(Or, How to Teach Important Things when Everything Else Feels More Urgent)
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Since Levi has entered the toddler stage, many of our conversations center around behaviour. We talk about keeping our hands to ourselves, using our inside voice, and why we shouldn’t hit/bite/kick/you get the point. We talk about being gentle, and using nice words.
In fact, it seems like 95% of my time with Levi is spent teaching him how he should act. I’ll be honest – that’s not really how I pictured parenthood.
When Levi was still growing inside of me, and when he entered the world as an infant, sleep-deprived visions of teaching him the Bible, truths about God and having him hang off my every word as I did.
Instead, what I heard tonight at bedtime was – “Mom, I’m too grumpy to pray.”
Raising a tiny theologian, right?
Seriously though – I find myself asking this question all the time:
Why bother teaching about theology when everything else seems so much more urgent?
How am I supposed to find time to teach Levi about the Bible or grace or any of those things when I’m just trying to teach him how to LISTEN?
In all honesty – I don’t have the answers to these questions.
There are a lot more days that go by than I’d care to admit where our God-talk is a quick Bible story read and a “Now I lay me down to sleep.”
However, here’s what I’m learning – we need to make space for the important things amongst the urgent, but learn how to give ourselves grace in the process.
In his infamous booklet, “The Tyranny of the Urgent”, Charles Hummel wrote:
An experienced factory manager once said to me, “Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important.” He didn’t realize how hard his advice hit. It has often returned to haunt and rebuke me by raising the critical problem of priorities. We live in constant tension between the urgent and the important. The problem is that many important tasks need not be done today, or even this week.
His words were originally written to adults trying to balance a vibrant relationship with Christ with the busyness of life – but I believe it applies to parents trying to teach theology to their families.
Many of the urgent things in my day with Levi are important – feeding him, teaching him about behaviour, and the general work of keeping him alive. But many important things don’t feel urgent – weaving talk about God and the truths of His Word throughout our day often feel like they can wait until tomorrow.
I’m learning though – and I hope you can too – to make space for the important, even when it feels slightly irresponsible or irrelevant. I want to keep this incredibly important – even eternal – work of teaching my little one about who God is and what He is able to do – at the forefront of our days.
Yet amidst that truth comes a tension – teaching theology doesn’t have to mean great treatises and talks – especially when it comes to toddlers or tweens.
I actually struggled with this when writing my devotional – Conquering Fear. While I’m so proud of this book, I struggled a little with crafting theology into short tidbits, stories and activities like puzzles, recipes and other hands-on ideas. At times it felt a little – trivial? Unimportant? Less significant than writing a dissertation or preaching a sermon.
Yet, I’ve been reminded that when it comes to our children, they can learn hard things – but we don’t have to teach them in hard ways. Sometimes, intertwining the truth of the Gospel and who God is into everyday activities, discussions and playtime is enough. Sometimes, a simple sentence here and there, a whispered prayer, a quickly read Bible story – they still count.
Just because theology is tidbit sized doesn’t mean it’s unimportant or untrue.
This doesn’t displace the time or place for treatises or longer discussions. It doesn’t get rid of the need for tools like catechisms and creeds and teaching them to our kids. What it does say is both matter. Both count. Both are important.
So, while teaching Levi theology may not make him a better listener or throw less tantrums (at least not in the short run), the work is important. It matters. Even when I can’t see it. And friends, it matters in your home too.
So let’s do this together. Make space for the important work of teaching your kids the truth of who God is. And give yourself grace in the process.