In this episode of The Bible for Normal People Podcast, Jared is joined by his wife Sarah to talk about what its like to parent as your views on faith are changing as they explore the following questions:
- What has Sarah’s faith journey looked like?
- What caused Sarah’s shift in perspective?
- How do Jared and Sarah navigate parenting coming from different identities?
- How do Sarah and Jared involve the Bible in their kids lives?
- What is the importance of sharing your own spiritual and faith journey with your kids?
- How can you teach your kids to have an open mind and think for themselves about religion?
- What is Jared and Sarah’s go-to phrase when their kids ask them questions about faith?
- Do kids need a structured set of beliefs to grow up with?
- How do Sarah and Jared handles boundaries with their kids?
- How did Jared and Sarah’s upbringings influence how they parent their kids around faith?
- Why is having a provisional structure important?
- What is the danger of rule following?
Pithy, shareable, less-than-280-character statements from Jared and Sarah you can share.
- “We want to teach our kids how to be wise in the world, not rule followers because rule following not only can it stifle you and create anxiety, but you absolutely are not learning how to think for yourself.” @jbyas
- “It’s not about right and wrong. It’s not wrong that other families don’t do it. It’s not wrong that our family does. Like, this is the practice that we find life-giving to the rhythms of life that we want as a family.” — Sarah Byas
- “We use boundaries, which I think is a relational term. It’s really about the relationship and what’s good for me, what’s good for you, how do we figure this out together?” @jbyas
- “I think for me, it’s more about trying to help them think about what they’re actually learning and not just accept things as fact. It’s like, do I resonate with this? Is this helpful for me in life to love myself better and love others better? Is it important?” — Sarah Byas
- “Be consistent, be clear, and that provides that safety for kids to allow them to flourish and they can keep ambiguity about God and religion.” @jbyas
- “I think learning to love yourself is huge and if you can love yourself, your darkest moments, it helps you have a lot more grace and love for other people in their darkest moments.” — Sarah Byas
- “I think what helps us in our parenting is neither of us… are trying to convert our kids. Like, not believing in heaven and hell are not believing in like, a literal hell, helps that a lot.” @jbyas
Mentioned in This Episode
Powered by RedCircleRead the transcript [Introduction]
Pete: You’re listening to The Bible for Normal People – the only God-ordained podcast on the internet. I’m Pete Enns.
Jared: And I’m Jared Byas.[Jaunty intro music]
Jared: Welcome to this episode of the podcast! Before we get started though – don’t fast forward this part – we have some very exciting news to share. We have heard story after story of pastors who are going through a faith transition, shifting their beliefs about God and the Bible, and we’ve heard just how hard it is to go through that while still being responsible for a congregation, having your paycheck hang in the balance. We wanted to be a part of that conversation. So, we put together a six-week course called “Pastors for Normal People” that will be facilitated by two of our dear friends, Josh James and Jennifer Bashaw. They both have years of pastoral experience while also holding Ph.D.’s in Biblical Studies, and they worked through their own struggles of pastoral ministry and deconstruction or faith shifts. And I’ve seen this curriculum, everyone. I’m very excited about this course. So, if you’re a pastor and you find yourself reading the Bible in news ways and you need to learn how to pastor from a new place or if you’re wrestling with how to introduce these different ways to read and interpret the Bible that you hear here on the podcast to your congregants, this course is designed for you. And it’s pay-what-you-can. We don’t want to turn anyone away for lack of funds. The course is going to run each Thursday night from 8:30 – 10 PM ET for six weeks, that’s May 6 – June 10. And if you can’t make it one or two nights, that’s okay. You’ll have access to the recordings as well as a Slack group for all the participants. We understand that one of the hardest parts of the journey is feeling like you’re going it alone. So, we want to be able to connect pastors in this way. If this would be helpful, go to thebiblefornormalpeople.com/pastors to learn more. Again, that’s thebiblefornormalpeople.com/pastors.
Well, speaking of faith transitions, we’re talking today about parenting. How do we raise kids when our own beliefs are shifting? It can be a very confusing time, believe me. I originally planned to do this episode solo, but it just didn’t feel right to talk about parenting without my other half in the room. So, I’m very excited to say I convinced my wife to sit down for this episode and have a conversation with me about our journey, both spiritually as individuals, but also how that impacts how we parent our four kids. If you know my wife, then you know how big of a deal it was to get her to agree to jump on, but I’m so, so glad she did. Enjoy![Music begins]
Jared: One of our main parenting principles is just asking the question “how do we help our kids be their best selves?”
