About the Author

Deidra is a national speaker and the author of Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are, and One: Unity in a Divided World. Follow Deidra on Instagram @deidrariggs

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  1. Deidre,
    It’s no accident that I read this post the morning after I sat with my son at the dinner table (a rarity) and he basically told me, thanks, but he didn’t need my help – that he wanted to figure out life on his own. He clearly didn’t want my input. It hurt. I know my son believes in Jesus; at least he did. Right now I don’t think he knows what he believes. He is lost and miserable and all I can do right now is tell him that I love him…that God loves him…and I pray. I pray and hold onto the hope that the Holy Spirit is at work in him and God is not finished with him yet. My son’s story is not yet complete. This one is outside my control, but it isn’t outside God’s control. And so I hold on…Thank you for a very honest and real post. Sometimes I need to know that I am not alone.
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Bev. I thought I’d write this as an encouragement for others who might be walking this path. Sometimes it seems as if no one has ever walked this way before. But, if 59% of people in this age group have walked away from church, it stands to reason there are a good percentage of parents left behind to scratch their heads and stare in bewilderment at that empty seat at the kitchen table.

      What I didn’t realize is just how much encouragement I’d find here in response to this post. I didn’t realize how much I needed to *hear* the voices of others on the journey.

    • Bev,

      Prayers for your prodigal. One day when he hits rock bottom God will enter and give him a heart change. God will help him “see the light”. I’ve seen this happen a few times.

      Loving Father,

      Please be with Bev as she is worried about her son. Give her the strength and encouragement she needs to go on day by day. Shower her with your love grace and mercy. AMEN!

    • This morning, I had coffee with my friend. She’s the mother of a soon-to-be two-year-old, and β€” right on schedule β€” her son has begun having temper tantrums. She’s confounded, of course. Because this road is new for her. And, like all of us, we hear about this bend in the road, but living in the bend is different than hearing about it.

      The truth, however, is that each story is different. Each child is different. Some take us around the bend, others take us through multiple bends, and some avoid the bend altogether. The cool thing is that none of it surprises God. None of it is too much for God to handle. And none of it cancels out God’s great, deep, abiding love for us all.

  2. My 27 year old son is a wonderful, intelligent, compassionate person, but doesn’t have his life together yet and we have allowed him to be quite financially dependent on us. I think that he believes in Jesus, but doesn’t really have much of a spiritual life. I guess I just need the reminder to pray for him and to ask for wisdom for myself in how best to be his mother.

    • It’s such a steep learning curve, isn’t it? This parenting of adults. I understand the tension, and I imagine the questions you write to God in your journal, or whisper as you walk the grocery aisles.

      One day, while I was praying for my son, I clearly heard God say (well, not actual words, more like a feeling in my gut) that my job is to love my son. The rest is God’s work. And you know what? I’m good at loving my son. I’m probably the best person for that assignment. I imagine it’s the same for you.

      • Sorry to bump in here – but Deidra, when I pray about my very difficult 9 yr old son, I “hear” the same thing – that my job is to love him. As much as I can sit and wonder what I’m doing wrong, and imagine where he’s headed as he grows up, and pull my hair out in the process…. my job is to love him, and God has the rest in His hands. Amen! Praying for *all* of our sons!

  3. I think it’s human nature to want to label, define, box, know. We can get our hands around those things once we understand what we’re dealing with. But maybe that’s why God reminds us that He’s concerned about what’s going on inside; that’s His business, not ours. But it sure doesn’t stop us from wanting to know (label, box, define).

    For me, an important step toward growing up was the freedom to wander, wonder, doubt and question. In the mysterious ways of God, those things led me to Him, not away.

    Your babies sense your heart and concerns for them; your words here are sound reminder that we’re ALL works in progress.

    xo

    • You are a wise, wise woman, Robin Dance.

      I agree. This wandering is an important step. And, even the term wandering may not be exactly right. But, we have to have a diagnosis, don’t we? So we can prescribe the right treatment. When really, it’s God who’s got it all figured out.

  4. I remember when my first son left for college, and I was so full of fear that he would “wander from the fold”. Early one morning between asleep and awake, God gave me an image of a sheep far from its ever-watching shepherd. And these words were clear in my head “He may wander, but he will never wander one step further than I allow him to. I AM the good shepherd.” I’ve gone back to that reassurance of God’s power and love over and over as my children grow and leave my immediate care and discipleship. It gives me courage and rest not in their faithfulness but in His. From the security of that place, I am able to walk patiently beside them in their “wandering”. I think often the path that looks like it leads away from faith is really the path that leads them to a faith that is truly their own.

