The Meaning of Children: When We Do it Wrong

The Meaning of Children
In May FDW is hosting a new series on  stories from people in all walks of life and their observations of children and what they make us. Click here for more on the series and a list of the contributors. This post was written by dear friend Traci Marie Smith, ministry colleague, justice advocate, and writer.

In the movie Legally Blonde, Reese Witherspoon’s character Elle, is a sorority sister-turned lawyer who becomes lead counsel for a murder case. The defendant, Brooke, is a workout maven and is innocent of the crime. The problem is that she doesn’t want to give up her alibi. Why? She was getting liposuction during the time of the murder. She would rather be tried and convicted for murder than admit that she was getting liposuction. It would reveal that Brooke’s Butt Buster workout wasn’t real, she exclaims, and everyone would know she was a fraud.

I feel that way, sometimes, about my book Seamless Faith: Simple Practices For Daily Life. It’s a book about how parents can incorporate spiritual practice into their children’s lives without a lot of hassle. It doesn’t get into theory or elaborate ways to teach your children how to be morally superior human beings, it’s just a bunch of simple ideas that may or may not help your family on its way to becoming more faith-filled together. Don’t get me wrong, I stand by my book just as Brooke stood behind the merits of the butt buster workout. When I make mistakes in my parenting, the fact that I’ve written a parenting book heaps on extra guilt and I end up feeling like a fraud.

The truth is, I struggle (hard) to be a competent parent. I raise my voice and shout, “Stop interrupting me when I’m trying to talk to daddy!”  and I am immediately disgusted with myself when I see the look of pain on my child’s face. (He was just trying to find out if he could have some more strawberries.) The other day I literally forgot that it was a school day until 15 minutes before we were supposed to leave the house in the morning. I made them eat frozen waffles in the car. (I did defrost the waffles, though. Parent. Of. The. Year.)  I’m not good at this.

So if you ever wonder How am I supposed to incorporate faith into our daily routine when I can’t even remember what day it is?  I feel you. That’s exactly me, and I’m the one who wrote a book on how to do it.

My favorite verse in the Bible is Titus 3:4-5 “But when the kindness and love of God our savior appeared, God saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of God’s mercy.” When it comes to teaching faith to our children, we don’t have to “earn” our way. God is merciful. The rushed blessing at the end of the day? It’s good enough. The rote prayer at dinner? Good enough. The candle prayer we light on the way out the door? Sufficient.

We do the best we can, and we rely on God’s grace to handle the rest.


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Traci Smith is pastor of Northwood Presbyterian Church in San Antonio and the author of Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life (Chalice: 2014). It’s a book full of easy ways to incorporate faith practices into your child’s life. It’s for imperfect parents, like me. You can connect on Facebook, or via the Email Newsletter.

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