Jared: I think there’s a lot within Christianity that can inspire that.
Sarah: For me, believing we’re in inherently beautiful and good is a lot more inspiring –
Jared: Mm hmm.
Sarah: Trying to see that in people versus being like, “Oh, it’s okay. You’re just sinful.”
Jared: Right.[Music ends]
Jared: All right, well you are a new podcast guest, so why don’t you introduce yourself. I know you pretty well…
Jared: But our listeners may not. So, just a little of your story, you know, and I think our listeners might know my story around the Bible and faith. I’ve shared on numerous episodes, but they wouldn’t know that for you. So, just like, the one or two minute biography of you and Christianity.
Sarah: I grew up in a Christian home, I don’t remember any different. We always went to church. Our church was non-denominational/evangelical, though I didn’t know those terms when I was a kid. And I was in Christian school from the time I was in preschool through college. The college was my choice –
Jared: We both went to Liberty, right?
Sarah: Yeah. High school was maybe my choice, but I don’t remember if I had another option or not. So, yeah – Christianity was all I really knew.
Jared: Right. And a similar evangelical, conservative brand of Christianity.
Sarah: Yeah. Yeah, I didn’t know there were other views until college where I learned about Nazarenes and Baptists and Methodists and I was like, woah![Laughter]
And you introduced me to, I don’t know what you would term it – theology that you –
Jared: Like, reformed.
Sarah: Reformed theology, yeah.
Jared: Right, right. I can try to convince you, probably pretty aggressively, that that was the correct way of seeing things.
Sarah: I did believe that for a little while!
Jared: Of course, yeah. So, where would you say you are now?
Sarah: At this point I don’t identify as Christian. I probably, that’s something I would, I’ve only been comfortable saying in the last couple of years but has probably been the case for five-ish years.
Jared: Mm hmm. So, what led to that for you, just because I think it affects what we’re talking about today, which is like, how we parent. So, what led you to no longer identify that way?
Sarah: I mean, part of it’s just growing up and starting to have a self, to know something different other than the truths that I understood growing up. But you know, getting hurt in the church, being introduced to new ideas. I remember a book by, we read as a group by Brian McLaren that –
Jared: Yeah. New Kind of Christian, maybe?
Jared: Mm hmm.
Sarah: Where the idea of heaven and hell not being literal places was first introduced to me and that really like, resonated with me and I think that’s when my ideas on Christianity and religion really started to shift and I think, actually, studying herbs and having teachers with different ideas –
Jared: Like, they wouldn’t come from a Christian perspective
Jared: But you resonated with what they were saying.
Sarah: And seeing like, these are beautiful people, and I was, from what I understood as a kid, it was like, you’re not a good person if you’re not a Christian.
Sarah: I came to realize there’s a lot of good people out there that don’t identify as Christian and more time I spent with those thoughts I think, the more I realized, like, what I identify with as Christianity is mainly judgment and rules and instilling fear in people. Even though that’s not what’s like literally taught, that’s what I understood.
Jared: Maybe that’s what’s implied sometimes, and certain people pick that up more than others.
Sarah: Yeah, and that was my personality.
Jared: Right, right.
So, I realized that yeah, it just didn’t, I don’t feel like it was helping me love others better or myself.
Sarah: And as I saw other people teaching different ideas, they resonated with me and I don’t think of Christianity as an issue. I think for some people, it does do a lot of good. Help them love other people better.
Jared: Well, the irony I’m hearing of Jesus saying, you know, love you neighbor as yourself, you were saying Christianity was kind of getting in the way of that for you.
Sarah: Yeah, right.
Jared: Yeah. Okay, so, let’s talk a little bit about our parenting, because over the last few years you wouldn’t identify, I mean, at home you haven’t really identified as a Christian. I would.
Sarah: Mm hmm.
Jared: So, I think there’s a lot of people that we’ve heard from – not I think, I know, because we’ve heard from them – that would say, okay, well, how do we parent if we’re in different places? Because a lot of times, it’s not like we landed somewhere. It’s like, I don’t know where I am. I’m kind of on this different part of the spectrum while my spouse is on this other part of the spectrum. How do we teach our kids? So, how do you think we’ve navigated that?
Sarah: I think for both of us, it’s about values. What we value as being human beings, the core of who we are.
Jared: Yeah, and maybe saying, going back to what we just said, which is we’re very much in alignment that it’s important that we love our neighbors as ourselves and I would include in that loving ourselves.
Sarah: Yeah. That’s something that I never understood –
Jared: As part of the package.
