Having the courage to believe

This week, I attended my 8-year-old son’s parents’ evening. Like many parents at this time of year, I was keen and somewhat nervous to see how he was getting on.

In the past, before my eldest child died, I was guided a lot by the grades my children achieved. Abi, my eldest child, always did very well. Effortlessly getting good grades due to her natural affinity to the school system and learning. My second child was similar; a good all rounder with a creative flair. My son has found learning at school harder to adjust to. As one of the youngest in his class, he was at a slight disadvantage to his peers. He’s bright enough and loves maths, but he’s not keen on writing or reading in a structured way. He tends to worry about getting things wrong and will simply ‘switch off’ when he can’t handle something. Yet he’s happy and his confidence in himself is growing all the time.

When Abi died, my perspective on many things changed. Everything seemed insignificant… of course it was… but it was such a big thing to adjust to that no one warned me about. I suddenly didn’t know what to care about anymore. But as their routines didn’t stop, I needed to somehow find a way to continue to support my children’s schooling. Our children need to see that we care about all the things they do.

Three years on, I’m in a fairly happy place with this now; my focus centres on my children’s overall happiness and wellbeing. The grades don’t really matter. Clearly, I see the value of learning essentials such as English and mathematics, but I’m not fussed about them achieving the ever-pressured targets set by the government. I firmly believe in a rounded education that includes sports, arts, faith, hobbies and just plain old having fun.

It was something the teacher said that struck me the most about his progress. He was sat at a table with his peers and they were talking about God and Jesus. Everyone except my son said they didn’t believe in Him, they made jokes about Jesus and giggled about it. It wasn’t a deep theological debate this was just 8-year-olds having a chat. But my son went against their opinions and admitted he believed in God, and he said this with simple and honest courage in his convictions. The teacher noticed this and commented on it to us.

It feels very hard to have faith in God. Indeed, I’m fairly cautious to admit it when meeting someone new, and would only drop it into conversation if I felt it appropriate. Religion is a sour subject. I watched a programme on TV a couple of weeks ago where a couple were on a blind date. They were getting on well and over dinner he asked her what she did at the weekends. She said she went to church. His body language stiffened immediately and his facial expression changed into one of dislike. He said he wasn’t ‘religious’ and wasn’t sure if they could see each other again, clearly thinking this woman was not going to be able to ‘offer’ him much. The woman was perfectly ‘normal’ and very sweet. She had to explain to him that she was like everybody else but she simply believed in God – she wasn’t some fanatic out to convert him!

So to hear that, at such an age when his friends’ opinions matter, my son stood up for what he believes was immensely reassuring for me. With his grades being good and his overall attitude doing well, this was the icing on the cake. We discussed it at bedtime. I asked him what he thought Jesus would think of their comments, and he said he felt He wouldn’t find it funny, but sad, but that He would still love them.

I reflected on how it feels that belief in God is more unpopular than ever, and I worried for my son’s faith in the future because at some point he will realise that being a Christian doesn’t make you popular! Yet, it’s nothing new. Jesus himself warned his followers many times that they would be hated for following Him, they would be persecuted and killed because of Him.

1 John 3:13
“So do not be surprised, my friends, if the people of the world hate you.”

Matthew 10:22
“Everyone will hate you because of me. But whoever holds out to the end will be saved.”

Matthew 5:11
“Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of evil lies against you because you are my followers.”

Matthew 24:9
“Then you will be arrested and handed over to be punished and be put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me.”

John 15:21
“But they will do all this to you because you are mine; for they do not know the one who sent me.”

It’s one reason I believe Jesus is who He said He was. If someone came to me and offered me wonderful things but said I would probably lose my friends, the support of my community or even my life because of it, I’m not sure I would be quite so quick to take them up on their offer! Yet thousands of people did ‘pick up their cross’ to follow Him. And since, hundreds of thousands of people have decided to risk persecution, being outcast and even death for this man who was the Messiah. Why? When our health, being accepted by our peers and our very lives are so instinctively important to us. Why risk it all for something that wasn’t true or was just a ‘fad’?

When I think of my son sat at that table, surrounded by his friends, hearing them mock God, I think of the countless opposition Jesus faced. He was confronted and challenged constantly, by those who had no faith and even more by those who did. He experienced entire villages that laughed at him and rejected him. And if His words fell on deaf ears, He left them and moved on to other people. He knew full well that if people didn’t want to know the good news, then they would never hear it even if He literally moved a mountain in front of them as proof. Jesus never forced his views on anyone. Like a stranger knocking at the door, He would never let Himself in uninvited. But, if you did invite Him in, you’d never regret it!

The challenges continue on all levels and at all ages today, from the classroom to social media to war zones. But what I’ve learned from my son this week is to have courage in my own convictions. To keep writing and sharing my posts about faith, even though I know some people will strongly oppose my views or will not want to hear them. To allow God to guide me rather than allow my fears of rejection to take control.

Jesus said we need to be like children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven … and today I will be brave like my darling boy and speak up for what I believe in.

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