Teaching Our Children: What is God like? Webinar
My name is Matt Kaufmann and with me is Brian Sutter. Welcome, Brian, as we talk through this topic of God image. Glad to be with you, exciting topic. You know, Brian, it’s been said by many and most importantly it’s been said by God that growing in knowlege of him and understanding him is of utmost importance. And in fact a fundamental purpose of man. I think of Hosea where God says, I have a controversy with the children of Israel, and they have no knowledge of me and Jesus, even when he was addressing some of the Jews of his day harken back to that very thing when they were not thinking quite correctly, making wrong judgments, making bad decisions, he said, you’ve forgotten that you’ve lost the knowledge of God in a sense. Yeah. In Christ’s words. But, so I just want to elevate this particular topic as hugely important as we all construct a God image.
And, I do think that it can be daunting in some ways and perhaps should be, and in other ways, hopefully it’s exciting that this is a space that God has given us information and the opportunity to know him and in this setting, this role as parents, we get the opportunity to do that with young hearts and to see that as an opportunity, though it certainly can feel like a daunting task that we’ve been given.
So I think in this next hour, what we want to do, Brian, is we want to identify what it means to have a God image, define that term, a little bit definition. Certainly talk about why it’s important. And we’ve hinted at that already. And, then where does it come from? We wanna place our finger on that as best we can, and as it really concerns parenting. That’s gonna be our domain here, our topic. And then, what are some practical things that we can think about as parents, as we have this in view for our kids? So let’s go ahead and get right into it. And let’s start with this concept of what is God image. So Brian, go ahead and take off a little bit with that concept.
I think it’s just important, especially as parents, but even as adults for us to remember and think about that the way God’s created our minds, the way he’s created us, that our minds are always making meaning out of things and there’s a constant construction of what something is and two really fundamental ways that shows up is like imagery and pictures. So all of us have to some degree or another, a picture of God. When we’re asked about or we think about or we even talk with God, there’s some sort of visual or image that maybe comes with that. Now, many times if we’re not purposefully thinking about that, we may not be able to articulate it, but, if you ask a child or an adult, describe what God looks like or what would be the image you would draw. That for many that there is something that comes up. And, then the other place here, your basic view of God is really recognizing too that there’s a cognitive piece and just informationally that some might describe in imagery and some might just give you information. And both of those are important pieces of how we view God. And in sometimes quite helpful ways and in other ways maybe are distortions or just partial truths that need to be reshaped and considered.
And I liked how you said that, there are some informational things that I think if it was a multiple choice exam, oh, God knows everything and God is always present, right? I know these things. But it’s quite another thing to really feel it. Sure. Yes. Like even in this moment, is God present with me in this moment? Multiple choice answer’s yes. Right? But that felt reality sometimes says a different story. And I don’t know, I’m gonna wager a guess to say that we probably go with that feeling more than we do the thinking. I don’t know. Yeah, you tell me.
Yeah, certainly even just from a psychological perspective, our emotions and what we feel at that level tends to be very strong and tends to be more powerful than cognitive or information. So many times it can trump what we know to be true. Even if what we know to be true is actually much more accurate, and I would say we would be well served to trust what we know versus what we feel. But that’s very, very difficult to do in the moment because emotions are so powerful like you just described there.
Brian, would you say that everybody has a God image whether they know it or not, or can articulate it? Yeah, no, I would say that and I think that’s a helpful thing just to assume that everyone that we interact with would have a picture or an image of who God is.
And again, I think that gives us this perspective that says, okay, that’s something that I want to step into and shape even the person who maybe would say they don’t believe in God, there’s still a picture or there’s still a fundamental understanding of how they view the world. And, I think that’s helpful to know that’s there for all of us.
And so I think even a part of a purpose of a discussion like this is, it all really presses each one of us to say, what is my God image? Certainly we’re gonna talk about how to help kids with theirs, but it really does drive us back to our own. Let’s go now to Exodus, 34. Just a classic passage, where God does some self pronouncement. And, this came on the heels of Moses really getting real with God and saying, God, I need to see you in this moment. And he’s up on the mountain. And there’s this tremendous scene here. Brian, go ahead and explain it.