Sarah: As part of Christianity, was loving yourself. I think learning to love yourself is huge and if you can love yourself, your darkest moments, it helps you have a lot more grace and love for other people –
Jared: Mm hmm.
Sarah: In their darkest moments.
Jared: Yeah, I would agree. I think as parents, focusing on that being the core and then saying, you know, it’s okay that we’re motivated to that differently.
Jared: Kind of the engine behind that for me doesn’t have to be the engine behind that for you.
Jared: The impact of that is we want to focus our parenting on how to raise kids who love themselves and love others well.
Sarah: Mm hmm. Yeah, and they’ll express that differently and because they have very different personalities and the things they’re going to pursue in life are very different and finding that balance between helping them have core values, valuing human beings and themselves as unique individuals.
Jared: Right. But having an overlap of the values with the expression, giving the freedom to express that in so many different ways.
Sarah: Yeah, I’m not going to express that the way I do, or you do, and that’s beautiful.
Jared: And they may not be motivated toward that by the same things.
Sarah: Yeah, yeah.
Jared: Because we’re built differently.
Jared: Another thing that we talked about was, I think that helps us in our parenting is neither of us, especially not you, but for me who would still identify as a Christian, are trying to convert our kids. Like, not believing in heaven and hell are not believing in like, a literal hell, helps that a lot.
Sarah: Mm hmm.
Jared: Because there’s no pressure, there’s no anxiety about needing to save our kids from some eternal damnation.
Sarah: Yeah, which, I think maybe one of our kids might kind of believe in it but isn’t really sure what’s going on.
Jared: Right, right.
Sarah: The rest I don’t think care at all.
Jared: Right, yeah. So, because I think for a lot of parents, like, that’s the, it’s, that would create friction for me, I think, if I did believe in that and you didn’t believe in that.
Jared: Because it’s like, “oh, it’s so important we get them to say the sinner’s prayer and believe in Jesus because otherwise, they might go to hell.”
Jared: But since neither of us believe that I think it takes the pressure off our relationship to sort of influence our kids one way or the other.
Jared: So, okay. Yeah, I think that’s helpful. And then the third thing around this particular topic was the importance of recognizing our own baggage around this, because we’ve talked about that quite a bit is how do we not bring our own baggage around religion and Christianity and our upbringing, which had some really good stuff in it, but maybe some stuff that we felt like was holding us back. How do we not project that onto our kids so that we’re not saying you have the freedom to believe what you want, but we’re really sort of poisoning the well, so to speak.
Sarah: But also using your past as a source of wisdom for them.
Jared: So, what does that look like for you?
Sarah: Striking a balance of like, sharing your story but also saying, like, this might not be your story, and that’s okay.
Jared: Mm hmm, yeah. So, being able to say, well, around this topic, this is how I experienced, say Christianity, like around rules or what did you say earlier, that was maybe your personality? Judgment.
Jared: Like, you experienced it as judgmental but being able to say not everyone experiences Christianity that way. That was my story, other people maybe don’t see it that way. So, is that kind of how you, when you think about talking to our kids about God and church and Christianity, is that how you try to address that is just being able to share authentically your story but not saying this is the way it is?
Sarah: I try to generally say, like, this is, like, if they have a question like, I know sometimes creation comes up or I don’t know, other things, but one of them will make an offhand comment of something they heard in church or something, and I’ll say, “well, some people believe that and some people believe this. And what do you think about all of that?”
Jared: Mm hmm.
Sarah: So, trying to make, I think for me, it’s more about trying to help them think about what they’re actually learning and not just accept –
Jared: What they’re being told.
Sarah: Things as fact. It’s like, do I resonate with this? Is this helpful for me in life to love myself better and love others better? Is it important? Maybe it’s just a fun conversation and that’s fine, we know that’s as far as it goes. But some things are more important.
Jared: Yeah, I remember you saying that reminds me of some of our earliest conversations with our kids around this would’ve been around the afterlife, like, what happens when you die from a young age.
Jared: And I remember, that was like our go-to phrase was, “well, some people believe this.” Or they’d come home from church or hear from a friend or something, “well, this is what they said.”
Sarah: Mm hmm.
Jared: And I think it was really helpful for us to kind of start by saying, “yeah, some people believe that.”
Jared: And even within Christianity, some people believe this, and some people believe that. But also outside Christianity there’s Buddhism, and so we had reincarnation –
Sarah: That was, the reincarnation was the worst because I, they, I feel like little ones don’t understand their own –
Sarah: Mortality, so they’d be like, “oh, it’s okay. Some people believe you can come back as a cow or a cat or something.” I’m like, no, no, no! Like, that doesn’t mean you can just run in the street.