        • Just want to say ‘amen’ to that line. As someone who ‘went her own way’ from ages 20-25 after growing up in church, let me tell you that the faith I found after WAS truly my own. It’s such a personal thing, faith. You can never do it for someone else. It’s like feeding your kids healthy food all their childhoods and then despairing when they eat McDonald’s as soon as they leave home. Sooner or later they’ll realize what’s truly best for them, but you know, they really do need to find out for themselves. And wouldn’t you rather they thought for themselves rather than simply following a list of rules, going to church, and never TRULY found their OWN faith, but you assumed they did because they outwardly toed the line? For sure, many young people DO find authentic faith through their families. But not all people do, and that is fine. Prayer goes a long, long, loooooong way πŸ˜‰ but the heart work truly is God’s.

  5. When I start to fret about this I try to bring my mind back to Philippians 1:6…knowing that if it is true for me it is true for them!

    • I had to go look that up. πŸ™‚

      And here it is for the rest of us. Truth: There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears. (MSG)

      Thanks for this reminder, Karen. Bless you.

  6. Yep…this post resounds with me. As the daughter who doesn’t get asked about much, except of course the “is there a special someone” type questions. This made me think of Emily Freeman’s “good girl”-cause no one needs to ask about the good girl. And as the sister who gets tired of answering questions about how her brothers are doing. I get those all the time! And over explain myself also!

    • Oh my gosh! That cracks me up! “Is there a special someone?” Why must we know so much? But, I guess if they weren’t asking you they’d be asking your brothers, right?

      Great point about the good girl, Frances. I feel you. Not that I was a good girl. I wasn’t. This little journey with my children (and the questions I get asked or not asked) has reminded me of the ways I size up a situation and jump to my own conclusions about it.

  7. Parenting of your adults is hard and scary, that’s for sure – that breathless wait to see if all those years of “training them up” will bring about our desired result: men and woman whose hearts are solid in their faith. My kids are 22, 20 and 17, two out of the nest and one getting ready to fly. Many times I have wondered if they were still walking in the Way. But….God keeps reminding me that He loves them more than I do, and that their working out of their faith doesn’t need to look exactly like mine. It’s hard to stand back and release them, but that’s what faith is all about, right?

    • …the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

      God keeps reassuring me that he’s got everything under control. So that’s a cool thing. It doesn’t mean I always believe Him, though. And when people ask me the things they ask, I get all defensive and doubtful and impatient and agitated. It’s a constant testing of my faith. Will I, or will I not, take God at His word?

  8. I am living that right now with my daughter and son in law. When she was younger, I knew (or thought I knew) that she would be God’s mouthpiece. She had such a love for God and an excitement to tell others, even if they didn’t want to listen. Now the table has turned and she wants nothing to do with God. My heart cries out for her. I do scratch my head and blame myself, although it is her choice to choose. I want more than anything to tell her, “You’re going to go to church and read the Bible and accept Him into your life – or else!!! but the truth is, she has left the nest and all I can do is trust God in the tough moments of uncertainty.

    I’m so thankful that you posted this, Deidra. Thanks for your always honest posts.

    • Wouldn’t it be great if we could just tell them what to do and watch them do it and have their lives unfold perfectly before them (and us)? Surely, God feels the same way about me. But, in His gracious love, He lets me choose. He lets me work it out, and He never leaves my side. Astounding! Surely, there is no one like Him. I want to be like that. Oh, how I want to be like that.

  9. As I read this, I recalled our conversation at Tandoor!

    My greatest hope comes in knowing that God loves my sons more than I do and that He doesn’t waste a crumb. I cling to the promise that He who began a good work in our sons, will see it to completion….probably not as fast or in the same manner that I’d like!

    Love you friend! Dinner soon?

  10. Thank for your story. I too can relate our daughter 39 years old knows & loves Jesus & we stand & believe God’ promises for her life will come to pass. Walking by Faith not by sight. Train up a child in the way they shall go & when they get old it (the word ) will not depart from them. Amen! ❀

  11. I am so encouraged by this post and the responses below. We all need each other. We need to know and be reminded that we are all in process of becoming who God has made us to be. In reality, we are on the journey with our children. We learn and grow with them and from them. Thank you God for imperfect families as your way of teaching and refining all your children.

  12. So refreshing to read such an honest ‘testimony’. I have two sons and they are so very different. Neither attend church, but I’ve always thought that one was more ‘spiritual’ than the other, less rebellious, at least in his actions. But you are so right that it is the heart that matters, and we don’t see that, only God does. It has been a tough road for me to ‘let go’ of my sons. I think the fact that I homeschooled them up to and including high school has made it harder for me to let go. And for one son, I think it made it more attractive to leave. I have to remind myself that no parent does this ‘perfectly’ and that all the decisions my husband and I made regarding our sons were made out of love for them as best we could. I know my sons love Jesus, but as we all do (and thank you for that reminder), they need to grow in that love and apply it practically to their lives. Both sons live at home, aged 26 and 24, and that really speaks to me that they like it here. As I continue to parent these young adults, God is revealing himself to me in new ways. I pray that His love be revealed to your children through you and that they would see the beauty of a life abandoned to Him – both your son and your daughter. Blessings.