Yeah, it is just a powerful, like, there’s so many things going on and Moses, really I think is wanting to know God. And then this declaration comes, which is this beautiful picture that I think is very helpful as God gives us here in this passage, a very succinct picture of how he views himself and I think it starts to create at least a couple of big buckets for who God is and the reality that those two big buckets both exist and for many of us, we’re gonna lean towards one or the other. I’ll just read through it and you’ll see the two buckets that are contrasted here.
And, this says, and the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him. So that’s Moses there and proclaimed the name of the Lord and the Lord passed before him and proclaimed the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering and abundant in goodness and truth. Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and even if we just pause there, it’s that bucket of God being kind and merciful and gracious and in all the things that we just so enjoy and long to connect with as far as, God, and then the other. It goes on that, that’s not the only side of things. There’s also, and that will by no means clear the guilty and visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and upon the children’s children unto the third and fourth generation. So this other bucket of God is just, and that there are consequences and that’s a reality of who he is too. That both of those exist. And, for most of us, it’s really hard to keep both of those in view. We either kinda lean towards seeing him as merciful and that discounts his justice. Or that’s all that we see and that discounts his mercy. And, that can create a fearful like, I gotta stay away or I can’t come into his presence and this create more of a flippancy or a casualness.
Sure. And I liken that first verse presented here on the screen, he proclaimed the name of the Lord. And I think that as we think about God image, going to the names, that’s really what we do when we name things is we try to put a bunch of meaning and substitute it with a word. I just think of so many times when God’s people and beautiful moments, named God reached out and named Jehovah Jirah, for example. And just tremendous meaning poured into that and so we’ve got a very dynamic caricature of God. By way of all of these groups though. And, I think in that it presents this very, what I would call complex picture of who God is. That is something that can be explored and enjoyed and grappled with for a lifetime and beyond.
Let’s move now to why is it important? What’s at stake with the God image? Well, in many ways, I think our view of God is going to shape much of how we view every aspect of life. And so if that view of God is distorted, in the sense that he’s maybe the harsh, distant, critical, if that’s the view, then everything is gonna be viewed from that lens. And, then it is gonna be really hard to walk through challenges or difficulties, or even joys with any degree of settledness. Or that a proper view of God gives us a proper view of reality I think would be a really good way to think of it and see it. Whereas a distorted view of God is gonna give us a very distorted view of reality.
I think that’s an important connection, Brian, that in order to see the world accurately and in its realness, it’s gonna very much come through this filter of God image. Which we previously mentioned everyone has, right?
That how we view ourselves, how we view other people, how we view tragedy as well as the joys in life. All of those things and the meaning that’s comes to life, all of part of what we could call a worldview and the purpose of life and where things end at, all of those sorts of things are gonna be dramatically impacted by, and the starting point will be our view of who God is and how we see him.
Brian, I thought it was helpful when you said, you mentioned with a few other characteristics, but you critical, I remember you mentioning that one. And so you gave us a hint or you opened our eyes a little bit to what some God images can look like. And so we can see that if I have a sense that God is critical, that’s just a number one characteristic. Then I can see the trickle down effect of that and how that would form my thinking for my interactions. Can you give us a few others? What are some other God images.
So another might be like a, we would call it like a vending machine. So this would be on the other side that basically just gives what we want and what’s gonna help life feel good, or enjoyable. And so you can again, you see these two big buckets and that a lot of times those distorted views of God are gonna fall in one of those two buckets. The critical on the other side or the, oh, I just, you know, friendly and in many ways there’s some degree of truth, but it’s void of the full picture of who he is. And so even if you think about it, I think this is one of the ways our mind operates, that we associate things all the time. So if our picture is like, and even the Scriptures use different things to describe who God is. And so when it says he is merciful, our definition of merciful may be really helpful and give us a good picture. But if that’s a merciful, like, well, he never holds me accountable. He never really cares what I do, then that takes us down a very unhelpful, if we see him like he brings judgment to the third and fourth generation. Oh, well, all he’s interested in is bringing chastisement or correction. Then, all of those sorts of things that’s all you see is a very unhelpful and inaccurate view of who he is.
