To believe relaxed and to raise as a child

A new series of blogs about the resemblance between growing in your faith and the raising of a child.

The bible compares God to a father and a mother and the church to a family. It speaks about baby’s in faith, about growing in faith and about mature believers.

Problem is we don’t have a clear picture of what a mature believer actually is. It isn’t so that confirmation or baptism makes you a mature believer. In fact it marks the start of your life with Christ. The bible talks about becoming mature (Ephesians 4:13-14; Hebrews 5:11-14) but the characteristics aren’t clear. It has mainly to do with knowing God and because of that you stand firmly. (Colossians 1:10).

The developmental psychology talks about completion of development stages on your way to maturity. Here also maturity is about who you are and the way you approach life. The main characteristic is being able to be responsible for others. You could compare that with the mission of Christ to make disciples.

Are you a mature Christian when you are able to support others at their grow in faith? If you are able to be a father or mother figure? Or are there other characteristics for maturity in church?

The question remains how you can mature in faith. It is a personal development that happens mainly inside of your head. Children you can see developing physically and there are development characteristics that are age related. You don’t have those in faith. You can’t say you are further developed when you know a lot of bible verses by heart, or when you are able to pray out loud, if you don’t do certain visible sins anymore, or go to church twice a week. These are all good things, but not signs of maturity.

The church has desired behaviour, just like parents desire certain behaviour from their children. Some things you approve of, other things you disapprove. But a child that follows your rules isn’t necessary mature. On the contrary, the older the child gets, the greater the chance it will form his or her own opinion about your rules. How do we cope with that as a church?

Just like in an ordinary family in church there is a form of competition; who believes better, sins less, knows more bible verses, etc.. We sometimes behave like little boys in a peeing competition. (1 Timothy 1:3-8).

We can also do our utmost to be a good Christian. I think our Father in heaven sometimes looks at that with a big smile on His face, just like we can watch our children with amusement when they are bravely busy with to them very important business. With the tip of their tonques out of their mouthts they write their first letters, they build beautiful but fragile constructions of building blocks, they ride their tricycles with all their might and think they go very fast.

For children these are all very important steps and as an involved party we encourage them. We tell them we are proud of them and that they go very fast indeed. We even cheer when they pee in their potty for the first time!

But we don’t continue doing that. When they are six we think it is absolutely normal when they go to the toilet all by their selves and when they turn sixteen, we try to moderate their need for speed. We also don’t learn them to read and write every year. When they know how to do that, we encourage them to practice so they get better at it. How do we do that in church? How do we encourage people to take their first steps and how do we learn them to walk by their selves?

Every parent knows you may be quite a mature grown up when you start having children, but once your child is born you soon find out you still need to learn a lot. Raising a child isn’t about learning the rules, but about coaching and guiding a personality. Your first task is to get to know this little bundle of joy, so you can understand its needs; when do they want milk and when do they want your presence. When do they want to be stimulated and when do they want to rest.

When children are going to play, you see they imitate your behaviour. Children learn mainly by observing you. Because of this, you start looking at yourself in a different way; is what I do what I want to transfer? Sometimes you see things about yourself in these little mirrors you don’t like at all. Raising little children is mainly working very hard at yourself.

When they are older, they start asking questions. “Why this?” “Why that?” Sometimes it drives you crazy. They can ask questions about things that are completely normal to you, but now you had to think about it, your normal may not be so normal any more. This could lead to a different view on the matter. This is scary, but being an adult, it can also be greatly enriching.

Do we raise baby Christians this way in church? Do we respond to the level of development of the believers around us? Do we dare to look critically at ourselves? Do we give room to ask questions about everything? Are we focussed on the growth of a personality or are we conditioned to transfer rules?

In short, enough to blog about the coming weeks!