I’m sitting in traffic with kids in the backseat, trusting that this too God will get me through with some semblance of patience and sanity by the time the trip is complete. We have an almost seven-hour car ride ahead of us and my stomach is turning and my head is spinning. Traveling with children gives me so much anxiety and simultaneous joy. The mixture of excitement and nerves creates a cosmos of brewing, unpredictable emotions just below, what I like to imagine is a calm demeanor. Outwardly, I have it all together. The bags are packed, each child and adult have a beverage and snack to help curb appetite and thirst, and I have several electronic devices fully charged and at the ready in case of a complete toddler meltdown. The gas tank and tires are full. Inside I am a mess of mental checklists, playing out mini-emergencies, and second-guessing my every move.
Shortly after the crowd is buckled into their seat, we bless ourselves and pray for safe travels. From that point on, it is a lesson in patience, exhaustion, and stimulating car conversations. Throughout the ride, I lose myself in deep thought as I watch the terrain grow rugged and then level out again from the passenger window. It is not often that I’m confined to a small, relevantly quiet space with little to distract me from what lies ahead, and the whole situation has got my mental wheels turning.
When I think about travel and the juxtaposition of joy and anxiety that always accompanies it, are some other situations in life that pose a similar dilemma. Raising children seems to make these scenarios float to the surface in abundance and I wonder if I’m meant to walk through the rest of my life with one foot constantly anxious while the other cannot stop jittering with excitement.
To understate the emotions of mothering tremendously, the sheer act of raising children is a constant challenge and simultaneous joy. I love being a mom and I cherish the love I give and receive from my little ones but in my quietest moments I’m confronted with my greatest fear, will my children learn to share in my faith? If tomorrow never comes will my children trust that Jesus is holding onto them tightly and will they know they are loved so deeply that He has numbered each hair on their head (Luke 12:7)? What if I’m too aggressive with my faith or not aggressive enough? Will they remember that we pray together before bed, before meals, and before traveling or will these memories be as fleeting as what was on the menu last week?
I like to think I lead by example; by attending mass with my children, allowing them to witness my prayer life, to give them the opportunity to share in my service to others, to gather alongside me as I build a trusted community of faith-sharing church siblings. We talk about Jesus openly and I allow them to ask me hard questions – even if I don’t always know the answers. I struggle daily with the knowledge that it is my job to get my family to heaven. I know this awesome responsibility is mine and it is a blessing and an incessant struggle.
So I take this burden to the cross and I ask God for guidance. I ask him to lead my teaching and provide my children with a faithful framework to discover Him for themselves. I pray that they grow in faith as quickly as they grow into new shoes and yet my worry remains. My worry stems from my inability to let go and let God. Let God provide that with my prayers He will provide a way for my children to discover faith, in whatever manner He deems appropriate. It will be theirs to grasp onto but for now, it is up to me to present my faith to them but God is there, always guiding them closer to Him and His kingdom and guiding my words and focusing my teachings.
I know it is disingenuous to not trust God in this because without him I’m not even in a position to need to trust Him. He has blessed me with these beautiful children and their faith formation. He has allowed me to be their mother and I have to trust that he will lead them to the Cross. I know as they cross into adulthood the decision to pursue their faith is their and theirs alone but I pray and trust God that when that time comes I have given them all the earthy necessities to make a decision to embrace the promise of eternal salvation.
This reminds me of the verse in Proverbs, “Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it.” (Proverbs 22:6). I have to learn to trust that God is using me to forward His kingdom through the roots of faith formation in my children. My diligence and faith will prove plentiful if I fully hand over my anxiety about it to the Lord.
Now I need to get back to prayer that the children will ride quietly and sleep most of this trip….
How do you share your faith with your children?