What we believe is so important. What we believe about ourselves often limits what we are able to do. People who believe they could never run a marathon are unlikely to do so. People who believe they are unlovable will often unintentionally behave in such a way that makes them difficult to love.
In the same way, what we believe about God plays a vital part in our faith. When it comes to faith at home it’s essential that we feed our understanding of who God is to foster a stable, grounded faith.
I’ve recently been meditating on a collection of Bible verses about who I am in Christ. One of the things that has struck me is how all the statements are about God. It’s obvious really, but here are a few of the statements so you can see what I mean (for a full list, see GodVenture.co.uk):
- I am a child of God.
- I am lavished with grace.
- I am able to do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.
- I am God’s work of art.
- I am redeemed.
- I am wonderfully and fearfully made.
- I am accepted and forgiven.
- I am the pleasing aroma of Christ.
- I am a branch of the true vine.
I explored these and other statements with a group of adult Christians, getting them to look up a series of verses, create the ‘I am’ saying from each, then read them aloud. One man finished his off by saying: “But I certainly don’t feel like it.”
It’s true that often things in the Bible which we know to be true often don’t feel it, so I knew what he meant. Over the last couple of months I’ve been doing some creative meditation to help my mind absorb and translate these truths from things I know into things I believe.
I’ve looked them up, written them out, and played about with them in various creative ways, making word pictures and even a magnet set as a way of helping to remember and ponder them. I’ve spent time thinking and praying, asking myself:
- Which of these statements am I most comfortable with?
- Which of these statements am I least comfortable with?
- Which of these statements really doesn’t feel true?
In this way I’ve started to imbed more biblical truth into my heart.
In some ways, belief is the easiest part of our faith to understand and feed, as most of our Sunday church activities are set up for adults and children to receive teaching so that we can understand God better.
Of course, the four aspects of faith Francis Bridger cites cannot really be separated, so I often find that as we are building our knowledge we are also using our imaginations and working out what this faith means for our daily activities, while steadily growing closer to Jesus.
For a growing knowledge about God to be useful to our faith, it needs to be intertwined with an increasing experience of God; a growing connection with him. This is something Rachel Turner talks about in her book Parenting Children for a Life of Faith. I think it’s interesting that in many places in the Bible the word ‘know’, which we often associate with thinking, is often experiential. For example, Adam knew Eve and she conceived. That’s not book knowledge!
Francis says: “This emphasis upon faith as an intellectual activity has frequently been overplayed. But the importance of believing in doctrinal truths should not be understated.”
How can we feed this part of our faith?
Read or listen to the Bible together, and choose your Bible wisely
If you’re using retold stories in a children’s Bible, check what the text and pictures are saying. I love the ones where there is nothing the children would need to unlearn later. I also love having a variety of children’s Bibles so my children can see the diverse ways the stories are told, as this is the beginning of recognising that people read the Bible in different ways and have different theologies. For older children it’s helpful to use a range of Bible translations, as often the differences can be really interesting. When using a Bible to read together, try to find a good, accessible translation. My favourite for reading aloud is the Contemporary English Version (CEV), and for emerging readers the New International Reader’s Version (NIRV), which contains shorter sentences and simpler language. There’s a large print version of the New Testament NIRV available from Biblica, which is the perfect size for new readers aged 5 to 10.
Think of opportunities to start introducing a ‘real’ Bible. For example, it’s possible to read a short passage to a 2 or 3-year-old, and it’s amazing how much they grasp. From when our children were around 5 we’ve listened to audio Bibles. We once listened to 15 chapters of Exodus in two days! I’d never have attempted to read that much with them, but listening in the car was easy!
Create space to connect with God when reading the Bible
You could ask God to speak with you before you start reading and then use ‘wondering questions’ afterwards, such as:
- I wonder what part of this story you liked most
- I wonder which part of this story was most important.
- I wonder which part of the story jumped out at you.
- I wonder what you discovered about God in this story.
- I wonder what part of this story you have a question about.
- I wonder where you might be in this story.
I’ve found that by introducing open-ended questions I don’t know the answers to, and wondering aloud myself, my children have become confident when it comes to asking deep and complicated questions about the text. For example, the other day my 6-year-old asked why Jacob and his family didn’t return from Egypt to Canaan after the famine was over, thus avoiding slavery and the need for Moses and the Exodus. Good question!
By asking my own questions, my children know that asking questions of the text is OK (see ‘Is the answer Jesus?’, page 36). I’ve shown them how we can go about seeing whether we can answer them, while also showing that we sometimes just don’t know the answer, and that’s also OK. This gives families the freedom to learn and grow together in their beliefs, and allows parents who are new to faith or feel they don’t know much about God to help their children grow in faith.
Use other books
Our family uses non-fiction books like a Bible atlas, as well as books about the Romans or Egyptians to help give us cultural context. We also use fictional retellings of the stories alongside the Bible text. I make sure my children know the difference between the two, and often the story drives us back to the Bible to find out more.
What could you do to grow your belief?