    • So often, I think, we equate faith β€” a relationship with Jesus β€” with going to church. But, as my friend likes to remind me, going to church doesn’t make me a Christian anymore than standing in a garage makes me a car. I think God is doing something new and exciting in this next wave of Christ-followers. It feels (dare I say it?) like a new reformation, or a revival. (Is that too hopeful? Am I deluded?) The bottom line is what you’ve typed right here in the comments: “I know my sons love Jesus…”

      Lately, there has been a lot of talk about this new wave of believers. How they’re different, and they see the world differently. It’s easy to let that make me nervous. But what if God is doing a new thing…right before our eyes?

    • Oh, thank you, Sylvie, for reminding me, too, that no parent does it perfectly. I needed to hear that, and that our decisions were (and are) made out of love for them as best we could.

  13. When our children struggle, it seems we are often directed to the story of the Prodigal Son. Though I LOVE that image of God to me, I am puzzled by the lack of information it gives me as a prodigal’s mother. What was that mama doing in the waiting? Where was she when the father ran, embraced and called for a party? How did she respond to her other son’s heart? Her absence in the story is a one of the more poignant elements of that scene as I long to know how to love my family well.

  14. I agree with your son. For me that is the toughest part about parenting. Praying, wishing, hoping for them to have a certain life rooted in Christ, but ultimately, just like everything else, we aren’t in control. So we do what we can which in the end is pretty simple – Love as Christ Loved! πŸ™‚ Especially to our kids πŸ™‚

    Thank you for this, Deidra! Beautiful!

  15. I thought about my own prodicals as I read your story. One is in heaven now, rededicated his life to the Lord just 5 days before he died 17 years ago and the other prodical living her life as she pleases but not pleasing to the Lord. And yet I pray because there is always Hope.
    Thank you for sharing your story. It gave me a selah moment. The fact that your son was able to be open and honest with you about how you might be feeling as a mother gives light and hope too. He’ll find his way.

    • There is always hope. That’s the truth.

      My son? I’m sure he is finding his way. But, it doesn’t look the way people think it ought to look. So, they ask questions. And all the while, my daughter is on a journey, too. But no one asks about her, because her life looks “right.” You know?

      Selah, indeed. Peace to you.

  16. I have five wonderful children. I homeschooled them for 17 years (God used it to teach me what I didn’t know and depend on him for everything, yet it was a crucible). Anyways, I love the Lord. I accepted Christ at 30, so I just wanted my kids to know Him in a personal relational way (there is no other way…). Yet at 16 my oldest, (my daughter), said, “Mom, this is your relationship, your faith. I believe but I am living two lives, one to please you and one for me. I have to figure this out on my own. I am going to make mistakes and that will be hard, but I need to do it.” For the next 6 years I have seen the good and bad.She still is wandering. My next born, (son) just got lost in high school and fell hard. He still is trying to find his way. I will say they are independent, working diligently and are sweet kids, but they haven’t turned to Christ..

    Well, I don’t need to go on and on. During all of this I was mad, depressed, very depressed, lonely, contemptuous, yet God continued to love me and continued to breathe on the embers of my faith in Him. Much has been stripped away, yet I will choose to say, “I love the Lord with all my heart and mind and soul.” He is my deliverer from depression, from self-pity, he is my Hope, my song in my heart. I believe all five of my children will proclaim Jesus as Lord, one day. I will continue to commune with him in the Holy of Holies and petition for all those that don’t know him personally.

    Although my kids don’t walk with the Lord now, I do see God’s hand on them. They have turned to their own ways, but God is not finished. He knows the time and place that they will turn back to him. I do believe that is God’s grace and I am thankful for that. He cares so deeply for them. It is when we were dead in our sin that He loved us enough to die for us inorder to bring us to Him. To reconcile us. To set us free. To give us everything we need to know him and live joyfully in Him forever and forever. He did it for me, I believe He will call them, too.
    Thanks for sharing. It is helpful!!!

    • Thank you for sharing this story of your journey, Terry. As my son says, it seems there are many of us with the same “issue” (for lack of a better term). I am confident God loves our children more than we do, God sees the big picture, and God is not beyond doing a new thing β€” right in front of our eyes. I am trusting the new thing God is working out, right in the midst of your family.

      Blessings to you!

