now. I’m human. I’m a mom. I like to get things “right.”

But I am trying to let go of the unessentials and hold on to just a few important truths:

  • The whole law is summed up in loving God, our neighbors, and ourselves, and that’s plenty for a lifetime to keep working out.
  • And most of all, God is creative. Like, really creative, always at work, in ways that are far more mysterious and beautiful and unexplainable than I could have ever imagined.

Yeah, the language is so different.

There’s so much I don’t know.

For today, I’m just grateful for kids who want to talk about stuff with me. Who like to be together. Who are growing up to be secure and free and strong (and wonderfully flawed and oh-so-human). Who send me links about justice and mercy and faith and politics and John Oliver awesomeness. Who might have forgotten (or in the case of the younger ones, never learned) all kinds of verses in the Bible but sure do know how to love people and each other.

It makes me smile. It fills my heart.

Yeah, the kids are alright.

//

ps: my friend Cindy Brandt has younger kids and writes all about Unfundamentalist Parenting and has a thriving Facebook group for parents, too. Great stuff!

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

13 Comments

  • Yes and amen Kathy! Arduous journey I resonate with regarding my own kids and as a therapist walking alongside others differentiating… discovering God has given them their very own “yes” and “no.” Thanks for giving voice…

    Reply
  • So good. (I went back and read the “What about the kids?” post too.) I’ve been feeling the push and pull of this a lot lately. The problem is that my faith has already shifted…it’s been shifting since my boys were small (they’re 11 and 14 now). And we had a church that embraced that, encouraged it, lived it. Until one day it didn’t (change of pastors). I couldn’t stay because suddenly I went from ‘normal’ to ‘Heretic. Liberal. Theology that is a mess and needs to be fixed.’ Only I wasn’t the one that changed.

    I appreciate what you said in your “What about the kids?” post about not needing to tell them EVERYTHING. We struggled with how to tell them we were leaving the only church they’ve ever known. Last night the younger one was again begging to just go back to our old church, because his friends are there. And I almost sat him down to say ‘look, you want to know why I can’t go back? THIS is why…’. I think you’ve just talked me down off that ledge. 🙂

    And so there is the push and pull. I can’t stay, because I won’t have them sitting with the picture of God that is now being taught, not in some of their most formational years. I can’t live with the panicked mindset that if our children can’t name their favorite Bible verse than we’ve failed. But I also have the niggling doubt…what if I’m NOT teaching them enough about God? What if leaving means they lose the picture of church as a community?

    I needed to hear “The kids are alright. They WILL be alright. God’s got them.”

    Reply
    • thanks, rea…push and pull is such a great way to describe it and oh, the loss of what was and the not knowing what is “enough.” such a tricky dance. i really appreciate you taking time to share.

      Reply
  • Kathy, this helps me have hope and I see such love and grace in these words. I need to project and be that graciousness in my faith shift. My daughter says she just hears the anger and how I’m squirmy in my seat at church on Chr-easter, and I barely make it those two times a year. So hard to have hope that it isn’t too late for her to understand and accept.

    Reply
    • it’s all such a tricky dance with so many nuances and every situation so different. peace and hope to you from colorado.

      Reply
  • I have four adult children who today represent a wide spectrum of belief/disbelief. What has surprised and dismayed me is to hear from a couple of them how many aspects of the moderate evangelicalism they grew up with have left them disillusioned with the Christian faith as a whole. Between the creationists who were invited into their Sunday school classes and the manipulative evangelism they encountered at Bible camp, they are not only cynical about the church, but about the faith itself. The great thing is that I’ve been able to share with them some of my own disillusion with the same things they struggle with it. The lines of communication are open between us. And as I pray for them to find their own authentic relationship with Jesus, I am absolutely convinced that the kids are alright! Thanks, Kathy

    Reply
  • I randomly came across your blog — well, maybe not so randomly, and love this. Love love love this. And everything else you’re working on, thinking about. I’ve been in this faith shift for about five/six years and I am finally landing. Blessing to you dear woman.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *