Many years ago, before children, I was introduced to the concept of the 3 chairs in which people sit during their lifetime. It is a concept that has shaped not only how we live, but also shaped our parenting. 1st chair believers have experienced God for themselves. They usually are totally on fire, world changers. They are risk takers. Their faith is strong and ever growing from their experiences. 2nd chair involves those who hear about God working in other’s lives, but don’t necessarily see it themselves. They can be characterized as lukewarm believers. They may or may not be involved with a body. They tend to work very hard, and leave very little to chance in faith. 3rd chair are those who don’t know or want to know God. They may even have major hostility toward God because of abusive life experiences. Often they have been hurt by the Church and blame God. They are quite cold to God, the Church, etc…
I want my children to be 1st chair believers. For that to happen they have to experience God themselves…which often means being in uncomfortable situations, living by faith, and giving them opportunities to experience God. Our job as parents is not to keep our kids safe. Our job as parents is to teach them how God is faithful and can be trusted. Does this mean it is ok to put children in toxic and damaging situations? No, but it does mean appropriately removing the bubble that is so very easy to place around them. It means taking what many see as risks, appropriately, and living counter-culturally. It means allowing them to experience disappointment…to experience delayed gratification…to experience struggle so they learn to rely on God and not themselves. It’s hard. As parents we easily default to wanting to do everything for them, giving them anything they desire, and not wanting to see them uncomfortable. We want our kids to have everything they want…BUT…that is not necessarily healthy and helpful for their long term growth.
So what does that look like? It’s different for every family and depends on where the Lord leads. For our family it has included a move over 550 miles away from everything and everyone that we love. It means making difficult choices that have affected our ability to provide. It means not having the newest, shiniest, and most expensive cars, toys, home, clothing, etc… It means purposely living in a season of trusting God to provide our everyday needs. Sometimes it has cost us losing friends and family based on these choices. It has meant missing out on being part of the popular crowd. But it also has meant that we have experienced incredible miracles witnessing God’s love in tangible ways. It’s resulted in adventures. It means our kids have seen, heard, and experienced God’s blessings for themselves. It means our children are growing strong and they have had gratitude for things that many others take for granted. They have experienced kindness and given opportunity to extend kindness to others. It’s not always easy…but so far it’s been worth it.
There are risks to living this way. Lies come at us often and we risk believing them. Satan hits me often with lies that our purposeful lack will cause our kids to crave MORE of the worldly things they haven’t had. He hisses that we are not giving them a stable environment with 2 moves the last year and another potential move on the horizon in two years and that we are terrible parents because our kids don’t have many of the things other kids have…But the Lord is good and reminds me often that we are making purposeful choices not to hurt or limit our children, but that we are teaching them and giving them experiences to witness God’s love, tangibly. We have to make sure to actively give our kids opportunities to talk about their feelings about living so differently. If we don’t, we risk them living under lies of being unloved or uncared for by God based on what they have or don’t have. We risk them misunderstanding why and how we make choices for them, shaping how they in turn will choose to make their choices, if we don’t appropriately communicate our own feelings.
This consumer-culture in which we live is constantly barraging us, and our children, with the ideas that we “deserve the best” and has redefined needs and wants. We’ve become entitled…even in the Church, in our relationship with God. How often do we EXPECT God to move, not because of His faithfulness, but because we WANT it? There is a difference. His faithfulness never disappoints, but we come easily disenchanted and even angry with God when we find ourselves in uncomfortable and hard situations. We argue it isn’t fair. We too easily begin to believe God doesn’t love us because we didn’t get what we wanted. We twist scripture to meet our entitled wants. We try to make God fit in a way that brings us earthly comfort, instead of looking for true comfort of His glory and faithfulness.
Papa-God is faithful. He allows us to experience Him through uncomfortable earthly situations so that we can more fully understand and get to know His ways. He allows us to be seasoned in varying degrees over our lifetime so that we continually grow in spiritual maturity. He gives us practice in trust by exposing us to situations where our circumstance relies fully on him. What better way to be a 1st chair person and raising 1st chair humans, but allowing them to experience God themselves and not fixing everything to be perfect. We aren’t called to cocoon our kids their entire lives. If we do adulthood will slap them in the face with set-backs, disappointments, and obstacles that lead to disenchantment with God. We can better prepare them to become 1st chair people by experiencing God with them; thriving in uncomfortableness.
How are you allowing opportunities for your kids to experience God in REAL life? Are you leading them to 1st chair, 2nd chair, or 3rd chair? Which chair are you?