Why I’m Not Hoping My Kids Love God

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My whole life I’ve always thought that loving God and raising my kids to love God was the highest form of moral and spiritual accomplishment. If I could just get myself and them to this head and heart space of loving God above all else, surely then we would live meaningful and happier lives.

But recently, in the middle of my own wrestling with faith and all things spiritual, I got to thinking, what if we all just learned to like God? You know, just get to know Him a little better and actually LIKE Him. And then see what happens after that?

It seems like when I’m commanded to do ANYTHING my natural inclination is to resist. I don’t think it’s all that different with love. I’ve perfected the art of loving someone without really liking them. We joke about it. You know the bumper sticker, “Jesus loves you. The rest of us think you’re an asshole.” Yeah. That. And He only loves you because He has to. He’s God. He loves everyone. The rest of us don’t really care for you. We care about you at the most minimal level so as to comply with the commandments. We tolerate you. We half-heartedly wish you well without really being invested in your well-being.

We teach our kids this same theology. Love God because we say so. Because the Bible says so. Love God because it’s the right thing to do. Love God because there might be scary consequences if you don’t. And by the way, do all this stuff He commands and expects of you. Because. We say so. This doesn’t really make God feel all that likable.



When I think about the people in my life that I
really like, I smile. Because they make me feel good about myself. They make me laugh. I love to spend time with them. I can count on them and I know they’ll always be there for me. They want what’s best for me. I trust them with my deepest thoughts and feelings. They know me. They hear me. They see me. The people I really like take good care of my heart.  They know I’m not perfect, but they keep coming back around because they see the value in me despite my shortcomings. I don’t have to pretend to be something I’m not. They already like me just as I am.

This is what I really believe God is like. I really like Him a lot more than I used to.

And I’m convinced He likes me, too.

Religion and faith can be so complicated and messy. Talk about humanity screwing something up beyond all recognition. Sometimes I think God must look down and just shake His head as if to say, “This is so far off from what I wanted for you guys.” In the book Love Does, by the legendary Bob Goff, he says this about keeping faith simple:

“…I see myself floating in a massive sea of God’s love. The circle of His grace and forgiveness is big enough and the line leading to Him is long enough that I don’t always need to be measuring latitude and longitude to find myself. It’s a pretty easy calculation each day actually…I just stay somewhere in that circle.”

This. This is a God I like. This is a God I think my kids would like and want to know and spend time with. I want them to know that liking God is easy. Sure the Bible commands us to love God with all of our hearts. And I absolutely want that for myself and for my kids. But the path to loving Him is liking Him. And that’s where I’m going to start.

Where There is Love, There is Life

06381cfd7315dff093c62bdf083ea2a3I am learning, learning, learning about love. Everyday. All the time. Not just romantic love, because, HELLOOO– Terrifying. But real love. All kinds of love. What it is. What it’s not. What feels like love. What decidedly does NOT feel like love. I even have a Pinterest board called, “Love or Something Like It” that I’ve been working on for a while now. 389 pins. But who’s counting? I know the name seems a little vague, but here’s the thing– We think OF COURSE we know what love is. But do we really? I don’t always know that I do. But I do know I want to get better at it. All of it. (So it’s almost like Pinterest is EDUCATIONAL. Smiling. I am totally smiling at this thought.)

And so recently, while I was ruminating about love, I unintentionally had identical conversations with two different people who land on two totally different paradigms of what is a very messy issue~

Conversation #1:

A friend and I are chatting casually about God, church, relationships and such. She talks about being raised in a deeply religious home, with extremely zealous parents, particularly her father. She refers to him as the type of guy who would stand on street corners downtown, handing out Christian literature and telling people Jesus loves them. (I know. Cringe worthy) But she went on to say that her dad is THE kindest person she knows. Super loving, super friendly. And then somehow, segues into telling me that her brother is gay.

“Ohhhh man. In such a religious family, how the heck did that go over? How did your parents handle that?” I asked in total wonder. (Sadly preparing for the worst.)

“They were actually okay about it. I mean, it was hard, but it’s their son. They love him and support him. What could they do about it? We’re all close. It’s fine. I mean, we love him.”


Conversation #2:

Another close friend and I are chatting. She is lamenting that she has not heard from her son, who also happens to be gay. She can’t understand why he doesn’t come to visit. Rarely calls. Doesn’t seem to make time for her. She misses him. She has, however, made it repeatedly clear that she does not accept that he is gay. Does not approve of his lifestyle. Cannot condone it. Refuses to try to understand. To try and…adjust. And no, he is not welcome to bring his partner when he visits. She will not have “that” in her home. ‘He needs to respect her beliefs and her wishes.’  And so there she sits. Alone. And sad. But by God, sticking to her principles.  And while I try to empathize with the seeming complexity of the issue, I’m so struck by the fact that she could make different choices that would lead to better outcomes– and yet how she would rather draw a hard-line, regardless of the cost and loss it has led to.

I get that this can be complicated. And messy. And gray. And I also get that very many of you will absolutely land squarely on one side or the other, with no doubt in your mind and actually tell me that it’s clearly black and white for you. I can’t answer tough theological questions about it. I can’t even say anything all that profound about it.  And it’s totally within the realm of the way I think to actually hold a few opposing thoughts about the whole thing. But I can tell you this: I know which one feels like love. And which one doesn’t.

Conversation #1 felt like love to me. It felt like Jesus-love to me, because I’m quite sure it was sacrificial love; As though this mom and dad had a love so big, and so wide, and so deep, they were able to lay down their “rights” as parents, their need for religion to reign, so that love could reign instead. It saved their family, but it also may have saved their son. I walked away feeling grateful. Grateful for generous love. Grateful for love that accepts, forgives, overlooks, embraces. For love that leads to life.

Conversation #2 was hard. It was frustrating. Stiff. Stubborn. It was sad. I couldn’t help but think about the years that are being wasted while they both miss out on so much because of my friend’s daily conscious choice to not love her son unconditionally. It has felt hopeless to try to expand her thinking in any way~

I get that you have your beliefs. I get that it makes you uncomfortable. But what I don’t get is your inability to set all of that aside for the sake of love. For the sake of your son. For the sake of wholeness in your family. And really, for your own sake. I know you– and I want to believe that you possess bigger love than that in the deepest places of your heart. After all, you love ME– and damn if I couldn’t give you a thousand reasons why I’m not entirely worthy of love either.

The lack of love here has led to death– the death of relationships, of family, of connection. And it’s being grieved daily. By both parties.

I think what makes me most sad is that my friend thinks she’s loving Jesus in her convictions. And so that’s why I try so very hard not to judge her. She.Thinks.She’s Loving.Jesus. By refusing to accept her son and his lifestyle. And it reminds me of all the times I thought I was loving Jesus by judging and correcting and refusing to accept. And I grieve that now. That misperception of love. That disullisionment.

I certainly could never claim to know exactly what Jesus is thinking. But everywhere I look in the Bible, love comes first. Always. Love above everything else. Because love leads to life. And if we’re still ever asking the question, “What would Jesus do?”, I can’t help but think it seems pretty clear. Maya Angelou once said, “When you know better, you do better.” And when it comes to love, all I know is, I want to do better.


If this is an issue you wrestle with and you’d like to read more, please read about one couple’s heartrending journey with their son over at Rage Against the Minivan.