A lady I work with once enlightened me, “You just wait until you have kids.” I’m not sure what she thought would magically happen the instant I became a father, but it didn’t (apparently). I know this because at the time she uttered her prophetic words to me, I already had two kids… precisely twice as many as she had.
My guess is she thought having kids would make me more wise, more mature, more patient… more something. She had an expectation about what parenthood would change about life. A lot of Christians do too. And it’s not insignificant:
We think the birth of our children will reveal to us the very face of God.
While you might not use those exact words, at some point, someone in your Christian circle of friends has said one of the following things to you:
“I really didn’t know God until I had kids.”
“When I became a father, I finally understood how hard it was for God to send Christ to the cross.”
“Being a mother—witnessing the miracle of life—radically changed my understanding of God’s love.”
There’s a million ways to express “Kids = Big Faith.” And if you’re single or childless, there has to be a part of you that thinks, “Fantastic! The missing link in my faith is having a kid. I have zero kids and zero prospects. I’ll just be over here with my small, incomplete faith. Awesome.”
Good news. It’s not true. Bad news? It also is. On some level, having a kid can show you God’s miraculous love. Some Bible verses support this notion that having a kid puts faith into a unique context. “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11) That verse makes more sense if you’re seeing it unfold in your own child’s life.
However, we also way over-amplify what we expect our children to do for our faith. I personally have (many times) essentially said to my children, “OK, dad had a really bad day at work. Tonight I need you to show me God’s perfect and true love. I know you’re only two, but Daddy needs you to reconnect him in his relationship with Yahweh. Is that cool with you? You’re drooling. I’ll accept that as an emphatic yes.”
Those nights typically also coincide with the times my kids try to break me down like little terrorists. Fits are thrown, fights erupt, demands are made. The most menial tasks incite battle cries: “I do myself, I do myself!” One would assume applying the toothpaste to your child’s toothbrush when they want to do it themselves is not a cry-worthy, scream-inducing offense, but you’d be gravely mistaken.
Does God show up in parenthood? I sure hope so. Are kids a walking, talking daily reminder of Jesus? Not always. And if you go into parenthood expecting that, you’ll be sorely disappointed… or at the bare minimum, covered with pink bubble gum-flavored princess toothpaste.