Only God Can Convert: on Parenting and the Spiritual Life

I want my children to learn from my past. I want to teach them what I know so that they leave my home with greater knowledge and understanding of the world than I had at their age. I want to give them the benefit of my experience and prepare them for the trials of the world. There are some lessons, which I can do much to teach them about – hygiene, cooking, how to change a tire or navigate an airport, and other subjects which I am called to simply introduce and teach by example. Spiritual life falls into this second category.

It is natural to want our children to start their personal life of holiness from the place we currently are. We want to impart all of our knowledge to them so that they too can grow on their own from a place of spiritual maturity. We desire to set them up as independent adults with a spiritual bank account that is already sufficient enough that it is accruing interest. All they have to do is grow from that point.

And although this is a natural and one may even say good desire, it is riddled with spiritual pride. Because it places us, the parent, as the teacher. There is no room for the Lord. We become the master, the teacher, the rabbi, teaching, judging, instructing.

Spiritual growth, commitment to the Lord, is all about love, trust, and intimacy with the Lord. Although the role of the family is important, spiritual growth itself is not a family activity. It is a deeply personal connection to the Divine. As a parent, you introduce your child to the faith, and you live your faith life infused in everything you do, but you can not control or direct your child’s relationship with the Lord. Father Jacque Phillipe says “A plant can’t be made to grow by pulling it up”. It can be tempting to want to pull our children up spiritually when in reality we simply need to nourish their spiritual soil. You nourish their soil when you nourish your own, and you live a life of prayer and discipleship.

Your relationship with the Lord and your desire to know Him and love Him greater is a gift from the Lord. He has placed that on your heart at this moment. Revelations in prayer, recognizing his presence, hearing his voice in your heart, those are all kisses from heaven sent directly to you. Humbly sharing these with your children or spouse is appropriate when you are compelled to do so, but the focus must always be on God, not you. Sharing must occur without an expectation that sharing things will lead to a deeper conversion for your loved one. You are not responsible for the conversion of anyone. Only God can convert the hearts of man.

Your experiences with the Lord will enrich the lives of your children, for the simple fact that they transform you towards being more like Christ Himself. Your relationship with the Lord increases your ability to love your children as God desires you to love them. The graces of patience and fortitude will multiply as you continue to serve your family daily with humility. It is this service and love that will lead you to continual conversion and serve as a model of living and loving for your children to adopt as they grow. So live your life openly for God, pray for your children, and let Him do the rest.

Image credit: Depositphotos

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