So this third bullet point, I think is a bit of a cautionary tale. It says it’s hard to reconstruct a severely distorted view of God. Provide a little explanation for that. Well, I think it’s perhaps especially in the counseling room, one of the biggest things that I notice and see that our view of God and why it’s really so important is that it does impact so much of how we view life. And that if you are starting off with an image of who he is that is really a void of what is accurate, it is really hard to reconstruct that. So maybe an example I might use there is if I would say, Picture your backyard. My guess is that everybody is gonna have an image that comes to mind that is based on their own backyard. But for me, if I’m thinking I want you, I’m thinking of my own backyard. And, that’s the reality if I’m trying to help you create a picture in your mind of my backyard. But you start off with, let’s say you grew up on the beach and that’s your view of what a backyard is. To get your mind over into this whole different category that looks so different and the experience is so different is a really painful thing because emotionally, like we started off with it, it’s so disconnected from what your experience was before or what your picture was before.
And so really we have a tremendous opportunity as parents that while our young people are in formation. How much greater an opportunity perhaps or advantageous it is to really help them have a good, accurate God image. And, even just to think of and visualize in our mind’s eye that we’re trying to just give them a framework that gives them a place to work from.
We’re not gonna be able to give them a perfect view of God. We aren’t gonna have a perfect view of God ourselves either. But if it’s so distorted and one of these two big buckets we’ve been talking about, that it is gonna be really hard for them to be able to really fill that out in an accurate and helpful way when they start off with maybe just such a strong distortion.
I’m gonna raise a word that’s in vogue in Christian circles and that is deconstruction right now. So I dunno if those that are listening are aware of that term, but it’s quite popular and it’s not hard to run across somebody, it’s usually a Christian, who is going through a time of deconstruction. And, I do think maybe that the topic warrants a bit of an address on what that term means. And perhaps some guardrails.
Well, and I think it’s one of those things that can mean a lot of different things. One of the things that tends to mean right now is like, I believe this and I’m trying to tear that down and reconstruct something completely different. So the deconstruction is tearing down what I did know. So that gets a fresh start. And then building a whole new kind of view and certainly you hear a lot of negative outcomes from that, particularly those in the Christian world right now where they’re moving away from faith and deconstructing in ways that we would say are really unhealthy and outside of what we would consider biblical truth.
So even with that, I heard a little bit of advice, deconstruction should have an end of reconstruction. And, that is a marked difference from a person who’s just simply deconstructing their faith. Now, and that’s usually come from a bit of disenfranchised person coming to terms with beliefs that they’ve always held that are now in question, am I right about that? That is what launches a person into deconstruction and very often it does revolve around their God image and what they believe to be true spiritually.
And, I think that would be part of what we’re trying to say here is that we would expect that our view of God to always be shifting and growing to some degree. And that’s a good thing, as we let the Scripture shape that. But what we wanna be cautious of is just saying, well, I used to believe this and, if right now it would certainly be in vogue too to be anti organization. So if an organization says something or believes something because it’s attached to an organization, then I need to step away from that. It must be bad and there’s a lot of danger in just doing that, or even as we interact with other Christians or within our local church, certainly we’re gonna see things that aren’t right or good. And if we say, well, that means all of this is bad and therefore I might as well, I need to start all over.
Or, you know, I have this picture of God and it’s not completely accurate, therefore maybe none of it’s accurate. Those are the sort of things that have no guardrails. And really the goal is to just start fresh and totally disconnect from any type of organization or larger system.
Yeah. And, in these, and so I appreciate that providing a little bit of definition for that space because there are a lot of parents that are dealing with that with their kids. You know, mom and dad, I’m deconstructing. And, there’s a way to work with, and there’s a way to work against a child in that situation. Some for blessing and others for probably further harm. What would be some of those points?
I think if the goal is pursuit of truth, like that’s a great thing. And, I think we should be excited about the pursuit of truth and that we have a robust reason to be able to see the Christian worldview as one that can is based on truth. And, that’s where we’ll land. And so to be able to do that in community with people that we trust and underneath the authority of Scripture when those principles and those things are a part of it, even if it is shifting some of the things that we’ve believed or thought before, to see that as good and right and part of sanctification and growth versus something that’s dangerous.
Thank you. Well, let’s move along then in talking about where does our God image come from? So, we’ve got a couple of big buckets. Experience and information fill those spaces out a little bit. Yeah, so I think these would just be, again, I think it’s helpful to identify big categories to start with when a topic is so complicated and nuanced. So experience is a huge factor in how we view something. And, that can be both past experience and present experience. So if I go back to even my backyard, my children have had a lot of experience in my backyard and that’s gonna help them have an idea of what I’m talking about. If I’m referring to my backyard, their experiences are gonna really flesh that out and start to help them have a sense of what my backyard is.
