While you're sheltering in place at home with your family, all of us here at Concordia want to provide you with helpful resources. Today's post is brought to you by one of our theology faculty members on how to champion your children's faith while you're in isolation.
My two-year-old son, Rufus, keeps asking us when we’re going to church to pray. We sigh and try to cheer him up with a hymn or part of the Lutheran liturgy he knows, and explain that people could get sick if we go to church now. So we sing, especially the “Sanctus,” but he doesn’t understand it all. I don’t know if anyone does. I don’t know how parents are handling the isolation, but for me and my wife, it’s helped us to be thankful for all those good and steady things that form us and our children as humans—body, soul, and spirit.
We rely on institutions and offices, schedules and structures to form our life. We can’t make ourselves by a mere act of the will. We need others whom God places in our lives to form us and shape what we love. This is especially true of our children, who are quick learners and easily formed. How long before my Rufus stops asking about church? Perhaps too soon. This pandemic is forming him and forming us all. In these days, it’s good to ask ourselves again: what forms our children? What do we want for them? As parents, we are all learning to be grateful to God for pastors, teachers, friends, coaches, medical workers, local communities, governments, and programs, farms, grocery stores, industries and the like. All of these are ways that God has provided for us, shaped us, and cared for our bodies and souls.
As many of the structures and institutions that form our children are put on hold for a time, there is one institution, a divine institution, that has not been shut down, namely, the vocation of the Christian father and mother. We are now, and always have been, the primary means that God uses to form our children in the faith, to train them in the Scriptures, and to raise them in Christ.
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The Lord commands the children, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you” (Deut. 5:16).
For the children, it is a command to obey their parents out of love for God. For parents, it is a command to strengthen and make them bold, to be God to their children, to provide for them and protect them.
These strange days, however, give Christian parents a special chance to love and care for their children’s souls. If you’ve ever felt awkward about doing devotions as a family, or praying together, or singing together, now is the perfect time to start singing, praying, and reading the Holy Scriptures together. But there’s a more important reason to begin these things and make them a habit than mere novelty.
These days are difficult. Suddenly parents see their children’s sin consistently and up close. Likewise, children see their parents’ sin and frailty more clearly. There’s nowhere to hide. Children are tempted to use their parents’ sin or weakness as an excuse for disobedience. And parents can use their children’s sin as an excuse to despair and neglect their God-given duty. Isolation leads only to more isolation.
If Satan were in charge, that’s how this pandemic would play out. We would be isolated from our churches and then isolated from each other, house by house, family member by family member. In fact, that’s how Satan figured the pandemic of sin would work out. First, he would isolate us from God, then he would isolate us from one another, and take us down one by one. But Satan underestimated how much God loves us. He couldn’t have guessed that God would come for sinners, to join with us and our children in our weakness. How could Satan have planned for God to become man? And how could he have planned for that Man to defeat sin and death for all humanity? But Christ has done it, for us and for our children. He is risen! Hallelujah! We are living in eternal Eastertide. Life is springing forth in the midst of death with forgiveness free and overflowing into our homes and into our hearts. God is at work to make us His own. There’s no isolation from Him anymore.
Our children are certainly being formed through this pandemic. But what our children will remember is their parents’ longing to hear God’s word with all the saints and to receive the Sacrament of Christ’s body and blood. They will remember how at mealtimes and before bed their parents prayed for all the medical workers and all the sick and prayed for peace in the home. They will remember eating around the table and remember how everyone tried to cheer each other up. They will remember how greatly they are loved and that God’s forgiveness and mercy are real, that death is defeated, that ours is the resurrection. Satan had plans for all this to tear us apart. God has plans for it to bind us up, and have us and homes know Him better.
This post was written by Rev. Dr. Jason D. Lane, an Associate Professor of Theology at Concordia. He and his wife, Marta, are currently blessed with the privilege and duty of raising seven children—five beautiful girls and two handsome boys.