My wife, Christi, is 37 weeks pregnant.
People ask if our nearly two-year-old son knows he’s getting a baby sister soon.
He knows there’s a crib in the other bedroom. He runs into the room pointing at it saying, “baaa-by” in a very affectionate tone.
He also knows that mommy’s belly is referred to as “baby” as he touches it saying “gen-tle.”
He also has a baby doll he holds to practice feeding her a bottle. Sometimes he’s gentle with her. Other times he throws her across the room by the head. (Oh well. We’re working on it.)
Cognitively, these are the things he knows about his baby sister.
Does he know how much his little sister will take away from the amount of attention he receives around the house?
Does he know how much a little sister will shortchange him on his inheritance?
Does he know what a joy having a sibling will be?
Of course not. He hasn’t experienced a baby sister yet.
Knowing about something in our heads is quite different from knowing something in our hearts.
I cognitively (in my head) know about labor pains; Christi, on the other hand, experientially (all over her body) knows labor pains.
Which leads me to one of the most curious verses in the Bible, when Paul writes, I have labor pains that you may be well formed in Christ Jesus (Galatians 4:19).
How does Paul know what labor pains feel like? The truth is he doesn’t.
Paul wanted to convey the anguish he was feeling for how far away the Galatian people were from the Lord. So he uses the analogy of childbirth to express the intensity of his passion to see the Galatians become well formed in their faith, just as a baby becomes well formed in the womb.
Standing beside my wife in the coming days I will again experience the helplessness a husband feels while his wife labors in pain. And as I think about that coming day, it challenges me to ask the question, “Do I anguish over my kids—that they be well formed in Jesus?”
Perhaps the more practical question is, “Do my kids really know?”
Do my kids know by the way I live, experientially, that my passion, more than any other, is for them to be well formed in Jesus? Do my kids know by the way I pursue my own spiritual formation?
Or will they merely see a manger at Christmas time and say, “ba-by.”
Knowing about Jesus won’t get them to heaven or allow them to experience the joy of salvation. Knowing Jesus will.
But we cannot assume they know.
Recent research found that parents are more optimistic and confident that the life messages they’re giving their children are getting through more than they really are. The relational divide is highlighted by this one statistic: 59% of teenagers report they feel emotionally (experientially) close to their mom and only 35% say that they feel relationally close to their dad.
For our kids to know, they need us to disciple them.
For our kids to know, they need us to model it for them.
For our kids to know, they need us to relate to them.
For our kids to know, we need to invite them into our own spiritual journey.
Remember, what we do matters more than what we say. If we want our kids to know Jesus, and not just know about him, they have to know we genuinely experience him—and allow that relationship to spill over into our love for them.
UPDATE: My wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl since I wrote this post. Here is what I experienced with her in the hospital.
For a practical way of living out your faith with your kids in the mundane, you can also check out the humorous, but very real post on Why God Cares That You Brush Your Teeth.
Joshua Straub, Ph.D. is an advocate for families and parenting in the 21st century. He loves coming alongside families to provide encouragement, support and practical counsel. Josh loves combining scientific research with biblical wisdom to provide the best-of-all-worlds perspective on raising stellar kids, having an awesome marriage and enjoying life while doing it. You can read more of the boring professional stuff about Josh and his books here, if you’re interested. Together with his favorite writing partner and wife, Christi, Josh has fun parenting their son Landon and daughter Kennedy. For more encouragement and ideas on marriage and parenting in the 21st century you can join Josh and a growing tribe of awesome families at www.joshuastraub.com and follow him on Twitter @joshuastraub or Facebook.