“You guys are weird!”
About once every month or two, my husband and I hear some version of those words. The reason our friends “don’t get us” or “couldn’t do what we are doing,” is because my husband and I both love school. We love it so much, in fact, that we both pursued a masters and a doctorate. At the same time. My thirty-one-year-old husband has never not been in school. Our friends think we’re nuts, but the truth is, we love to learn.
I suppose we are a little weird, because most people are not called to so much education. What all Christians are called to, however, is learning. The word “disciple” means “student,” which means following Jesus involves more than mastering concepts. It implies a posture of teachability, an openness to always receiving more. Research shows that learning is fueled most by curiosity, and at the heart of Christian curiosity we find a desire to explore the inexhaustible God.
This orientation toward learning provides an important framework for Christian parenting. Raising our kids to love Jesus means we should also raise them to be students of Christ. The trouble is, it’s not a framework parents always consider. For many Christian parents, raising their kids “in the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:6) means instilling them with doctrine, rather than cultivating curiosity.
That’s not to say Christian parents should avoid doctrine—because our children do need a solid foundation—but when we look at the example of Jesus, we see him teaching doctrine and nurturing the disciples’ curiosity. Jesus preached immovable truths, but he also taught with perplexing parables and open-ended questions. In doing so, Jesus beckoned the disciples deeper, where they could be awed and inspired rather than simply informed.
Similarly, when we nurture the curiosity of our kids, we instill in them a God-sized faith, rather than a small and lifeless one. Godly curiosity—not to be confused with cynical doubt—sets their feet on a journey with no end, and a faith that will never grow tired or bored. It also tempers their pride with a humble thirst for God.
How do we pass on that kind of faith? How do we raise kids who are curious about God?
To some extent, I think this curiosity is already inside them. My oldest son, who is three years old, is currently in the middle of his “why” phase. He is curious about everything, and at least half of his questions have no answers: “What is that lady?” “What is that house?” “What is that cat doing there?” A part of me feels pressured to answer every one of his questions—especially the spiritual ones—even if it means plucking an answer out of the clear, blue sky. Even so, I think it’s important to admit “I don’t know.” Whether he inquires about cats or more serious topics like suffering, I’m learning to let some questions hang. This exercise invites him—and all our children—into a deeper place.
This is, after all, what Jesus did. Rather than respond with neat and tidy answers, Jesus answered questions with more questions (Mark 10). He was honest about the knowledge he did not possess (Matthew 24:36). Likewise, as parents, we don’t have to pretend we have all the answers. We can be honest about what we don’t know and point our children to the God who does.
The word “ask” appears in the Gospels over fifty times. Again and again, Jesus encourages us to “ask God,” promising that when we do, we will receive. In the past, I understood this “asking” to be about things outside of God, things like provision or personal transformation. I still think it does, but I have also come to believe that the primary purpose of asking is God. When he invites us to ask, he is inviting us to want Him. That is why he promises to give whatever we ask—he wants to give us more and more of himself.
The task of Christian parents is to raise children who want God. When our kids inherit a holy curiosity, they will never stop exploring their infinite Creator and never stop asking for more of him. Thankfully, this doesn’t require parents to have all the answers. We don’t have to be masters of the faith. We only have to point our kids to the one who does and stand in awe beside them.