By Alex Russon
Date Posted: December 15th, 2011
Alex Russon is a committed family man and a Christian. He has worked in financial services but when we were children we would all have wished to have an uncle like Alex for he owns and runs a sweetie shop. Alex is a published author on Christian matters. He is sympathetic toward Aston Villa football club and was the founding editor of its legendary fanzine Missing Sid.
Being a Christian Father
I’m a forty-one year old married man with four children (14, 11, 4 and 3), two girls and two boys. As my children grow up and throughout their lives, they’ll be faced with thousands of decisions but the one that’s most important of all, to my mind, is do they believe in God and want a relationship with him? As a Christian, I’m certain that the answer to this is fundamental to our being and given I have decided to have God at the centre of my life, it follows that I’d want the same for my children, so how do I lead them to God, and should I?
Before the agnostics and atheists run for the hills, let me say that I’m a pretty regular guy who prefers not to bible bash people into submission and I accept fully the free will of anyone in this world to make decisions for themselves, this includes my own children. There is no merit in commanding people to believe in God since it would represent no belief at all and while I hope my children grow up experiencing the peace and love that God can give them, it has to be on their own terms or it is meaningless. We make our own way in this world and it doesn’t require the use of a straightjacket. However, I do feel a responsibility and a calling to play a part by sharing my own faith with them and illustrating to them just what a relationship with God can mean to their lives. It would be selfish for me to do otherwise wouldn’t it? If you have something very special isn’t it natural that you’d like to share it with your loved ones rather than pull it in close and keep it to yourself? While I appreciate the concerns non-believers who assume indoctrination of children into the life of the church, I do feel it’s my duty to introduce my children to the Christian faith and share with them the power of it. It’s not just a duty either, it’s a pleasure.
I was thirty three before I became a Christian. For others it’s a deathbed conversion in their eighties, a faith in God from a very young age or a gradual journey to Him into their middle age. People of every age find a faith in God at different times in life, many find quite the opposite of course and reject the notion of God entirely. For my part I was an ignorant agnostic/atheist until my early thirties when an encounter with a Christian had me questioning whether there was a God after all and after eighteen months of pushing the door it fell open and my life has never been the same since. A life of alcohol and despair is now one of peace and sobriety. As for my children and their faith or otherwise, well my youngest two have grown up with church going Christian parents and if you asked them they’d say they love God and like to pray to Him at bedtime. My oldest two, from a separate relationship with a non-Christian mother, are rather more sceptical yet I’d describe them as believers when all is said and done. My eleven year old daughter listens to Christian teaching at school and embraces it fully, my fourteen year old son grapples with the concept of God and the apparent confusion of believing in a God that you can neither see nor hear nor touch, but again he believes. His belief though is built on the actions of others rather than words and it’s this that encourages me most of all.
Children rebel against their parents. Tell a child to do one thing and more often than not they’ll do the opposite, so for all my wise words around the parables of Jesus or story of creation, I’m conscious that my childrenwon’t always accept what I tell them. I know I didn’t. How then should a Christian man lead his children to God? Well first off, it’s perhaps a little arrogant to believe that he will, God has his own plans for all of us and for me to decide that the Christian faith can only be illustrated to my children using me as a conduit is egotistical to say the least. Our lives are a tapestry made up of hundreds of relationships, happenings and conversations, each of them meaningful to greater and lesser degrees, and it doesn’t follow that a huge set-piece talking to from Dad will be any more important than a chance comment from a passing stranger. Finding God isn’t usually a eureka moment or an event, it’s a journey over time encompassing many doubts and insecurities, it’s a gradual path and not a hundred metre sprint. So when it comes to me playing my part in leading my children to Christ, I know it’s just a bit part but a significant one, it’s my behaviours that will count rather than my attempts at pearls of wisdom, and by living a life of humility I hope to be a good witness.
I hope (and pray) that my children pick up on the peace and grace that God gives me and that the way I deal with situations conveys values and principles that they’d want for themselves. Trying not to gossip about others, building people up not breaking them down, diffusing situations rather than revelling in the argy bargy, these are examples of behaviours that can be shown with or without words. I haven’t been reading a “ How To Nurture Your Kids” manual, I’ve been reading the bible, and it tells me of God’s guidance in all situations through the peace and grace he gives us with his holy spirit, I happen to believe it.
Again though I’d stress that introducing my children to a faith in God is not about me, it’s about God and how he chooses to work through all people, many whom my children may never have met before. Take my son as an example and his meeting with someone at our church who prayed for him one day. For four months my son’s thrice weekly swimming hobby was curtailed as a skin disorder lacerated his hands to the point where he could barely zip up his jacket or hold a pen, never mind swim. The doctors tested him for allergies and all manner of lotions and potions failed until I took him for prayer ministry after one Sunday church service. Within twenty four hours his hands were as smooth and gentle as the day he was born and have remained so. Coincidence? Well maybe to your mind, but not to his and this personal encounter with a loving God will speak to him for the rest of his life, and a lot more tellingly than well intentioned words from his dad.
Religion is a naughty word to many people and that number is increasing, religious leaders themselves don’t always help matters with mealy mouthed addresses and an apparent inability to relate to the modern world. When the head of the Church of England walks along in a black gown, a white bedsheet and an impossibly tall chef’s hat it’s difficult to ask your children to respect the church, but through the actions of parents God can be brought to life in a very real way and in a manner which youngsters can relate to. Christian people believe in peace, love and grace through the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Who was Jesus Christ? He was the son of a Father who loved his people so much he was prepared to sacrifice his only son to a death by crucifixion for the atonement of sins we commit today. That’s how much God loves us and I’m only too pleased to spread this good news to people, my children included.