  17. Part of the process of being a parent (of adult children) is allowing them that space, the freedom to make their own choices. Even when those choices are diametrically opposed to what we believe, and what they’ve been taught. We see this example come from the father in the parable of the prodigal son.
    ONLY GOD sees the thoughts and intentions of the heart with true justice and righteousness.
    I’ve learned these principles the hardest way possible. Walked the lonely parental road with daughters who seemed not only to have “walked away” from their spiritual roots, but RAN from True North as fast as their legs could carry them.
    In all of it, God has shown Himself faithful. In the most dire of circumstances, God showed up in the “pig sty” of one daughter’s life and beckoned her back. And she “remembered” His voice.
    The other…well, she’s still on her journey. But God has inscribed her in the palm of His hand. And even though she’s forgotten Him, He hasn’t forgotten her.
    And this mama? When people ask how my daughter is doing, I tell them she’s being looked after by a Perfect Parent. End of discussion πŸ˜€

  18. How sweet of your son to try to see things from your point of view! I’m sure he is a wonderful young man. I, too, have a son and a daughter. However, most people ask about my daughter, who is living her life as a Christ follower, instead of my son, who is trying to find his own way. I’m guessing it might be because they know how painful it is for me to talk about my son’s choices. Even though I still fall back into patterns of worry and fear, I am more often than not finding peace in knowing that God is in control of my son’s life, and that He will be able to use every part of his wandering as a testimony in the future of God’s love, mercy, forgiveness, and grace. Although the path my son has chosen is not the one I would have chosen for him, I agree that he has to find his own faith. He accepted Christ as a young child, and I know that the Holy Spirit lives inside him. My sweet daughter sent me the following verses recently when I was having a particularly difficult day : “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:27-28. What comfort and hope this gives me!

    • I think our children may be our greatest teachers…no matter which path they choose. Blessings on both your son and your daughter. And on you, their wonderful mom.

  19. I am so very grateful for Abba’s omniscience in my lack. We raised six children, all adults now, the last leaving the nest exactly a year ago. His all-knowing gracious presence has carried us through many foibles, laced with honest, heartfelt attempts to co-labor with His heart. Even now, as a parent of adult children and grandma to eight, I marvel at His relentless and loving pursuit of us all! The archives of my heart overflow with enduring testimony to His faithfulness! I ponder them… For the overcoming power of His resurrected life and His shed blood, speak better things to me than what my eyes see! Faith springs up in the arid, doubting places in me when I remember His faithful love will finish what He began in me and in them!
    In recent days, I have witnessed our oldest, the one with heart most ablaze for Christ, giving the prime of her life doing exploits for His Kingdom among the nations of the world, now floundering in a Sea of Rejection, grasping for love in counterfeit affections and denying the Lover of Her Soul access to her pain… But Jesus. I know Him. His love for her is unphased by her neglect, her refusals, her denials, her disappointments. He will win her back, and her new husband, who has been wooed away from His faith by the dark shadows of grief and intellectualism. There is new life being knit in her womb… A firstborn soon to be born. How will Jesus speak through this baby girl? I don’t know, but I know He will.

    • Your words here remind me of Mary, the mother of Jesus, who “kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself.”

  20. This is awesome….it’s like being in a small group study. I have enjoyed reading each and every comment and have been reminded and have learned a lot from all of you. I think the most important thing or reminder I have learned is to continue to pray for our two daughters, ages 30 and 27, neither of whom attend church and to continue to trust that God is in control. God is such an awesome and magnificent God…why do we feel we need to always be in control? Thank you ladies for all of these reminders and encouragement….it has been so uplifting.

    • What a great way to describe it, Sharon! It does feel like that! Like a bunch of girlfriends sitting around, eating calorie-free (but insanely decadent) brownies and holding hands across the coffee table and leaning in and on and cheering for each other!

  21. Deidra,
    It speaks volumes about the love and respect between you and your son that he would even articulate what he did to you…very insightful of him…and you are so right, we won’t know this side of heaven, the fullness of our faith…praying for him and your daughter today…Thank you for sharing part of your story with us.

  22. Hi Deidra,

    Thank you for this post. It is so very timely. I have a daughter who is running swiftly away from Jesus, in an abusive marriage, and has made very destructive choices, for herself and for her children. I don’t always even know where she is. But, I have learned some lessons, and I’m not good at them always.

    I don’t always know where my daughter is, but God does and He always has His eyes on her, and can protect her better than I can, and will be where I can’t be.

    I can’t be the Holy Spirit for my daughter, she will have to grapple and hear for herself when she is wooed to come to Him and then let Him clean her back up.

    The Lord gave me several promises concerning her, and my job is to love her when I have contact with her. (I can go several stretches without contact by any method of communication)

    I am not look at the external behavior, but I am to trust in the promises He has given me for her and know that a spiritual battle is going for her. I once saw a vision of a muscular arm holding a spear standing at attention and only sort of a face. A friend told me this was probably Jesus Himself because of seeing no face, at any rate I know He is fighting the battle with angels at His beckoning.

    If I am prompted to pray, pray. The Lord goes before her in the presence of evil.