Jared: Right. Well, that was, yeah, the context was like, our littlest ones would be like, kind of being flippant about dying because it was like, “oh, well some people just believe you come right back to life!” That stressed you out a little bit.
Sarah: They just don’t understand yet.
Jared: Yeah, so, I think talk about that a little bit because that ties in really nicely with an argument I hear a lot is, you know, Richard Rohr kind of gives this argument, although I think people take him out of context, that you need structure when you’re younger.
Sarah: Mm hmm.
Jared: You need structure when you’re younger, and then when you’re older, you sort of dismantle it. It’s like, there’s this, I think trope or idea that I don’t think is true, it’s that we have to raise our kids to be fundamentalists and then help them dismantle it as they get older. That’s like, the best way to do it.
Sarah: Mm hmm.
Jared: But I don’t think we, I don’t think we behave that way.
Sarah: Yeah. I think it’s very much, like, an in the moment kind of discerning where they are mentally, emotionally, what they can handle. I think sometimes, its hearing them press back against some of our boundaries that we’ve set and thinking, like, “oh, maybe it’s time to change this boundary.” Like, maybe it’s time to have a conversation with them about how this boundary could change and so like a simple one we have is bedtime.
Jared: Mm hmm.
Sarah: When they’re little until they’re 5, they go to bed at 7. Once they were 5, they got to stay up until 8.
Jared: Until they were 10.
Sarah: Until they were 10, and 10, they get to stay up until 9. And those are kind of, have kind of been our rules, our boundaries so that, because, we’re exhausted physically by little ones. We need that literal break. We were very, also, regular about having quiet time or nap time when they were all very little and we don’t do that anymore, but it was a regular practice. Friends that knew us knew it was just a normal thing and our kids never made a fuss about it. I mean, early on it was hard to establish that routine with quiet time, but once it was established, it was important, I think for your and my mental health.
Sarah: But as they get older and have a capacity to be independent and kind of do their own thing, take care of themselves in many ways, we don’t need as strong of boundaries time wise.
Sarah: Like, they’re off taking care of themselves, so it’s not as intense for us so we don’t have to have as strict of a boundary. And even though our rule is like, 9 o’clock for 10-year-olds now at bedtime, we give and take on that much more frequently lately because our kids have shown us, like, they can put themselves to bed, they can turn the lights off. They can be quiet when their siblings are already in bed.
Jared: They can go to bed at a reasonable hour if we give them that freedom.
Sarah: Yeah. Or sleep in and not be crabby in the morning.
Jared: Right, right. Yeah, I mean, that language even you’re using I think is one way that we parent through these spiritual transitions that we aren’t interested in rules. I don’t think we really ever taught, hearing you say it even here on the podcast, it’s foreign to me. We don’t use those words.
Jared: We use boundaries, which I think is a relational term. It’s really about the relationship and what’s good for me, what’s good for you, how do we figure this out together? And instead of rules, which I think would’ve been something, ironically, you know, Christianity is supposed to be like, freedom from the rules but in my tradition, there would’ve been a lot of rules like implied or explicit. Like, discipline –
Sarah: Music you couldn’t listen to, movies you weren’t allowed to watch…
Jared: And they wouldn’t call it rules, they would just say it’s good for you. That felt like a bait and switch.
Jared: It’s like, well, no. Like, tell me how listening to Jay-Z is going to be really bad for me when I’m 15 years old or 16 years old? But we didn’t have those nuanced discussions, so I like even the language of boundaries. What it does for me is it allows us to kind of fumble through life as we gain wisdom together.
Sarah: Yeah. Well, and we also try, I think, I try really hard to let our kids know, so like, we put our video games away after the winter and they know other families don’t do that and I try to be careful to say, like, this is what we do.
Sarah: It’s not about right and wrong. It’s not wrong that other families don’t do it. It’s not wrong that our family does. Like, this is the practice that we find life-giving
Jared: And this is why.
Sarah: to the rhythms of life that we want as a family. So, this is what we practice. And that might change in the future, and –
Jared: And we regularly say, when you’re older and you have more autonomy, you can do it differently and still be fine! Like, if you want to play video games all year round when you’re older, that’s, we’re not going to feel like you did something wrong or are doing something wrong.
Sarah: Mm hmm. And I think something I’ve noticed is like, some of our kids are a little bit better about pushing against, like, saying when I feel unhappy about what the rule is, they can express that really well. Or some of the others we have to kind of draw it out of them, it’s like obvious they’re unhappy about something, but we have to draw that out of them and –
Jared: But we encourage, I mean, I feel like we encourage you to speak up if there’s a rule that you feel like is unfair or unfairly distributed or whatever and well, hopefully can have a conversation about that.
