Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Family of disBelievers

This is another excellent article that I found in my email from Relevant.

One year after my mom’s wedding, I found out that my stepdad used to be Christian prior to meeting my mother. I’ve never asked why he lost his faith. My mom agreed to marry him on one condition: that he never return to the Church. So now, among the books on their library shelf, sit titles like The Atheist’s Bible and The God Delusion, right next to the untouched The Good News Bible.

As a teenager, I discovered this dusty gold book in my family’s collection. My mom only told me that it used to be hers, but never explained further. Today, I cannot imagine a younger version of my mother folding her hands in prayer. I often wonder if she used to talk to God and what made her give up on Him. I want to meet that little girl with dirty blond hair and ask if she could trust Him again.

When my parents divorced, I became a Christian, and the distance between my family and me grew. I continued asking God why my family appeared fine without Him. If Jesus was the Truth and the Way, why weren’t they seeking Him? But I began to realize that the transformation began with me. As my faith increased, my heart grew to hold a greater love for others, and my family began to notice those changes. When I chose to live for Christ, His purpose became bigger than my own.

My sister asked me one time, “What kinds of things do you pray for?”

“I pray for people, for Dad to be safe, for Mom to be happy and for you guys,” I said.

She asked what I prayed for them, and I told her I prayed that they would do well in school and make new friends, but in actuality, I pray to be a better role model for them. I pray that they’ll continue asking about my faith. I pray that the desire for knowledge and friendship will lead them into more discussions about Jesus. I know He works in mysterious ways. And one day, they’ll see something or meet someone who will stir questions deep within their hearts, and they’ll begin to wonder if He’s real.

Sometimes in church on Sundays, I imagine my mom sitting beside me, drinking a cup of grape juice during communion. I imagine her discussing the pros and cons of the pastor’s sermon with me. I imagine her pointing out an important passage of the Bible to me with authority. “Turn to 1 John 4:7,” she would say. I wonder if she secretly consults that gold Bible of hers once in a while and dog-ears a page or two.

My mom is my best friend, but I struggle with introducing my faith to her. She never voiced disapproval over my decision of faith, but she didn’t exactly support me, either. So I step cautiously around religious. I find myself rewording sentences so as not to come across as a Bible-thumping fundamentalist, and at the same time, I refrain from pointing out every positive experience and saying, “See, that’s God right there.” I don’t want her to think I have an agenda or that I’m out to save a couple more lives for Jesus.

Salvation is one of the most important concepts of Christianity that continues to puzzle me. While flipping through one of my mom’s school yearbooks, I found a baptism certificate hidden in its pages. So is my mom saved, or must she start over and repent because she lost her faith? It’s too difficult for me to imagine her or anyone else in my family enduring an eternity without God, so I show them love and attempt to bring Jesus into their lives. But is that enough? If they died tomorrow, will I have done all I could? Or will I feel guilty for not having done more?

I want to tell my mom that in all these years of suffering, God has never left her side. No matter what she was told in the past, He loves and forgives. I have never outright said, “Mom, I want you to know that Jesus loves you more than anything,” because I’m afraid of my words failing. In my mind, she would answer sarcastically, “Nice to know he cares.” And she’d say it with a lowercase “h” because He is just a pronoun to her.

For every unclear, unfamiliar and unknown situation I face with my family, I remain hopeful about God’s promises and confident that He will move in time. Lamentations 3:25–26 promises, “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (TNIV). My family hasn’t witnessed the hours of tears I’ve cried for them, and they haven’t heard the hours of prayers I’ve spoken for them. But I don’t think those hours have been wasted. I know God hears me. The Bible says, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22).

I visualize these plans He sets before me—dozens of moments, hundreds of conversations and thousands of opportunities for me to witness and spread His message. I am called to love Jesus, to love others and to live a Christ-centered life. But how do I share the most important facet of my life with the most important people in my life when the two are incompatible? The answer is simply to love.
Author: Morgan Kirk

Morgan Kirk is an intern at RELEVANT Media Group.

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