What every parent needs to have spiritual conversations is an understanding that our job is to distill truth and not simplifying truth. The temptation we have when talking about spiritual things with our kids is we lean toward simplifying ideas for them and not distilling truth behind those ideas.
Let me explain I have always loved science I never did so good in math but science I did very well in. When you simplify something in science or in nature what you do is you add stuff to dilute the base. You pour in water to a concentrated drink to dilute and simplify. The result is a watered down diluted product. When you distill something you cook out what is not essential and you leave only the things that are heavy in a small more concentrated form.
For far to long the church and parents have been guilty of trying to make Christ more attractive by adding ideas and things to the Gospel to make it more appealing and more attractive. In doing this we have robbed the Gospel of it’s power. When we distill truth we take away the confusing non-essentials and leave the powerful core of the truth that Jesus taught in a way a child would understand.
It is by far easier to simplify truth it is much more impacting to distill it. Let say one Sunday morning you and your wife had a fight on the way to church because she was getting ready and you felt she made you late. On the way home your wife is mad at you because you always the last ones to leave because are talking to everyone in sight. You pick your kids up from class make your way throughout the crowded lobby and out to your car. Once in your car you ask your kids individually 1. Did you have fun? 2. What did you learn? in response your oldest son of 7 years old says Dad, what’s faith? You are taken back and off guard and so you say “It’s when you believe something.” Did that answer the question? Sort of. It simplified the concept. The problem with simplifying truth is it makes truth confining in a nice neat box. Truth is always true but rarely fits neatly in a box. Rewind that conversation and here is the truth distilled. “Dad what is faith?” You can tell your son faith is all about trust. It’s understanding what the Bible says about who Jesus is and trusting him no matter what happens in life.
How do we become distillers of truth and not simplifiers of it? In my previous example I tried to simplify my son’s question because I was frustrated, tired and overwhelmed.
To distill truth for our kids we need to:
1. Ask God for wisdom and not just answering questions how we have always heard questions answered.
The Bible tells us that if we lack wisdom we are to ask.
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
2. Be prepared ahead of time. Over the last 15 years pastoring kids and the last 8 as a parent I have come to find that all kids want to know the answers to some basic questions. The goal of this book is to get you thinking and to prepare you for when your kids do ask you can give a reason for the hope that you have.
1 Peter 3:15 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
3. Understand the Gospel enough to be able to point our kids continually back to Christ. By no means do you have to be a biblical scholar but you do have to read your bible. When our backs are pinned to the wall by a 4-year-old wanting answers about the eternal state of their pet frog. What is in you is going to come out.
4. Write down your answers. I know on more than one occasion I explained some complex truth to my kids, and because it was Christ in me more than it was my brilliance. I turn to my wife and ask her what I just said and I can’t even remember. There is something spiritual about keeping a journal. I never did it much because it doesn’t sound so manly. But through blogging, much more manly sounding, I have been able to write some of those things that I can call upon them at a later date and use them to encourage my kids and as a resource for other parents.
5. Ask someone who is smart than you are. I remember watching who wants to be a millionaire for the first time. I got all the questions right until a certain point I thought I could dominate then I hit a wall right around the same time the contestant on TV did. Then something amazing happened. Regis told her she could “Phone a friend.” I didn’t even flinch I knew exactly who I would call my good friend who is way smarter than me. I knew then what I know now, I could win Who wants to be a Millionaire because of my average intelligence combined with my friend Ricks superior intellect. It was right at that moment that I had a God thought if I would feel comfortable calling my friend Rick about who was the fattest president based on percentage of body weight why would I not call him about stuff that really matters. We all have people in our lives that know more than we do. Call them and leverage their wisdom to help you distill truth for your kids.
When you distilling truth vs. simplifying truth you put handles to your kids faith and they can take it with them where ever they go. And they will because distilled truth is not tame truth it is violent life transforming never be the same again truth. When you distill truth in a way that takes a complex idea and simplifies it yet keeps the power of that truth intact it’s unforgettable. The reason it’s unforgettable is it elevates Christ. In distilling truth we want to explain truth to our kids in such a way that they walk away in awe at the greatness of who Jesus is. I think we settle for simple truth because it’s easier at the time and our kids walk away thinking we are the smartest person ever. I never want my kids to marvel at my wisdom. I want them to daily stand in awe at the greatness of our Creator. I want Jesus to be the hero in every moment in every story and in every day. We simplify truth because we misunderstand our role in the life of our kids and the kids we minister to we think we are supposed to be their savior. We are not what God has called us to do is be a voice crying in the wilderness telling our kids to prepare the way of the Lord. We are not supposed to be their savior just a signpost pointing to their savior. When we distill truth we do just that.