But then there’s information too that I could turn to somebody and describe my backyard. I could do teaching or when it comes to God image, we can read the Scripture and that information can impact our view of God or observation, how we observe other believers walking through things and how they view difficulty or positive things. Those would all be information that we’re piling away in our mind that is also gonna interact with our experience of something or someone. And those things together start to formulate a robust picture of what something is.
It seems to me that we could broad brush the experience is a little bit more of that feeling. And information a little bit more that thinking that we mentioned previously. Exactly. And Brian, I would like to, I mean I would, again make a guess that we in today’s maybe it’s a more of a modern thing, we place more emphasis on experience than what probably previously was placed on information. Maybe the tables have turned a little. And how we come to our conclusions about the world and the way it works.
I think there’s certainly some reality to that and I think, certainly different cultures would see that differently certain times in history. But, right now, for sure, experience is a big one that plays heavy into how we view things and even what we hope to experience, what we’re hopeful for. If you talk to an adult, a lot of times, and if you talk to them about how Bible study is going, what they’re gonna go towards is their emotional experience. That’s what they’re gonna use to describe how it’s going or what it’s been like. But that may not actually be the same as the information, how it’s going at a cognitive level.
And, I think this is one of the areas that as we parent our children, that our children have an existential question and we do try to answer it with information. And there just seems to be a disconnect and it’s hard. It’s almost like, anyway, I’m not providing any answers here with this, I’m just providing example or experience that I know that you say this, but when I read this in the world, I’m having a hard time with that information. And that experience is so powerful. So I don’t know if there’s a man, there’s just a real gift, I think for a parent to step into that experience and be able to win on that turf in this complicated world.
Yes, exactly. And, that’ll be something we can talk a little bit more as we move forward, but you’re exactly right. That I think it’s really important for us as parents to recognize that we do have an impact and we have a significant impact in our children’s hearts and minds and lives. And sometimes if we listen to culture or we even think about what our kids are telling us, that’s not necessarily the information or the feedback we’re getting, but our experience with them, our interaction with them relationally, has a very big impact.
And I think we can be excited about that. And, it’s certainly not one of those things where we have to get it right. Even some of the research with parenting, and this would be secular research would say that if you get three out of 10 interactions done well, you are doing a great job. And that you are impacting your child in a really helpful way. And, even the seven outta 10 that you maybe really mess up, if you can use those opportunities to actually repair and go back and recognize or apologize like you are the elite category of doing a good job. And, those are the kinds of experiences that can really start to shape a child’s view of authority or a father figure in a really helpful, healthy way.
It’s telling in terms of how I might educate my children, I can really manage the informational bucket on this slide. I mean, lots of people have times of devotion, for example, right? Or times where they read the Bible or times that they check and it’s like, okay, alright. This is where I put on the good Christian father hat and I do what good Christian fathers do. And yet so much is unpacked in the experience when I am not even thinking about being an example, for example. But, that’s when the stakes are high.
And, a lot of times that’s where you’re having the deepest impact on their view of life and their view of God and just to be aware of that. Yeah, certainly we don’t want to downplay the information and trying to download truth to them. That’s a really good thing to do, but to recognize too that experience is also having an impact, maybe even a greater impact.
Should there be something said here, Brian, on the maturation of a child? So you take a nine year old, a 10 year old, and they take in information and are able to, that’s when they learn the multiple choice test about God and they can get it right. And they have very limited experiences that challenge any of those things that they’ve learned. So what wherewithal should parents have as they see kids mature? Because I think sometimes we can say, oh, they were so, such and such, when they were 12 and anyway.
Well, I think that’s part of that reconstruction that’s in a good way, that as we download information and maybe a picture of God, cognitively or in their mind as they walk through life, their experiences are gonna start to pile up. And, then we’ve gotta help them sort through how does the information that’s right and true about God, what does that mean given this specific experience they’re walking through and that as they age, there’s gonna be more of that. So what does that look like even if we look at the news today that they’ve been told that God is good and now how do they make sense out of the reality that there’s a lot of evil and wickedness that they’re gonna hear about either experiencing firsthand or they hear about in the news. Like how do all of those pieces fit together? And that’s part of the constructing and the nuance and the maturing of the reality that God is good and there are really hard, difficult things that they’re going to experience as well as observe others experience.
