I grew up in a Christian home.
Those of you with that classic testimony-opener will know what I’m talking about. Childhood involved multiple showings of ‘The Miracle Maker’ and tugging on your mum’s sleeve every week after her ‘final’ post-church coffee… Mine was a typical Christian upbringing. My parents loved God, my dad was a Vicar, we prayed before meals, and did devotionals before bed. Alongside family dog walks, scribbling in notebooks, wrestling with my siblings over Pokémon cards, and, of course, going to school – that was my life. On loop for about eighteen years.
Is my faith just a result of my cultural upbringing? Was I brainwashed?
And now here I am, mid-twenties, claiming to love Jesus for myself. I know what you might be thinking – is my faith just a result of my cultural upbringing? Was I brainwashed? No. Somewhere in between the smell of Christingles and the glow of light parties, I made a genuine confession of faith. God opened my eyes, I saw the horror of my sin, the beauty of the cross, and asked Him to save me. Now I know Him as Father, and He calls me His child (1 John 3:1).
But let me take you inside the head of that girl-in-a-Christian-home and show you the things my parents did that helped me on my way.
You might not think it now, but I was a reluctant church-goer.
You might not think it now, but I was a reluctant church-goer. I followed mum’s mad dash to the front pew every Sunday with minimal enthusiasm – it was just what we did. I was never that eager kid raring to go to every youth group, church weekend away, or climb up Salisbury hill on Good Friday. I’d rather be in my own world at home. My twin sister, Milla, and I didn’t have anyone our own age at church, and the fact that church wasn’t an enjoyable social club could have meant that I lost interest in all things Christian – but I didn’t. And that’s mostly because of my parents.
They were consistent in going to church, consistent in reading the Bible and praying before bed, consistent in their forgiving love towards each other.
Here’s where I’d love to lay out my parents’ ten-point plan for ‘building a Christian child’, their weekly Bible quiz, their rigorous Von-Trapp-esque worship schemes, but there was none of that. The thing that had the biggest impact on my growing person was, quite simply, them. They were consistent in going to church, consistent in reading the Bible and praying before bed, consistent in their forgiving love towards each other and their four ‘defiant’ children (mum’s word, not mine). I saw Jesus in the routine of their everyday lives (Ephesians 5:1-2). They made outward choices: I still remember Ivor (later established as ‘Ken’) – the homeless man they fed, befriended, and took to get his birth certificate. Even the way they disciplined us was impactful – one time, after I lied, I distinctly remember my Dad and I sitting on the kitchen floor, my cheeks burning, my eyes fixed on the ground…but no shouting, just careful explanation of why what I’d done was wrong. As a child, I would come to them with questions, problems, theological loop-holes, even doubts, and I would always be met with measured consideration. They took us seriously – they still do.
They were flawed, but ultimately, their Christ-like character and actions made knowing God look appealing, and that’s what influenced me most. Their faith helped build my faith (Hebrews 13:7).
Their faith helped build my faith.
Of course, alongside their devotion to Jesus there were many practical choices they made, for which I am eternally – and I mean eternally – grateful. Often they weren’t popular choices, such as when they moved Milla and I, kicking and screaming, to a Christian school in year 9. A tough decision to make amidst our tears, but undoubtedly worth it. Having had no church friends for many years, the Christian friends I made at school proved to be God’s biggest tool in growing my faith (Proverbs 27:17). Mum and Dad’s decision to relinquish their kitchen every break-time to our laughing horde, allowed us to – while cooking chocolate treats and discovering a life-long tea obsession – study the bible, worship, debate, and just enjoy Christian friendship. This experience catapulted me into a deep faith, made me a life-long ambassador for the power of real community and bible study, and has shaped the choices I’ve made since. It must have been a huge inconvenience to them – it wasn’t the biggest of houses – but they sacrificed for us. And I’ve been forever changed.
Mum used a helpful phrase when I told her I was writing this article: she said they aimed for our faith to be ‘caught as well as taught’. And, by God’s grace, that’s just what happened.
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