An unbroken line of faith – Part 1
by Dr. Dave Currie
Seventeen years ago, Canadian Hockey Legend, a true friend, and a man I so look up to, Paul Henderson, gave me this challenge. He said, as I recall, “Currie, you have got to join me in this prayer that we’ll have an unbroken line of Christians in our family until the day that Jesus comes.” What was Paul referring to? That we, as leaders in our homes, by God’s grace, would do whatever it took to pass our faith on to the next generation so that our families – our entire downline – kids, grandkids, great grandkids and beyond would all choose to follow Jesus until His return – an unbroken line of faith. That is a very worthy prayer and we took his challenge.
When I asked Paul today, when did he begin praying this prayer, he promptly said “38 years ago!” Here’s the back story. In discussing what they wanted their own legacy to be, Paul and his wife, Eleanor, decided that this goal would be a big part of it. That they would have an unbroken line of Christians in their family until the day that Jesus returned – generation after generation – who would clearly follow Him with their lives. It’s a brilliant and God-honouring target for all parents as I see it.
When Paul first shared this with me, we only had two of our kids married and no grandchildren. How things change. Now all four of our family are happily married and we have 13 grandkids. I cannot tell you how many times I have repeated Paul’s challenge, passing on his words to my own family, to others in giving personal advice, and in speaking publicly. It is one of my ongoing personal prayers as well.
There’s another serious reason why his challenge is so important in passing on our faith and doing family right – God’s way. The sad truth is that most families are not doing a very good job at passing on the faith to their kids. Depending on the source, the statistics range from as low as 64 percent to nearly 82 percent of youth walk away from their faith after they leave home. Those numbers are gut-wrenching and sobering. The dangerous reality is that we, as a church, are only one generation away from extinction.
Because of my deep love for all things faith and family, for nearly three decades, I have made my own ethnographic observations by looking closely at any teenagers who have continued following the Lord after High School. When I would see a young adult at 18, 19 or 20 years of age, whose faith was alive and well, I would start looking for answers. I wanted to know what is true of those parents, and those families, where these children kept going on in their faith after leaving home. It almost goes without saying that every parent of faith deeply wants their children to own their faith volitionally – that their relationship with Jesus become personal, transformational and lasting. What I discovered in my observations, every parent should understand and incorporate.
I have used a merger of Paul’s challenge, these discoveries, and my grasp of God’s principles to be a springboard for what I teach people on how to pass their faith on to the next generation. I will share six Biblical conditions that are central in transferring your faith to your kids and grandkids. I believe that living out these non-negotiable factors in your lives and homes will almost guarantee that you will have an unbroken line of Christians until the day that Jesus returns!
The truths are anchored by two key words: authenticity and intentionality. Authenticity is a parent actually being who they portray they are. It’s about genuineness – being real versus being fake. Hypocritical parents are not followed.
Intentionality is a parent taking specific steps to live out their faith – to actually incorporate the transformation that a Christ-commitment implies. Talk is cheap. Parenting is so hard because you don’t get time off to be carnal. It’s a 24-7 life commitment that makes the greatest impact. Read on for the details on my best advice on doing this right. Here’s what wise parents will do:
Condition 1: Make a commitment to keep a soft heart towards God
Ezekiel 11:19, 20 says. “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.”
We need to allow God to remove the heart of stone within us – that hard, unresponsive, stubborn nature within us – and give us a heart of flesh. That’s a soft heart – one that’s sensitive, responsive and open to change. We listen to God’s voice; His truth penetrates our minds and hearts and we are receptive and willing to make life adjustments. You can’t hide this responsive, soft heart in the home. It is evident in all we do. Children can sense the genuineness of our love for Jesus. And it’s not about perfection – it’s about direction. Kids have to see that our love for God is real and the way our life is heading! Both husband and wife must be individually responsible to keep growing with the Lord. Make this commitment. We have.
In every wedding that I officiate, I give this advice to the couples getting married. “The greatest gift you can give your spouse is to keep a soft heart towards God because if you do, you will become the person, the partner and down the road, the parent the Lord wants you to be.” You see, the true litmus test of your faith is what happens inside the four walls of your home. It all starts with a soft heart that is evidenced in the primary relationships of your life. You simply can’t say you are sensitive to God and somehow be insensitive to those closest to you! If you know the Lord – you treat people right – and it starts with your spouse and kids!
It’s God’s ripple effect of transformation. The Lord works in concentric circles creating first of all, massive change in us and then clear and positive impact on those closest to us – spouse first, kids next, and then extended family and friends. It is really hard for our kids to rebel against something that they clearly see is so real in you.
Condition 2: Keep the passion alive in your marital relationship
The convincing nature of how you love your spouse is a reflection of God being in you and in control of your life. Song of Solomon 8:6 reads, “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love.” That is powerful. God has to be at work in your marriage. That’s what the kids see every day. Work to stay in love with your mate. Keep your marriage a priority.
The greatest gift a man can give his children is to love their mother. When kids see the strength of mom and dad’s marriage – if they sense their parents are tight and close – it translates into stability, strength and security in the lives of those observing children. Remember too, that the best premarital counseling that your kids will get is what they receive from you in the 20 plus years they are at home.
Ten days before my mother died, my dad was extolling the virtues of his 57-year soulmate. He was facing the stark reality that his Dorothy would soon succumb to the cancer battle. I remember dad’s words that evening as he broke down into tears, “I just wish the Lord would let me go with her now.” Then he sobbed so deeply because he knew she wasn’t coming home again. There’s one thing more beautiful than young love, that’s old Love – a love with history. It is seen when arthritic and gnarled hands can still naturally clasp together like each other’s twisted counterpart have found a way to weave together for life.
Modelling this love to my kids and grandkids was so important that when our first grandchild’s prenatal existence was announced, I began to pray that my grandkids would say this about me. “That Gpa (Jeepah) is crazy but does he love Nana and does he love Jesus!” That’s all I want. That they all would see the difference that my faith makes at home.
Condition 3: Practice perpetual re-engagement with your spouse and family
Most people wonder what perpetual re-engagement is. I can understand that. I deliberately put these words together to beg the question. Perpetual re-engagement is the decision to continuously and repeatedly come together again to reconcile and reconnect with those closest to you. Jesus called it forgiveness. That’s over and over again determining to release a person from the mistakes they have made and the hurts they have caused. And how many times did Jesus say we should perpetually re-engage with someone – including your spouse and children – 70 x 7 times. There is not much room for excuses to not forgive.
Colossians 3:12-13 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” That’s a tall order to forgive those closest to us like Jesus has forgiven us! If you don’t forgive, bitterness and resentment will eat you alive like a cancer. Break through those walls of hurt and anger and realize that forgiving someone – to perpetually re-engage – is to free yourself. Forgiveness and releasing the hurt, no longer holding it against the other person, is how you reconcile and remain close.
Face the fact that all marriages have what I call ‘splatter’. You know, the kind of splatter like when you drop an egg, it splats all over the place. Your spouse is going to let you down – whether it is their mistakes or unmet expectations, intentional or accidental. Keep coming back to work things out. Keep short accounts with each other. Remember that a great marriage isn’t a problem-free marriage. No, a great one is measured by how quickly you can resolve the issues that arise. And men, step up here. If you really want to take ‘head of the home’ seriously, you be the one to willingly and humbly always bend the knee first – be the first to apologize – be the first to forgive.