Let’s look now in, let’s go with some practicalities here. Okay. Let’s think a little bit about teaching children. Let’s get into some examples. What’s that look like? We’ve started that already. So to go a little bit further into the information area here, one would just be that story and imagination, I think is such a powerful tool to impact our view of anything, whether a child or an adult.
And, I think that’s just a helpful thing to know that. And, the Old Testament, in particular, gives us so many great images and pictures of who God is and that allows for a lot of rich opportunity to engage their imagination and capture their imagination. And it reminds me of a CS Lewis quote where he says something to the effect that, Reason is the organ of truth, but imagination is the organ of meaning. And meaning, he’s saying if we want to really impact the meaning that we’re putting to things or how we’re viewing things at that level, imagination is really the gateway, the way that we go about reconstructing that. And, I think that’s just such a helpful thing that sometimes if we’re trying to get somebody’s view of something to change, sometimes, like truth is helpful, but imagination is really the back door in that really gives us an opportunity to shift that. And I think you even see that with, for example, Nathan approaching David, right? Like he doesn’t go after David’s sin with Bathsheba. He doesn’t go just straight at truth, but he captures his imagination and that softens him and opens him up to, huh? And, so that would be an example of that.
I really love that, Brian, and partly because we’re talking about parenting and we’re talking about kids. And who lives in an imaginary reality more than kids do. Exactly. I mean, we’re speaking in their language. Yes, so to be able to tap into that very fertile ground of imagination is one really important way to do that.
Yes. And even if you think about yourself, if you’re thinking about teaching or the things that impact you or that you remember maybe from a sermon and things like that, it’s story and something that draws you in and taps into your emotion. And if all that comes on board, that’s the things that stick with you and have an impact.
And, I think that to be aware here too, that so when our kids, they’re reading through and they’re getting the story and all of a sudden it says, the Lord is a shepherd. That’s a beautiful point for us to pause there and say, okay, what is a shepherd and what does that mean? When we have time to flush that out and consider, oh, that’s giving us insight into who he is. It’s not a full picture to who he is, but it’s a really wonderful part of who he is or, as we read and it says he is a consuming fire, and how does that impact our view of God and, using imagery and story.
Just like, say, take those two imageries to a Jew, to a first century church, to the ancient world. Right. Those are powerful imagery. But a shepherd is a bit removed from our kids. Exactly. Yes. And even a consuming fire, there’s a lot of kids that aren’t around a fire. Right, we’ve got ’em very contained and on and off with switches and a consuming fire is not, so even the imagery that you pointed out are where we have an opportunity to be thoughtful, to help expand and make those imagery images more accessible to our kids.
Right. And maybe even help it bring it into context in their present day world that would help them connect. Like, so for example, one of the things that’s really been interesting to me, periodically at night we’ve been reading through Little House on the Prairie book series and like, we’ll read something and it’s amazing how much they have no idea what the author’s referring to. There’s so many things that they’re so far removed from, they just have no context. And to see that, even as we’re reading the Scripture, you only may get a page read because you have to take so much time. But to enjoy that and to see that as something that’s worth flushing out and yet you’re really tapping into their imagination when we do that.
That’s so funny. I gotta take ten second aside to say. Yeah. So we’ve been through those books in our family too, Brian. Sure. And your points. Exactly. I think Rebecca and I had more conversation in ahas and like, can you imagine that? Right? Totally. Because of our experience. So if you’re not sizing up to Paul, Brian, neither did I. Yes, exactly. Oh, funny. So, bring us to this testimony point.
Yeah, I think in testimony is one of those things that is a great thing to be able to share and whether that’s testimony in our own world and I think one of the things I would caution here though is I think sometimes as Christian parents, we lean so heavily on testimony and almost exclusively on positive testimony. Like just for a moment, if you were to think about what if the Old Testament, all that recorded as far as the Israelites’ history, was all of the Lord being faithful to them, giving what they requested. If that’s all that was there. Oh, we were walking and everybody was really thirsty and we were frustrated. We said, Hey God, we want something to drink. Bam. Water shows up. You know, we’re really hungry and we’re tired of this food, something different. Okay. Bam. Quail shows up, that sort of a thing and to see even, I think the Scripture’s use of testimony that it’s very diverse and it doesn’t pull out the things that were really hard and the wrestling and struggling and the times where there was chastisement and correction as well as the times that the Lord really showed up.