    Since I can go a while without hearing what is going on, if I need to know something, then the Lord is so good to let me know somehow what is happening with her. If I am feeling some sort of distress, then I will ask to let me know.

    Prayer is the best offense and defense I can have for myself and for her. Satan is out to destroy us and our children. But we have power in faith filled prayer. Peace is also a powerful weapon.

    God does have a plan for her that is constantly moving forward because this is HIS plan. His plan is for good and not for evil, and in the Amplified Version it states ” to give her hope in the final outcome.”

    He will help us and also will harden us to our difficulties.

    Sorry that this is so long. These have been very hard lessons learned in the trenches and often in the hard times, and I don’t mean to sound trite, but I know the Lord is faithful and will keep His Word.

    Blessings,

    Joanne

    • You know what I love about what you’ve shared here? I love the way your trust in God has grown. Man! What great words you’ve shared here. There are so many parents out there who go through long stretches with no word from their children. It’s a difficult experience. One that undo a parent, if we are not careful, and even if we are. Your insight here is invaluable. Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us.

  23. Thank you so much for this lesson, as one praying mother to another. I do tend to fret (over everything).

    Bless You.

  24. Yes….we never stop becoming….and neither do our children….sometimes we forget that our story….the story of our children is not finished….they are on one chapter of a very long story…so much of thier story to ve written…it is not always easy to watch the butterfly break free of the cocoon….may we as momma’s trust God with the story of our children. Thanks Deidra

  25. Deidra,
    Thanks so much for this today! It’s not easy watching my daughter make life choices that are not what I imagined she would choose. But letting go and letting God is the answer and what I try to focus on. It’s good to realize that I am not the only one that struggles with watching my children
    and their choices. A year and a half ago my husband and I either sold or gave a way our house hold of 34 years and moved to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to work there as missionaries the rest of our lives. We left our 2 daughters 22 and 25. I struggled with leaving them. When we left neither one were choosing a life walking with Christ as we had raised them. Three weeks after we arrived our oldest emailed to say she was giving her life to Christ and we have spent this last year with a chance through emails to continue an ongoing discussion on her questions and struggles. My youngest has not yet made any decision for God in her life and it has been a struggle not to worry over her. I am reminded as I read through these posts that God has a plan and it is a life time that He works with us. Thanks for the encouragement that sharing with each other brings!!

  26. Rev. Charles Stanley encourages us to personalize Scripture. One lesson he taught was from Colossians 1: 9-14. He asks his prayer partners to pray that for him every day and he recommends we use it for our loved ones. After reading all the comments on here, I thought this would be of use to you. Insert the person’s name in the — Praying you receive a blessing! Here is the Amplified Bible version:

    For this reason we also, from the day we heard of it, have not ceased to pray and make special request for (name—-) that (s)he may be filled with the full (deep and clear) knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom (that is, in comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God) and in understanding and discernment of spiritual things.

    That —- may walk (live and conduct herself-himself) in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him and desiring to please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and steadily growing and increasing in (and by) the knowledge of God – with fuller, deeper and clearer insight, acquaintance and recognition.

    We pray that —- may be invigorated and strengthened with all power, according to the might of His glory, (to exercise) every kind of endurance and patience (perseverance and forbearance) with joy,
    Giving thanks to the Father, Who has qualified and made us fit to share the portion which is the inheritance of the saints (God’s holy people) in the Light.

    The Father has delivered and drawn —- to Himself out of the control and the dominion of darkness and has transferred —- into the Kingdom of the Son out of His love.

    In Whom —- has her-his redemption through His blood (which means) the forgiveness of her-his sins.

    AMEN!

  27. I am the prodigal, the wanderer, just now finding my way back Home after more than 15 years in the wilderness. My first semester in college I rebelled hard against the rigid Southern Baptist upbringing my parents provided. Then, my church going, Sunday school teaching cornerstones seemed to transform before my very eyes. My foundation was cracked and my house crumbled when my parents divorced. It seemed the very values on which my life had been based disappeared into thin air. I retreated even further into the wilderness of alcohol, drugs, and an abusive relationship. My Father was faithful and He has never forsaken me; it is truly only by His Grace that I am even alive today.
    I never stopped praying, never stopped believing, but at some point I just felt too ashamed to return to the body of Christ. I watched Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, and anyone else I could catch on TV. I read my bible when I needed encouragement or answers. But it was here, on the world wide web, on this blog and a few others, were I first began to find and FEEL community and acceptance again.
    I have said all of that to say this, never give up hope, and never forget how important the work He is doing through all of the writers, contributors, and commenters on this blog truly is. The prayers of the faithful in my life kept me hanging on while my Father’s hand was busy rebuilding me! I have gone from a child raised in the church, to a teenager actively serving in missions, to a lost and wandering young adult, to an adult on the long road Home. This community has given me the courage and inspiration to seek out community in my church again. Thank you incourage community, Deidra, and all the mothers out there praying for Prodigals!

