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Just Talk About It: How to Have Spiritual Conversations

 

Why do we find it so hard to talk about spiritual things in our families?

Maybe you don’t have this problem, but I’ve often found that these conversations are best described as rigid, whereas conversations about other parts of life are free-flowing.

It’s the difference between a family meal around fine china vs. a meal using everyday dishes.  As soon as the fine china comes out, there are certain expectations and unspoken rules that accompany them.  Everybody’s slightly on edge and doesn’t want to be the one to break something.  Spiritual conversations can feel the same way.

Frankly, I think we make this way too hard and it’s actually a lot easier than we think.

(Explore the Fine China analogy further here:  http://www.parentingthoughts.com/2014/04/fine-china-vs-everyday-dishes/)

Awhile back, we lost a family member.  We gathered our kids in the kitchen to let them know – their first experience with death.  We carefully explained to them what happened and gave our best attempt to be honest and help them understand.  Their reaction – nothing!  A simple “ok!” and on to the next thing.

I’ll be honest, I thought they missed it. However, in the weeks and even months following, little conversations and comments began coming out.  In the car driving to school, during a conversation before bed – our kids would process that conversation over and over again.  They would make statements or ask questions that showed they were processing what they heard and making connections to God and hope and loss.

There was more going on than I realized that day in the kitchen.

JUST TALK ABOUT IT

It doesn’t have to be profound.  It doesn’t have to be something you don’t understand.  Just talk about it.  Spiritual conversations can be as natural as any other conversation.  If I’m honest, I think spiritually more than I talk spiritually.  Now I’m trying to say aloud what I’m already thinking. 

Try talking out loud about these things, you’re probably already thinking about:

A simple comment about God creating a beautiful sunset.
Saying a quick prayer out loud for someone that came up that could use some prayer.
Something you’ve learned about God recently.
Talk about someone in need of some love and brainstorm ways to show them love.  Then do it!
Confess where you’ve recently messed up and be thankful for God’s forgiveness and invitation to grow.

Here’s what might happen:

Nothing.

Most likely, this conversation will not be magical in the moment.  There might be zero reaction.  There might even be a move in the opposite direction.  Didn’t we just talk about loving others and you did that to your sister?

Don’t let that discourage you, because there is more going on than you think.  Keep talking about it.

Here’s what I’ve experienced – the more I talk about it, the more they talk about it.  The more they ask questions.  The more they take a shot at understanding God or applying his love to their world.

Again, it’s rarely in the moment.  It often comes when there is time to think – car rides, conversations before bed, family meals together.

QUICK PSA – If you are too distracted in car rides for conversation with your child, too busy for a family meal every now and then,  or too tired for conversations at bedtime, then make a change!  I would wager 75% or more of the spiritual conversations I’ve had with my kids have been in these venues. 

It takes some space and normalcy for this to happen in my experience.

DON’T BELIEVE THE EXCUSE

Many might protest, but I don’t have the faith of _______ (fill in the blank).  It doesn’t matter.  Talk about the faith you have or don’t have.  Talk about how you want to understand God better.  Talk about how you want to practice loving others better in your life.  Talk about whatever faith you have.

If you are truly willing to share the faith you have…if you are willing to engage the spiritual things of life, at whatever level you can, then you will be giving your kids a front row seat to seeing someone engage God with their life.

They get a front row seat to God’s grace and activity in someone’s life!  How great is that?!?!  I promise you this is better than trying to sound smarter than you are or sharing what you think you’re supposed to with zero authenticity attached to it.

Keep it simple – it doesn’t matter if you’re a spiritual giant or not, just talk about it.

As you do, my guess is that there will be plenty of evidence that they are engaging as well and before you know it, spiritual conversations won’t be rigid or heavy, but free-flowing and as natural as any other conversation in your home.

Some of my favorite conversations with my kids have come months later as they’ve been connecting the dots in their head all along, because I simply had the courage to talk about it.  I hope the same for you.

Fine China vs. Everyday Dishes

I recently heard Carey Nieuwhof (Pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of Parenting Beyond Your Capacity: Connect Your Family to a Wider Community (The Orange Series) (a book I hope to review on this site.) frame the nature of most families conversations around God in an interesting analogy.  He compared the way parents/children, brothers/sisters, even husbands/wives talk about God to “fine china”.

I remember vividly the times in our home growing up when my mom brought out the fine china.  It was an event full of ceremony and fanfare.  They were in a special cabinet and when they came out, immediately, everyone was on edge and felt the need to be a bit more formal.  They came with a set of expectations about how to act.  We would carefully and anxiously eat our meal, doing our best to maintain good posture and proper manners.  Of course, they had to be carefully hand washed, dried, and put away to be brought out again a year later.

In comparison, everyday dishes are a normal part of life.  Sure, sometimes they are ignored in place of the ease of paper plates, but for the most part they are a part of every meal, every conversation, every day.  Even though they are just as fragile as the other dishes, we aren’t afraid to use them and take the risk of allowing them to interact with our daily lives.

I’m curious – in your family, do spiritual conversations feel like pulling out the fine china?  Does everyone instantly become anxious, nervous, and a bit more formal?  What would it take to move the conversations around God and life out of the special cabinet and into the daily rhythm of your day?

I’ve often wondered why it’s easy for me to pray with friends and strangers, but difficult to go before the Creator with my wife?  Or why in our families these conversations can feel, well…awkward.

Hopefully this blog will provide us with resources and space to consider how in our homes, we can treat God less like fine china and more like the everyday dishes.  God wants to be a part of our everyday life.  He wants to show up all the time.  He doesn’t require the ceremony and fanfare we often feel the need to conjure up.  In fact, God is present in our every day moments, maybe we just need to begin to acknowledge Him.

Feel free to interact with these thoughts in the comments below.

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