So I think just to be able to see that is how do we use our own testimony in a way that is helpful and again, tries to paint a full picture of who the Lord is? Whereas sometimes I think we can lean on, well, this is what happened in my life. And so in, in a way that’s like, okay, so you should expect that too. And that’s not necessarily like we can share this as recalling the Lord’s faithfulness. That’s a beautiful thing and a great thing for us to do. But that’s not who God is. That’s one example of how he showed up in a specific time. But again, to use the testimony of the Scriptures to really help us unpack in our own world as well as our kids, who God is in the fullness and the variety that’s there.
I like that. And we have such an opportunity to be storytellers and to share our own stories, right? And again, we’re appealing to kids how many times do kids ask for stories, right? They are ripe for that and so to tap into that, and then to take your point to say, not that we just share all the, it was all easy but showing and sharing that struggle. that struggle in faith. I think, again, this is just me shooting from the hip and I might be wrong, but if I have any pulse on culture, the younger generations are more apt to question and more apt to want to work out incongruence and to admit doubt. And, I’m not sure that’s been modeled all that well to those of us that are parents and older. There was a tendency to knuckle down and it will work itself out in time. And it does but you’re really positing this idea of demonstrating to them something they understand very well. And they’re open to listening to, and if you don’t bring it up, they will. And that is the incongruence of faith and science or whatever it is that they’re thinking about.
Yeah, definitely, and like you’re saying, as they, as our kids get older and we’re talking about engaging a teenage or a young adult that just to keep those things in mind that certainly we wanna testify to the goodness of the Lord even in the midst of struggle. But, also to allow that to be part of that discussion, the struggle and the difficulty so that we can join them in that and in that, help them construct a helpful view of God, even if it’s painful to wrestle through.
Well, let’s move along then to experience parts. Now we’re talking about teaching children experience. So this is, as I’ve already confessed, the very often the unplanned moments that go down in a child’s memory as much as we maybe wish it wouldn’t. And, just to, I think if nothing else, just to remember that what we’re doing and how we’re interacting with them is having an impact on how they’re viewing life. And, in this example we’re focused on here today how they’re gonna view God. That a lot of those things, not necessarily consciously, but certainly emotionally get connected whether they’re accurate or not.
And, I think that should give us good reason. The optimistic view is, boy, I can have a lot of really positive impact here and to try to stay there knowing full well that we’re not gonna do this perfectly. I think another thing that comes up and, these are new terms for me, but terms that we’ve been talking about with our kids are communicable and incommunicable attributes of God. And so communicable attributes are the things, the aspects of who God is, that we can reflect. Not fully, but to some degree. And the incommunicable ones are ones that are just, those are God and they’re not us.
And so what does it look like for me to try to express the communicable attribute of God as far as love or kindness or mercy or justice and those sorts of things. And to try to hold onto that as we walk through day-to-day life. And for me, when I’m interacting with my kids and I’m impatient or angry, for me to come back and say, you know what, I didn’t do very well there. And, to bring that into that moment. So, there’s correction and that’s not the picture that they’re saying is right in their own mind.
So the thousand dollar question from all of us fathers to a counselor who works with individuals who may struggle with a God image that might find some twisting and distortion in their upbringing. Is there a couple of things to say, Hey, moms and dads, yeah, think about this and think about that. Right. Well, I mean, I think even of going down to this modeling bullet point here is for us just to say if we can interact with our kids in a way that we’re helping them have a sense from us that we see them that we’re interested in them that we’re gonna be responsive to them, but also have what I would call expectations for them. That’s just a beautiful gift. If we can do that where we say, okay, there are expectations and I’m gonna be responsive to the things that come up and the things that I see how they impact you, that I think that in a subtle way, that’s a way to reflect how God interacts with us.
He certainly has expectations, but he’s also impacted by us. He’s impacted by where we’re at in a particular situation, even if it’s of our own doing or our own mistakes or that we’ve done something wrong. That he’s responsive and that impacts him even though it doesn’t take away the expectation. And so I guess maybe that’s a convoluted way of just saying if we give them a sense that we see them and we care about them and that we’re for them, even though we still have expectations, that is a wonderful gift to give any child.