  28. I wonder if I’m allowed to respond to this? Oh well —

    I didn’t read all the comments. I didn’t even read most of them, but I read some and it seems like lots of people are facing the same “issue” (for lack of a better term.) I can only speak for myself but I think the world is drastically different from the one our grandparents grew up in, our parents grew up in, and from the world our peers grew up in for that matter. The cosmos is teaming with information: scientific, moral, ethical, social, theological, and that’s just from what we can get from our cell phones.

    At this point in my life I think church serves a purpose for certain people and the idea of God and Jesus that is presented in that realm is very satisfying, but for me God is more than what I can get on Sunday morning and in fact the Sunday morning routine is significantly more stifling than the free-form conversation I had while renting camera equipment today.

    God isn’t just in the church (a building) God is in the church (the people.) I think Christians spend so much time adhering to the rigid religious construct they forget that the entire world was created by this God. Everything around us is worship. Every person you meet is a piece of a puzzle. Every sin, good deed, hug, kiss, trip, hand shake, is something that could potentially bring you closer to Christ.

    I may not have visited the building in a year but I go to church every day and I am the first person to admit that I am a sinner and to be honest I’ve come to terms with that but Christ is the example and I am aware of that and constantly reminded of his love for me in this space that God has created for us.

    • I love you, Jordan. You are so much more than I ever could have imagined. You make me a better me. Every single time. My heart still skips a beat when I realize how incredibly blessed I am to be your mom. I wouldn’t trade this journey for anything. Not ever.

    • Jordan, I guess we’re part of the same generation. I have to say, I agree with you…I may have gone to church more when I was in high school, did missions trips , Bible studies, all the stuff good Christian kids did, but I can say with absolute certainty that I never knew Christ then in the way I KNOW Him now (ahem, haven’t been to church in…9 months? or longer?).

      I think, for me at least, it wasn’t so much that I ever really “wandered.” It’s more that I finally felt the freedom to shuck the pressure. Like the show is over…the masks can come off…now what? And you suddenly realize you’ve been asleep all those years performing with that mask on, reciting lines you thought you believed in…and you Do believe in them. And it’s sort of a revelation. But once you begin to separate the heart from the performance, it’s very difficult to return to the performance (ie go back to church) without feeling like you’re faking something, even though you’re not. So I end up avoiding church.

      That’s how it’s been for me, at least. And I think my parents worry, too, even though they know where my heart is.

  29. As a new mom and a youth worker, I have been studying this trend and reading books and praying hard about how to prevent my children (2 and to-be-born any moment) from graduating from God when they leave the best like do many have done in my generation. The stuff I read is convicting and challenging to me, as I have yet to implement so much of the strategy, but this post made me realize it is easy to discourage parents with children who are wandering by placing blame or pointing out all the things they could have done. Thank you, Deidra, for the reminder to be encouraging as I engage this conversation in our church and among my friends and co laborers for Christ.

    P.S. sounds to me like Jordan knows what it’s about. Jesus lived and encouraged community and meeting regularly for worship, sure, but Jordan’s wise words about going to church every day sounded more like Jesus than any megachurch pastor I have heard in a while.

  30. Oh, yeah, Deidra. You went THERE. You are so very brave and wise and articulate. And that son of yours?? Well, that apple didn’t fall far from the tree, that’s for dang sure!! Thank you for this lovely write – and for helping us to try and think outside the boxes we so often construct about what life/faith/church ‘should’ look like. (And thank Jordan, too, for his oh-so-wise and lovely response. Perfect.)

  31. Deidre,

    I believe Jordan hit the nail on the head. It’s not about a fancy building, clothes, or even structure–it’s about having a relationship with Almighty God. You can worship God anywhere & everywhere.

    Too many church put the emphasis on show, & structure. Why I’ve even heard good meaning Christians say that they wouldn’t and don’t want “Certain” peoples in their church–poor/homeless from the area. It isn’t their church–IT’S GOD’S CHURCH and He most definitely would welcome them. Needless to say I don’t attend that church anymore.

    If your children say & act as though they have a relationship with Christ then I wouldn’t worry to much about their not being in church.

  32. Deidra…God needs his people everywhere and sometimes our children end up in the most unimagineable places . Your son is right…it is hard to be the parent. But God is using every bit of our lives…child and parent…for his good purposes…and therein lies our hope.

