How do you bring a questioning teenager, who announces she doesn’t believe in God or religion anymore, back to the faith?
I sometimes fret over the faith journeys of my grown children. My husband wisely reminds me: “The seeds of faith we planted are still in there somewhere.”
And, truth be told, as my children have grown to young adulthood, I see those seeds sprouting and growing, perhaps not in the way of overt religious practice, but in the way of Christ Jesus.
I see kindness, love, compassion for others and generosity in my children. I see a searching and yearning to find their places in the world, “to be about their Father’s business,” if you will. I see good and loving individuals, faced with sometimes extremely difficult challenges, trying to find their way. Though they may not consciously articulate it as such, they are trying to find the Lord, and to help manifest his Kingdom here on earth.
My hunch is the same and will be true of your teenage daughter. As parents, you have planted seeds of faith as you raised her. Now that she announced she doesn’t believe in God or religion anymore, it appears as though a long drought has set in. But she is no longer a child and must now seek the Lord on her own terms.
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She has to “test out” what you’ve taught her in order to know if it holds up in her own life experience. Sometimes rejecting faith and religious practice and trying out life without acknowledging God is the only way one comes to realize the necessity of faith and to appreciate the gift it truly is. How paradoxical, yet God writes straight with crooked lines.
It’s hard to fathom, but the Lord loves our children even more than we do. He never stops calling them, nudging them, and presenting them with growth opportunities. Their lives will be a living out of the Paschal Mystery, just as was the life of his Son. Jesus’ story is their stories. God has made our children in his divine image and likeness and will never leave them orphaned.
As parents, we tend to blame ourselves when our children stray from belief and religious practice, yet they are really God’s children more than they are ours.
He is the Master Gardener and he has done much more than plant seeds. He has given them a soul in which Christ Jesus dwells. He has given them gifts so they can manifest their divinity in the world. He controls the weather and the seasons of their lives. He has plans for them and they are plans for good. Remember, too, that God’s time is way different than our own and those things we consider setbacks, he always uses for good.
The best thing you can do during the current drought is to respect your daughter’s journey, pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in her life, and continue to love her fully in all the ways God provides you. Now, more than ever, you must follow the way of love so that she truly sees Christ in you.
No matter what her doubts, she can’t get out of God’s love. Trust his plan! As J.R.R. Tolkien, a devout Catholic, once said, “Not all who wander are lost.”
(Christ is a consultant in ministry in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The married mother of four young adult children, she gives talks and workshops, leads retreats and is a spiritual director. Christ self-publishes materials for parishes, and is the author of “Journeying with Mark,” “Journeying with Luke” and “Journeying with Matthew.” Published by Paulist Press, the books are intended to be used by families in the car on the way to Mass.)