I want you to mine a little bit more. Safe, seen, and secure. Because I think at varying levels we do that. And, it may be other levels we have not. Have I said enough for you to go further? I think, so certainly feel free to ask follow up questions, but I think maybe the starting point would be just the seen piece that I see you in the sense of, I’m interested in knowing who you are and learning who you are.
That for me, recently Valentine’s Day, like asking my kids. What would be your favorite? If I were to get your favorite candy for Valentine’s Day, what would that be like for you? That’s a way of like me saying, Hey, I’m interested in you. I’m trying to see who you are, and not only just your name, but to see the different gifts and talents that God has placed into you, and celebrate those, even if they’re different than the things that I would prefer or that I’m interested in. So that aspect of seeing, but also emotionally, I’ll never forget you. And, you’re gonna miss a lot of these moments. So it’s not that we get all of them, but every once in a while when we do something and we can see the life drain out of them, to notice that and say, Hey, did something just happen?
I remember when my kids were pretty young. They still are fairly young, but they were pretty young and my oldest wanted me to hold him and I said, oh, sorry, I can’t. And then, right after that, I picked up the younger one. And I could just see on her face that she was sad and then she communicated, well, it seems like you care about him,, the younger one and not me. And to be able to see those things and then try to speak truth into that, oh, that’s certainly not what I meant to communicate. So it’s kind of the seen like who they are physically and their interests, but also the seen emotionally, the things that impact them when you come, when they come home from school and you know, something is off to at least ask, they may not share it, but it’s like, I see you and the fact that you seem like you’re I notice it and that matters to me.
That’s helpful. How about the safe and secure ones? Yeah. Sorry. What does doing that well look like? I think the safe piece is this place of, like, that there’s a safety that I can come to you. And this can be a place where things can be explored. And so I think the safe and the secure really tie off of each other. And the secure, I would say is more kind of the relational piece. That even though there’s gonna be things that are hard, and even though I’m gonna get really frustrated with you, I don’t want you to ever have this sense that the relationship is on the chopping block is something that’s maybe gonna disappear my commitment to you, or my love for you or my, I’m gonna stand behind you even when you know you’ve messed up. I’m still for you, even though maybe in this moment I’m telling you that was wrong and there’s consequences that come with that. That would be the secure piece.
And I’m assuming by shame here, we’re saying not to shame. Right. So that would be the other side of the coin. So those, the first three S’s are things that we want to try to promote, and again, to see those as things that would reflect a relationship with Christ, that he sees us, that he is a safe place that we can turn to, and that we’re secure in the sense that he’s not gonna leave us nor forsake us. That those are parts of who he is and relationship with him. And the shame on the other side when it comes to shame as if we define it from a standpoint of I am unredeemable or unlovable, that kind of a shame is a thing that we want to try to stay away from communicating to our kids, but also that we would recognize that certainly isn’t the Lord’s heart towards us either.
And these things really make an impact and are molding on a child’s God image. And one of the participants on this, when they registered, did ask about the connection between our parenting and God image. And would say that there’s a strong connection there. For sure. I think even for myself, I know one of the things that I often have to fight with is if I am frustrated with my kids, my tendency is to move into until you get your act together, I’m not gonna interact with you. I’m not interested in you until you behave a certain way. And, I know I have to be really careful with that cuz that’s my default. But that’s basically communicating to them. I’m only interested in you when you are good. And, so again, I don’t expect myself to do that perfectly, but if I’m not careful, if that’s the only message they get from me then I think that’s gonna wrongly send a message about how God interacts with them or views them. And, you could see how problematic that would be. If our view of God is, you know what, he’s gonna stand over there and as soon as we get cleaned up and we get right, then we can go over and meet him. But he’s gonna kind of stay over there until we get it figured out, like how impossible that becomes then.
Sure. No, that’s very helpful. So you mentioned here at the bottom, they’re gonna ask questions. Sure. And they do , and I don’t know if this is true or not, but I’ve heard some say they’re asking questions earlier and earlier. You know, I’ll talk to, for example, a Sunday school teacher’s been teaching for decades and I’ve heard this on more than one account. It’s like, man, Kids, these, I thought this was just fourth grade, and they’re asking interesting questions. Really good questions. Right? And so interesting. Yeah, I wonder if that isn’t the case. So anyway, speak to that.