  33. And Jordan….I confess that I struggle with the same issues you do as it relates to “church”. We the people are the church…Some churches seem to be more concerned with the number of souls in the seats than the condition of their hearts. THEN again, we miss such sweet fellowship when we are not in church. Don’t loose heart…God has a place for you!
    Hugs (yes, I’m a hugger)

  34. We adopted both our children as babies, as you know, brought into our lives as only God can flash His lights. They grew up in church. Both believe in Jesus. But they have not followed the path I envisioned for them. And neither go to church now. But I cling to their miracle stories and the fact that God knew what He was doing when He placed us together in a family. And He knows what He’s doing now. Thanks for the reminder that He can do a much better job than I can, that He has a plan that just might not be the same as mine, and that my job is to love.

    Just.

    Love.

  35. So beautiful, Deidra. And so insightful of your son to see how hard parenting can be.

    We walk this path with Rich’s son. And I wonder if it is harder on dads–if it lands like some kind of personal rejection.

  36. Ok. I’m 32 and I go to church every week. I do it because God tells us in His Word not to give up meeting together, so what; are we just going to pick the bits of the Bible we like and follow those, but ignore the rest? I know what you’re saying, and sometimes any kind of routine can feel stifling: We sing some songs, the children go out, sing some more songs, preach, pray, tea and coffee, go home. I know God is more than that, and I want Him to be part of my everyday too, but I know He wouldn’t tell us to keep on doing something unless we needed to. A few months ago I was really upset about a friend’s illness. I had to help tell a Bible-story in a school assembly and I was in no state to do it, so during the rehearsal, everyone stopped and prayed with me and their prayers and words of encouragement made me feel so much better. That’s church too to me, and that’s the kind of thing we need. People’s prayers, and things my pastor preaches that make me think – they help me through the week (and through the times when things don’t feel so good), so when I get an opportunity to meet with other Christians, I want to take it because we can learn from them, they can learn from us, and really I think it’s God’s best for us.

    • What a sweet story about the Body of Christ! It’s wonderful when a person finds a faith community that works for them; what a gift you’ve received! And, it’s a glorious thing when the Body of Christ makes room for each person’s story…each journey, each experience God uses to show us more and more of who He is.

      When I was in college the members of the church I attended memorized that verse you mentioned, the one about not giving up fellowship (as the manner of some is β€” I always liked saying that part; it sounded like a puzzle). So, I hear where you’re coming from. And I want to cheer you on in your beautiful community of faith! Blessings and grace as you enjoy that sweet, sweet fellowship!

      • I think that its awesome that you find such fulfilling fellowship in church! I think God is working through the people in your church family to encourage your walk with him.

        At the same time I think that your walk is distinctly different from my walk or anyone else’s for that matter because in God’s infinite wisdom he created two completely different people who will learn to love him in their own way and grow the Kingdom from our individual and extremely unique situations.

        I think that the Word says a lot of things and if we believe that the Word is God and that it has been with God since the beginning and it is alive then it is ever changing and morphing to the circumstances this world presents. That being said I don’t think its so much about picking and choosing pieces of the Bible but understanding that the Words written are rooted in a story of Love for all people with an understanding that God can handle the rest because after all he is God. If Love is the message then all you can do is Love another human and their journey and make sure you are walking in what God has shown you to be true through his Word (Christ) to you. In this situation Church is any forum in which 2 or 3 are gathered together. Like you said, all you needed was that prayer and a good Love-driven word spoken into your life to help you through the week. Some people find that church in a building and others on a park bench and for all intents and purposes here on a blog post.

        Love.

  37. I struggled with my faith on and off my WHOLE LIFE – maybe because I was raised in the church and never thought I had another option, maybe because I’m a “contrarian”, maybe because I’m always seeking and a student of the world … And now that I am pregnant with my first child, a daughter, I am not so worried about this spiritual journey because I have faith that if she wonders, she – like me – will be softly and tenderly pulled home by the Father. I hope this can offer encouragement to someone.

  38. Oh wow. Well I am one of those from the inbetween generation – early 30s, raising a bunch of littles, and living what makes many wiser adults cringe – because we don’t go to church. That has made folks literally walk away from me when they find out (true story: one minute my voice is heard & of value and the next second because I don’t go they turn and walk away). And I think after 5 years of doing life outside those sanctuary walls, of long walks with God, face flat on the floor prayers with the one who calls me, and a few family members swirling with concern (using words like prodigal and YOU NEED TO BE THERE)… I know my faith is deeper and more genuine then it was ever allowed to be simply sitting in that pew with everybody watching and commenting.

    My God has become NOT just my parents and grandparents, pastor and mentor’s God…. But now He is MINE.

    Not going every week that scares people – that we are raising our family in a way that our parents and grandparents did not. It is not that we don’t need church or church folk, but I know what happens inside those boards rooms, and after the pastor leaves the pulpit, inside the parsonage, and at Sunday lunch (Pastor’s daughter speaking here). The way hearts are brought in trust and then stomped upon – those circling church women almost did mine in for good. Jesus was the only one that was there to pick it up and hold me tight and make sure I didn’t drown when the church folk got ugly.

