The other day something reminded me of the popular 1993 book, “The Celestine Prophecy” (anyone remember that?). “The Celestine Prophecy” is a fiction book that discusses ideas rooted in New Age spirituality. The book sold 20 million copies and practically spawned its own cult-like religion, with groups popping up all over the country to study the insights and apply them to life.
I discovered this book when I was fresh out of high school and was enamored by it. The insights were exciting (“there’s a reason for every apparent coincidence!”) and it proposed interesting ideas about spirituality that seemed totally plausible to my young mind. I couldn’t stop talking about it. I told all my friends about it. I started paying attention to how the nine insights in the book applied to my life. I suddenly felt life was more meaningful.
The problem? I was a “Christian” but it never even occurred to me that these New Age ideas should have been immediately rendered false by the beliefs I claimed to have. My faith was so shallow that the first exciting philosophy I encountered after high school swept me off my feet – without so much as an inkling that it was in conflict with everything I had been taught.
When I randomly remembered this book last week, I marveled at how I had developed such a shallow faith, despite the fact I had gone to church for 18 years and grew up surrounded by family members who deeply loved the Lord.
A Borrowed Faith
In my family, faith looked like spiritual “parallel play.” Parallel play is the stage young toddlers go through where they enjoy being near other kids, but don’t actually interact with each other yet. They’ll play blocks side by side, but they won’t find ways to play blocks together.
My family members would individually read their Bibles, go to church every week, participate in prayer chains, and humbly remind each other that plans would only happen “Lord willing.” Those were the spiritual blocks they played with next to me.
Meanwhile, I went to church, was at least mildly interested in what I heard, felt confident that if I died I would be saved, prayed occasionally on my own, went to church camps, attended youth nights, and freely told anyone who asked that I was a Christian. Those were the spiritual blocks I played with next to them.
But we never spiritually played together. Without that deeper engagement, my faith simply remained shallow and was based on living out a copy of what those around me were doing.
I left home with a completely borrowed faith.
I had never made it my own, but not because I rejected it in any way.
Many parents are brokenhearted when their kids reject Christianity in the teen years. I would suggest that many other parents are lulled into a false sense of security when their kids appear to toe the line of faith until they leave home. That faith often amounts to little more than borrowed beliefs which will soon be shattered.
Make no mistake: a borrowed faith leaving home can be just as dangerous as a broken faith. The result is often the same, just delayed.
When I originally started this post, I planned to call it, “10 Signs Your Kids are Just Borrowing Your Faith.” As I thought through the signs I can see in retrospect from my own experience, however, I found they all really pointed back to just one sign. So here it is:
The number one sign your kids are just borrowing your faith is that they rarely, if ever, ask questions.
Why Aren’t They Asking Questions?
- They may be just uninterested enough to not ask questions, but not so uninterested as to reject Christianity altogether. They’ll just borrow your faith for a while because that’s what’s in front of them on the buffet.
- They may not yet see the importance of Christian belief in their lives. It’s perceived as just another subject they’re learning about, like math. They’ll just borrow your faith for a while because they don’t think it’s important enough to think more deeply about.
- They may not have been exposed to enough non-Christian ideas yet. Their faith isn’t being challenged in preparation for the adult world. Challenge them. If you don’t, non-believers soon will. They’ll just borrow your faith for a while because they see no need not to.
- They may be scared or uncertain of your reaction. They’ll just borrow your faith for a while because that’s what they think is expected of them.
- They may be getting answers elsewhere – usually not the answers you’d like them to have. They’ll just borrow your faith for a while because they don’t want to rock the boat at home.
If your kids aren’t asking questions, start asking THEM questions. Open the door for the conversation yourself and get them thinking in ways that will ultimately allow them to own their faith.
Need some ideas for meaty topics? Use my post, 65 Questions Every Christian Parent Needs to Learn to Answer, as a thought starter or order my new book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith (in my book, you’ll learn easy-to-understand answers to 40 important faith questions that you can discuss with your kids).
Did YOU leave home with a borrowed faith? Why or why not? I’d love to hear your experiences.