Revisiting Your Spirituality
By Kimberly Kennedy
What is it about having children that makes many couples revisit their spirituality? “Spirituality” is a broad term, encompassing organized religion (along with its rituals and symbols) as well as the reverence and awe we feel in the presence of Nature—and everything in between.
“I believe there’s a difference between religion and a relationship with God,” says Chuck Mingo, a pastor at Crossroads church. “Unfortunately, many kids just get religion, the rules and rituals, but they don’t get a relationship.”
And that’s one reason some young people drift away from the religious tradition they were raised with. “They had to do things like go to Hebrew school, synagogue services, things that they didn’t find that interesting, uplifting, or meaningful,” says Pam Saeks, director of Jewish Giving at the Manuel D. & Rhoda Mayerson Foundation.
The reason for religion may not have been translated to them as children, explains Mingo. As young adults, we enter a natural phase of independence, and we may question the belief system of the church of our youth. Some will choose to take a break. Mingo hears, “I never stopped believing in God; I just didn’t want to go to church anymore.” However, they often maintain some aspect of their spirituality, like praying, attending communion, or joining a religious service organization.
Why do parents revisit spirituality? With marriage and kids, pragmatic questions arise: Should we have our child baptized? Should we have our boy circumcised in a hospital or during a bris (Jewish ceremonial circumcision)?
Religious holidays stir up family memories of “different foods, flavors, customs, traditions that make up a rich heritage and culture,” shares Saeks. “So for someone who didn’t think they were that interested, they have kids and realize the beauty of having that in their life and in their family.” School-age children ask questions about faith; then parents are faced with whether to pursue religious education.
But there’s something much more basic that opens up a spiritual portal: “The birthing process is an incredibly spiritual experience…It is miraculous,” says Mingo. And if God is Love, then there’s divinity in that inexplicable, all-consuming, unconditional love we feel for our children…
What do parents want for their children? A connection with the Divine Power, in whatever form that takes. They want a context for being a good person, for behaving right toward others. My husband said he wanted our children to experience “faith,” the belief in something unseen. I want my children to experience “you reap what you sow,” the idea that if you put positive energy out into the world, you will be rewarded with miracles, both small and big. I want them to know that there is a source of support and comfort during the challenges they will face as teens and adults.
Organized religion offers benefits, like a place to learn about the traditions and teachings. Mission work can give your family a sense of purpose. There’s also a feeling of belonging and a knowing that you have a community who will help your family if you’re ever in need.
To get started, Mingo recommends couples have conversations: First, what was your faith journey growing up, and second, what are your hopes for your children and family, as you explore faith together? Then, challenge yourselves to pray for guidance. Talk to friends you can relate to and trust: “What are you doing faith-wise, and can we come with you?”
The Mayerson Foundation offers a service called Fusion Family for Jewish and interfaith families. Saeks explains that it provides resources and programs so couples and families can connect with others like themselves and explore aspects of Jewish culture, while they are making decisions about what role they want Judaism to play in their lives.
How do you encourage your children to stay—not stray? “What will really communicate to your kids the power of faith is what they see playing out in your lives Monday through Saturday, not only what they experience at a church on Sunday,” encourages Mingo. You are their faith role model.
He adds, “Don’t underestimate the power of building faith traditions in your home.” To illustrate, Saeks shares the tradition of Shabbat, the Sabbath-day meal: Families light candles, drink wine, and break bread together. They will often take turns telling family members what they’re proud of or what they appreciate about them. “The most holy of all Jewish holidays is Shabbat,” says Saeks, “and it comes every week.”