Jared: Mm hmm. Before we move on from that, the last thing I want to say is I think my retort to people who say you have to have this structure and then you have to dismantle when they’re older is I don’t think – two things – one, I think people misunderstand because for us, I feel like our structure is much more practical. Like, our structure isn’t theoretical about God, our structure for our kids is about bedtimes and video games and that’s the kind of structure we want to provide.
Sarah: Mm hmm.
Jared: And so, we’re not, I don’t think it’s important that people have black and white thinking about God when they’re young.
Jared: Because we provide black and white, if you want to give it that, you know, thought, around very practical things.
Jared: Like, those clear boundaries that we hold to. There’s a consistency which you’ve taught me. Like, be consistent, be clear, and that provides that safety for kids to allow them to flourish and they can keep ambiguity about God and religion. Like you said, a few of our kids, when we talk about it, they’ll kind of talk about it and they don’t really care.
Jared: It’s just not that important.
Sarah: So, our oldest is almost 13. I do think he’s gonna be in a stage soon where he wants to have like, spiritual conversations. Not necessarily about God and Christianity, but it’s even those like, philosophical questions about like why we do what we do and what we value and yeah. It’s just an age thing that they mature into and I was thinking about talking about the structure and I feel like what happens in our family is like, we have this structure and as they get older, they’re able to create their own structure.
Sarah: So, as they’re able to create it for themselves, we’re letting go.
Jared: Right, yeah.
Sarah: So, and trusting them to like, know what they need and when they don’t, they can ask. And, or if we see something that seems out of balance, we can address it and have a conversation about it. So, you know, like we homeschool, and I offer different ways of like, structuring their week. And with our oldest, the way that we did it at the beginning of this year wasn’t working, so I, we talked about it and came up with other ideas and he actually wanted a little bit more structure imposed on him and that was valuable.
Sarah: So, it’s always that give and take.
Jared: The second point I want to make about structure, which is structure can be good in the context of it being provisional. That’s the word I use a lot.
Jared: Like, it’s temporary. It’s great to have structure, but to say that we have to keep this particular structure can be really damaging and harmful. So, to start the school year with some structure and then to say, well, if it’s not working, let’s change the structure doesn’t mean we get rid of structure or that we’re just willy nilly, it just means it’s provisional and I think if you extrapolate that into belief systems, I think it’s really helpful. And I think we do that with our kids.
Sarah: When it’s working for you, the whole point of the structure or religion or whatever it is, is that it’s supposed to be helping you live better. Helping you with your life.
Jared: But we would agree, and I think this is different for some people, I think where we find alignment is that living better doesn’t just mean doing whatever you want at the expense of other people either.
Sarah: Yeah, right.
Jared: We think, it’s just our belief that being a fulfilled human being involves loving other people well.
Jared: So, you know, it’s not, again, it’s not this, it’s like willy nilly do whatever you want, it’s like, no, we agree that we want to raise a family that want to love themselves and love others well and within that there’s all kinds of provisional structures that can really help you and there’s some that can hurt and be harmful in that.
Jared: And I think that’s what we’re after. I’m just thinking of people who are listening where their choice is either no structure or this once for all time absolute structure.
Sarah: Mm hmm.
Jared: Or belief system. And it’s having this provisional thing and saying what’s working for me now? Are we checking in regularly to ask do our beliefs about God, are they serving us well toward this end or are they not? Which your story was perfect. It was like, one day you woke up and said, yeah, I do believe sort of what Jesus said that we should love ourselves and love our neighbor and Christianity isn’t giving me that motivation.
Jared: It’s not inspiring me to do that.
Jared: I think that that’s really helpful when we think about structure as well, this provisional part. That’s actually a great tie in, because I think one of the, one of our main parenting principles is just asking the question – how do we help our kids be their best selves?
Jared: For me, what I think there’s a lot within Christianity. For me, that can inspire that. I think I’ve done my work, I kinda think of it as like, archeological digging to like, get rid of all the crap of my –
Sarah: The baggage that was negative.
Jared: The baggage, and just see like, what I can use for that question of how to be our better selves. But for you, you find inspiration outside of that. So, you were talking about that earlier. So, maybe you can say more about that turn for you.
Sarah: So, like, how it changed, or…
Jared: Right. Like, where we find inspiration. Like I think, for you, you would’ve assumed Christianity was the only place, like you said, if we’re going to be our best selves, we’re going to be good people, it has to be Christian.
