I posed a question to each of my children and asked them to pick the answer that they thought best applied to him/her:
When I think of how God sees me, I think . . .
A. He loves me and accepts me even when I do bad things
B. He doesn’t care about me. He’s unhappy with me because I do bad things.
C. He’s indifferent about me. He’s not interested in me. He doesn’t care whether I do good or bad.
I typed out the question and instructed my oldest four, ages 8-12, to consider the question carefully and pick the answer that best describes how they feel. I told them that there was no right or wrong answer. In addition, they were to select an answer not based on what they think is the correct answer.
Two of the children picked answer A and one picked C. Yet another child picked A but was unsatisfied because it did not fully answer how he felt. Knowing what he was communicating, I told him he could circle any part of the sentences on the entire sheet to describe how he feels. To which he circled the following: “He loves me” and “He’s unhappy with me
because when I do bad things.” It was interesting that he changed the wording from “because” to “when.”
I’ve been reflecting on why and how certain children reject God after they leave their parents’ home. I increasingly see how we as parents play a huge part in our children’s belief in God and perception of him. How we treat our children has an effect on how they think God treats them. We are the link to our children’s view of God. If we create a legalistic home life – one that primarily emphasizes obedience to rules – they tend to see think of God primarily as a rule-giver. But if we give them a grace-filled home – where rules are not abandoned, but mistakes and failures and disobedience are received with patience, forgiveness and understanding – it is much easier for our children to see how wondrous and gracious God. With this in mind, I crafted the above question to understand how my children really think about God.
I rejoice that two of my children think that God accepts and loves them for who they are, even when they mess up. As for the other two children’s answers, I was not surprised by how they answered because I had long suspected it based on their personalities and, yes, how we’ve parented them differently. I am not dejected but I press on with hope that God is more than able and willing to help me show grace towards these two children who are made quite differently from me. The questionnaire is humbling. It forces me to think about ways that I can help my children move towards the truth that God accepts and loves them for who they are, not based on what they do.