Yeah, no, I think so. And yeah that just to know that I think sometimes as Christians or as parents, we feel like we always have to have the answer. And the reality is that again, I think the biblical picture of God is so complicated and beautifully complicated that we should expect that there will be a lot of the questions. We’re like, Hmm, I haven’t really thought of it. I don’t really know. And, I’ll have to go back and that’s part of the journey and that’s not a failure. I think that’s a gift to be able to give them this, like, boy, I don’t have all of this figured out either. And, just a patience in that. That, they’re gonna push on things that we don’t know, or patience in the sense of when they’re wrestling through who is God and they’re wrestling with, well, this experience over here and these emotions over here, and how does that align with what this says about who God is, that can be a settling kind of slow journey. But one that we try to engage in.
And I think that goes right into this here, what we can do. You talked about a multiple picture of God span. Speak a little bit about that. I think really continuing what you’re saying there about not having it all figured out ourselves and really producing maybe the infrastructure for a child’s God image that can be built on. Exactly. Yeah. That we wouldn’t expect them, nor do we expect ourself to have a full picture of God or that picture of God isn’t gonna be always shifting and changing. Not that God’s changing, but that our understanding of him is changing. And, I think that’s something to try to be open to sometimes if our picture of God that we’re trying to have ourselves or for our kids is so rigid. Then when something comes up that we haven’t thought about or doesn’t fit into that rigid picture, that’s when there can be a shattering and be really painful. But if there’s the, okay, this is the basic structure, but I recognize that’s gonna get fleshed out or changed a little bit or nuanced as I walk through life or they walk through life, I think that can be a real gift to them.
That’s really helpful. Certainly pointing them to Scriptures and who God is. Let’s move a little bit now to some final resources and then we’ll open it up. Perhaps somebody’s got questions, but here’s some of your nice resources if you wanna say anything about, Yeah. And, I would just say my heart here is just to capture a few different categories that there’s lots and lots of really good resources out there, and at least my perspective would be, it’s not like finding the thing and sticking with it, but just recognizing that we wanna hit this from lots of different angles. There’s lots of great resources out there, and. And certainly for me, I don’t do this well. It’s not like we sit down and have family devotion or family worship every night at all. But I’ve found these for myself as well as others have shared just to be really helpful, rich resources.
This Tiny Theologians currently, were going through the attributes of God and they do one for every letter of the alphabet, and it’s been really rich. And then to have that as part of our prayers, and then you hear that show up in their prayers and just planting those seeds at a young age, which has been really fun. And certainly like the Chronicles of Narnia is, I think, a great example of using imagery and story that captures them and hits ’em in a little bit different way and can really speak into what we’ve been talking about.
Those are exciting. Thanks for sharing that. If anybody wishes to ask a question, you can certainly chat it in or chime in. Doesn’t appear that we have any chats at this time but, Brian, as we bring this to a close, I wonder if part of God’s brilliance in sending Jesus to live among us was to further expose himself to us. I know he needed to be here so he could die and resurrect and all of that, but don’t we get so much of who God is through the life of Jesus. I wonder what my God concept would be if I didn’t have his living example, right.
Oh, a hundred percent, I think you’re right. I’m often amazed as I read Paul and how much he from the Old Testament, gets a really robust view of who God is and that’s. So it’s there, but also that I think for me and so many of us that the example of Christ and what the picture that he gives us as far as who God is and how he interacts with people and his creation and how he rules and what that means to be a King or a Savior or a Father. Just so much comes from his example.
So what a tremendous resource we have in the gospels and the account of Christ, following him closely. I’ve been energized again, Brian, to go home and give it another try, so thank you for that. I hope those who are listening have been as well. So any parting comments, Brian, that you’d have? No, I would just agree that certainly this is a topic, I think hopefully, again, if we can engage it with optimism and see the opportunity to try to step into it knowing full well that it won’t be perfect and even just to encourage each other in that. So yeah, grateful for the opportunity. It’s been great for me to reflect on this topic again and to think about how to continue to try to be purposeful in this space. Very good. Well, thanks each one for being with us and this will conclude our webinar then stay tuned for further webinars as they come around.
Our perception of who God is has a large impact in our life and the lives of our children. In this webinar, Brian Sutter walks through practical ways to help parents set up a framework for a healthy image of God within the lives of their children. Learn more on how to share both the proper information and experiences to support this healthy understanding by watching this webinar recording.
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