Jared: But you then discovered you didn’t have to do that. You found, started finding inspiration other places.
Sarah: Yeah. So, I think it definitely started with like, herbalists introducing ideas and so, I definitely love being in nature. I feel more centered and grounded when I spend at least part of my day outside, even if it’s a short walk. There’s just something, I think the awe and wonder that people talk about with God is something that I experience when I go out and see the sun come up.
Sarah: Or just walk by plants that I know and see the same ones because I walk similar paths most days and seeing the plants change and this beauty and change and accepting the change of the seasons, I guess, like seeing the beauty in the death of fall.
It can be hard, but it’s also, it’s just an important season of life. We have to have the death to enjoy the rebirth and it’s constant. But also, like, movies, definitely. Kid movies, like, love a lot of animated movies. They’re very inspirational to me. They just speak to my heart, they make me cry, laugh, there’s so many quotes from movies that stick in my head. Music, music a lot. Not Christian music for me at this point in my life, but a lot of pop. For me, I definitely listen to the lyrics a lot, which I think for you, I’ll point out a song like, “Hey, I really resonated with these words what do you think?” You’re like, “oh, I never listened to those words before!”
Jared: Yeah, I’ve heard the song 20 times, but I didn’t even know, I wasn’t even paying attention. Yeah.
Sarah: If it doesn’t have words that I resonate with, unless it’s like, a really great musical thing, I, it’s not something that I’ll keep coming back to.
Jared: But that would’ve been different than how you would have been raised to think about, again, if we say the goal is to love our, you know, as Christians we’d say love God, love ourselves, and love neighbors. But I would argue that that’s tied into loving our neighbors and loving ourselves. So, we would’ve grown up thinking, okay, the goal is to love our neighbors and to love ourselves, or at least love our neighbors. And you can’t do that by listening to secular music or watching these rated R movies. How is that helping you love other people? But I’m hearing you say, is like, you found a lot of that inspiration in those things.
Jared: You’re like, oh, these people aren’t just godless heathens out to make millions of dollars and, you know, get you to have sex when you’re a minor. Like, that’s not the goal of this. They’re actually creating beautiful things toward this end.
Sarah: Right. It’s about creating beauty. Humans love to create beauty in so many different ways, and I, that’s one thing with Christianity that, like, I have a hard time with at this point is like, believing. I think I was taught that we’re all born inherently sinful and that’s something that I would disagree with and I’m sure people will want to argue that with me, but I believe we all have good in us and you know, we discipline our toddlers, we discipline them as they get older, but a lot of that is just getting them to fit in our social structures, but that’s because we want them to fit in and act appropriately, so –
Jared: Mm hmm. Well, I think you either create –
Sarah: They’re not trying to be bad. Obviously, sometimes. But usually it’s like, them sticking up for themselves, they get angry about something –
Jared: Or not knowing how to express their emotions.
Sarah: It’s not, “oh, I want to be sinful.”
Jared: Right, right.
Sarah: There’s so much beauty in humans and I think for me, believing we’re inherently beautiful and good is a lot more inspiring. Trying to see that in people versus being like, “oh, it’s okay. You’re just sinful.”
Jared: Right. Mm hmm. But, and I think for me how that translates very practically for us as parents is like, we don’t, we don’t censor a lot of that based on hard and fast rules for our kids.
Sarah: Yeah, so like –
Jared: Like, our kids have Spotify accounts, and I don’t really care. Especially around cussing.
Jared: Like, I really don’t care if they have cuss words. I care about things like misogyny, like, is this belittling to women? Those kind of things are more important to me.
Sarah: But even in those, it’s like, being able to have a conversation with them about it is valuable. Like, do you notice that this is how they’re talking about people? And, but so, we like, talk about the curse words though. Like with our youngest, we definitely have stronger rules about it and he understands that very clearly. I actually had a conversation about it with him this week because his siblings are allowed to use curse words when they use it appropriately. When you’re angry and you’re, you stubbed your toe, and they say a curse word – no big deal, to me.
Jared: Or when they play video games and get frustrated.
Jared: That’s appropriate, that’s fine.
Sarah: When you use curse words against others, that’s not allowed in our house and –
Jared: And that’s what he does, yeah.
Sarah: That’s what he always does![Laughter]
Jared: But we are asking, because we were gonna have this conversation about Christianity and God and parenting and for him, that was sort of like, what would it look like?
