Faith is something that has always played an important role throughout my life. Sometimes it’s been at the forefront and other times it was relegated to the back burner, but it was always there, woven in and out of the cracks and crevices.
I grew up in a Christian home where we attended a super conservative Baptist church — frequenting its doors anytime they were open. Sunday morning church, Sunday evening church, Wednesday night church, mid-week missions conferences … we were there. Back then, it was just something I did, because it was what I was supposed to do. The faith of my childhood was one that was heavily weighted by hell fire, brimstone, and a fear of punishment. It was a matter of crossing “t”s and dotting “i”s and checking things off of my “things to do in order to be holy” list. As I got older, my faith grew, and changed, and morphed. And while I had periods of time where I considered giving it all up, I finally arrived at the place where I am now, at the age of 31, where I know what I believe, and I am firmly rooted in it.
Interestingly enough, the most recent part of this faith journey has been shaped by the unlikeliest of people: my 4-year-old daughter. Who knew a little girl could teach me so much about the faith I had known for years? Here are just a few things my little one has taught me on this path.
1. How important my faith is to me
For a good stretch of time, I would say that my faith wasn’t something that was a big priority in my life. Of course, I still believed in God and all of the moral principles I had grown up with, but it wasn’t really something that played a big part in my day-to-day life. We went to church sporadically, but aside from that, there wasn’t much going on in my religious life. Having my own children, though, has shown me how important it is to me because it’s made me realize that I want to pass my faith down to them. I never want to force it upon them, but I want it to be something they learn about that can provide them with a moral compass as they get older. It’s really sweet to see my daughter excited about going to her Sunday school classes and sharing the things she’s learning. I really do hope that it is something she one day decides to make her own.
2. There is something to be said for child-like belief
My daughter is constantly reminding me of the beauty to be found in a child-like faith. There are so many questions about faith and why things happen in the world, but to a 4-year-old, it is simple: God is good and he cares about us. It’s really all she knows at this point, and the way she believes it so uninhibitedly, is beautiful. Sometimes when I am feeling stressed out or overwhelmed, my daughter will notice and suggest that we pray about it. She will tell me, “Don’t worry. God will help!” Her simple and unwavering belief is really quite sweet.
3. Always be questioning
There is a misguided idea about faith that says that we should never question it, but my child is showing me just how healthy it is to do so. She constantly asks questions after leaving church. She wants to know all the “why”s behind the Bible stories, and the honest truth is that I don’t always know the answers. But the good thing is that it encourages me to find those answers and to have a greater grasp on my own faith, because I’ve realized that if I can’t explain it to a 4-year-old, I probably don’t know it as well as I thought. Blind acceptance isn’t true faith, and we can both wrestle through our questions together.
4. Above all, love
My daughter, at the tender age of 4, isn’t getting hung up on sins. She doesn’t have a human scale in her mind about which sins are “worse” than the others. She just sees people as people, and she loves them as they are. I truly believe that at the heart of faith, this is the ultimate goal. She isn’t wasting her time judging other people, just as I shouldn’t be (subconsciously or not). Our job is to love others. Period. And she is showing me how to do that better and better each day.