Sarah: I asked him, like, “What do you think Christianity is?” He’s like, “it’s about not saying curse words.” And I just, I was like, “oh! But your siblings are allowed to say curse words?” He was like, “well, yeah, because they usually say them when it’s appropriate.” And I was like, “well why can’t you say curse words?” He was like, “because I say them to other people to hurt their feelings.”
Sarah: Yup, yup. Wow! Good job articulating that at 6. That’s great, that’s exactly right.
Jared: Right, right. But I think overall, just to kind of put a bow on what we’re talking about in general is we don’t have this anxiety about it. It’s not like a rule following, we don’t create that culture in our house. Like, he’s able to say, because he knows we’re not going to get, he’s not going to get into a lot of trouble and we’re not going to get angry at him for articulating that truth. Like, yeah. Sometimes it’s appropriate, sometimes it’s not.
Sarah: But he knows when he uses it in an inappropriate way to hurt other people then he sits in time out.
Jared: Mm hmm.
Sarah: I mean, he knows his siblings don’t have to do that because they’re more judicious about how they use curse words.
Jared: Right. Well, again, for me the theme is wisdom.
Jared: We want to teach our kids how to be wise in the world, not rule followers because rule following not only can it stifle you and create anxiety, but you absolutely are not learning how to think for yourself. It’s actually under developing you to just follow the rules. It’s more about navigating. I mean, it’d be really nice if the world was black and white, and we just had rules that applied to everything all the time.
Jared: But we don’t have that. And so, to equip people with rules in a world that doesn’t follow the rules seems unhelpful.
Sarah: Yeah. We do try. We have had conversations with them about, you know, some people are uncomfortable with curse words all the time, and if they ask you not to say them, it’s important for you to respect that because that’s loving our neighbor, right?
Sarah: If you don’t do that, that’s just –
Sarah: Disrespectful, it’s not loving, and they know it’s not a hard fast rule that they can always say curse words when it’s appropriate.
Jared: Well, it’s learning to listen to other people and respond accordingly. That’s not, we’re not doormats where we just give in to whatever people want, but we also have to respect and hear what other people are saying and find for ourselves how to navigate being ourselves and also being loving.
Jared: Which I think is not easy.
Sarah: Yeah. And learning when you can have conversations with people about something you believe and when it’s not valuable to have a conversation. When you need to stand up for something that’s important to you and when it’s more important to just accept this is more important to them.
Jared: Right, right. Have a relationship that’s not built on just disagreeing around our beliefs.
Jared: And when it is appropriate to do that and when it’s not. So, the last thing I wanted to talk about was, since this is The Bible for Normal People, what do we do with our kids and the Bible? And I would’ve said, you know, earlier in our lives when they were little, I would’ve read Bible stories to them and we would’ve talked about Bible stories.
Sarah: Even memorizing some Bible verses or like, we sometimes have tradition of like, picking passages to read around the table at certain seasons like Thanksgiving or Christmas and we would read, we would each memorize a certain part. And early on, I think some of that was scripture –
Sarah: More recently it’s been poetry just because that’s what we resonate with, that’s what I resonate with at this point.
Jared: But now I would say, for me, scripture, it does have a ritualistic role in our family. Like for instance, every year we do sukkot and we read passages about taking care of the stranger as part of sukkot. And I would think maybe, around Christmas time we might read some scripture at certain points, but beyond that I don’t think it really plays heavily into our family life. Would you agree with that?
Jared: So, and you seem, I would guess you’re fine with that.
Sarah: Yeah, I mean, our two oldest have their own Bibles. That’s part of what they get at our church and they’re part of the youth group, so they’re discussing the Bible but at this point when I ask them, like, what they think about what they’re being taught they’re like, “eh. I just like to hang out with my friends.” And for me, I’m okay with that. I really value that they have a place where they can go and be present to other people who are loving them and they can share their love with them, with those kids and –
Jared: And we found a congregation that doesn’t, for me, doesn’t represent a lot of the baggage –
Sarah: Mm hmm.
Jared: Those unhealthy things I found about church life when I was growing up or even as a pastor. So, I appreciate that.
Sarah: Yeah, and I think for me it’s continuing to ask them, like, you know, what are you thinking about what you’re learning? Do you want to talk about it?
Jared: And our, I think our dinner table is probably the prime place where we have those conversations. Like, 90, in the last five years, 90% of the time that we talk about God or the Bible or what we believe it’s been around the dinner table. And I think that’s valuable that we can have those conversations. That’s where the important family conversations happen. And then that’s where we can set up these ideas of provisional structure, like “yeah, some people believe that, but you also know that the Bible says this, and you know, it says that.” And you know, “What do you think about that?” And I think we do that a lot too, is putting it back on them.
Jared: When they say things we can give them a context for what other people might believe, but then always end with like, “well, what do you think?” And then affirming that. Saying yeah, you might be right. And so, we’re not trying to tear down their beliefs, we’re just trying to, I feel like it’s slightly nudged them in certain ways for us, toward that end of loving yourself and loving God.
Sarah: Yeah. And I don’t want to create a picture of like, we’re having these conversations every day.
Sarah: I think it’s occasional.
Jared: Yeah, maybe monthly, maybe a little less, yeah.
Sarah: And I think it might be one kid brings something up and I think something that I like in those conversations is kind of being aware of what the other kids are doing during the conversation. You know, especially like younger ones. They’re just kind of absorbing what’s happening and that’s fine. They don’t have an opinion, but it’s just something they’re okay with listening to and thinking about at their level.
Jared: All right. So, do you have any words of wisdom? Our kids are a little older. We have preteens, about, and teenagers, and then a six-year-old. Do you have any words of wisdom for people who are stepping into they’re believing something different now and they’re wondering how do I navigate this as a parent?
Sarah: I don’t know. I think parenthood is a lot about grace and being present to the moment of where your kid is at and where you’re at and constantly trying to balance their needs with your needs and wanting them to know you love them. Yeah. For me, it’s okay to have boundaries and say, like, you have to go to sleep at 8. Like, that’s just because like, I have to get a break and that’s okay. I mean, I don’t tell my six-year-old that. But it’s okay to show them love in other ways. Like, I still get him meals and –
Jared: Right, right.
Sarah: Give him a hug in the morning when he gets up.
Jared: Well, can I just say, it sounds like a great lesson has been to love our kids well is to learn to love ourselves well.
Sarah: Yeah. And accepting you’re, you have down days and I think that’s been a hard thing for me but the more that I can accept that, the more I can accept theirs and making, them being able to see me make space for days that are hard for me, it’s like – yeah, we’re just going to all watch movies together today because I’m exhausted and have nothing to pour out and they bring me tea or pitch in making their own lunch or, and when they can see that, I think it helps them know it’s okay for them to have bad days and that you’re going to make space for that.
Jared: And I say that because I feel like, again, in our tradition, it was always about you have to pour yourself out for other people. It was always do it for the other person, do it for the other person, but as a parent, I found, I end up being a worse person. I end up being a worse parent when that’s my philosophy.
Jared: Whenever I come out of the old adage about being on the airplane. When I put my mask on first, then I have the wherewithal to put the mask on my kid.
Jared: And so, for us, I just think that an important part of boundaries is to like, get over that voice in our head that says it’s selfish to have boundaries with your kids and protect time for you and I to connect, or protect time for you to rest or, you know, not everything has to be about our kids. And sometimes the best way to love our kids is to not make it all about them.
Sarah: Yeah. I think looking back on the kid’s little years, like, I wish I had been much more gracious with myself. I was exhausted all the time.
Jared: Mm hmm.
Sarah: But I couldn’t even see that because I didn’t know what it felt like anymore to not be exhausted.[Laughter]
Now, I do. Now I can make space for that, but, yeah, like, if people offer you a break, it’s okay to take a break if you feel tired.
Sarah: And realize you’re probably going to be parenting more the way you want to if you take a break and it doesn’t mean you don’t love your kids.
Jared: Right. Excellent! Well, thank you so much for jumping on the podcast. I know it’s difficult for you because this is not usually your cup of tea, so – thank you for prepping many days in advance and meditating –
Sarah: Thank you.
Jared: So that you could be present here.[Music begins]
Jared: Well, thanks again for joining us for this episode of The Bible for Normal People. Hope that was helpful, hope this isn’t our last conversation on parenthood as we navigate these faith transitions.
Megan: A big thank you to our producer’s group, who support us over on Patreon. They are the reason we are able to keep bringing podcasts and other content to you. If you would like to help support the podcast, head over to https://www.patreon.com/thebiblefornormalpeople where for as little as $3 a month you can receive bonus material, be a part of an online community, get course discounts, and much more. We couldn’t do what we do without your support.
Dave: Thanks, as always, to our team: Executive Producer, Megan Cammack; Audio Engineer, Dave Gerhart; Creative Director, Tessa Stultz; Marketing Wizard, Reed Lively; transcriber and Community Champion, Stephanie Speight; and Web Developer, Nick Striegel. From Pete, Jared, and the entire Bible for Normal People team, thanks for listening.