    But I had to learn not in a crowd but on my own with Him.

    So we wait… we live. we breath. we raise our babies in the Word and on our knees. And we hope. We hope that the wise grownups can love us young folk and find a place for us even if it isn’t in the pew. That we still have value and are not desperately lost simply because we can’t go to a church building in that way.

    That simply because you can’t stomach it… doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love you anyways.
    He is FOR us too.

    So as one from the middle -be patient with us. As God is patient with us.
    I know we are going to test that patience and we are going to make you weep and wonder.

    “Not all those who wander are lost.” (Tolkein)

    • Jessica,

      You sound like your faith has been sifted and wrung tight til it’s been altogether reshaped, reformed, re-imagined into something substantial…outside traditional boxes. While I DO think it’s important to mingle with the Body, it sure sounds like you’re meeting with Jesus :).

  39. I don’t know which provoked more thought: your post, or your son’s response to it. After reading his response, I was reminded of comments I’ve received over the years bemoaning, for example, my choice to wait tables after college…or leave behind a promising career to stay home w/ my children. I was so annoyed at the assumption that I was “wasting my education” when, in fact, I believe I carry my education w/ me and use it regardless of how (or if) I earn a paycheck. I think this matter of faith is so much like that. If it’s legitimate, it’s w/in us, and we use it regardless of how, where, when, etc. we worship. I believe there’s one way to get to heaven (faith in Jesus) but many ways to do just about everything else. May God grant us peace when others “do faith” differently than we…or parent differently than we…or WHATEVER differently than we. Love your heart for your son, Deidra.

  40. Hey Deidra,
    My bonus son is 30 now. I’m remembering a picture I ran across recently. Him tall and lamp post thin at age 8, giving his heart to God. We don’t see him nearly as much as we’d like to and he is not walking in the calling God has on his life. He never has. I believe he knows and loves God and I know he calls on Him when he needs to but I’m still praying for what happened in that moment to spring forth. My job is to love him, model Christ and keep praying. But I just typed that and felt myself sigh because I know how complicated my path to Christ was. How far I had to be broken down to “get it” and how far I have to go. I think you might be right about us “never really reaching the fullness of our faith this side of heaven”. We’re all still growing and learning to believe and be like Him. We’re all works in progress and only God can know what place He holds in the heart of an individual. No matter what that life looks like to everyone else. I’m hopeful.

  41. Deidra, I spent some time in the ‘pen’ and took more mud baths than I care to say and I was in my 20’s early 30’s after a painful divorce and becoming a single mom to three kids under ten. I was “done” with the whole God thing too and rebelled. My rebellion hurt not only me but my children. But as God would have it, He threw me the Grace line and pulled me back in. It took several years but today I serve the Lord with my whole and hungry heart. Thank the Lord for praying Mom’s and Grandma’s, without whose prayers Heaven only knows where I’d be today! Thank you for sharing and oh, yes, I have two prodigal sons also – they aren’t tired of the pigpen yet, but they WILL BE one sweet day!

  42. Wow, Deidra, this was amazing. I am a little speechless– I’m not sure what impacted me the most– your story, your son’s comment, or the other comments here. I read every single one. I was especially drawn to one… “Not all who wander are lost”– Tolkien

    Well. I must say I think it was Jordan’s responses above that have reminded me of what’s important today– the one true thing. And that is Christ crucified and God glorified in my life everyday. Sunday church is just a place I go– it does not encapsulate my worship. I struggle with all the things mentioned here. That I know God might be more outside those walls than within, that the church women circling have hurt me, sometimes I think, beyond repair. That I can be more Christ like and know him better if I stay away from the religiosity that jades me and makes me angry. But then I feel him whispering to me so many other things too, like denomination and race do not matter to him. He doesn’t see it. That I may experience him more fully if I open myself up to new possibilities. I worry too, that my children arent growing up in church like i did– that they don’t know bible stories the way I did bc they’ve missed out on Sunday school. I voiced that to my (once-pastor) dad, and surprisingly, he said, that doesn’t matter at all; throw that guilt right out the window because what you teach them at home is most important and you can read the bible at home together. And he is right– I was stifled–I was handed the law– I’ve given my children something I never understood in church, or in my daily life– grace. and that is the gospel. So… Am I apart of the new generation that isn’t settled and content with church as I’ve always known? yes. Do I know the answer? Do I know for sure this is a revival? No. But I feel a shift. Isn’t true revival born out of discontentment with our own lukewarmness? I don’t have all the answers… Still wandering…

    P.s. *love* the relationship bt you and Jordan.

  43. Speaking as one who spends his life serving the church, I can say it is very easy and very common to become disillusioned with the church. But “checking out” when you become disillusioned is never the right decision. It may be what you feel is right for yourself….but what about the people IN the church that you as a believer are called to encourage to start living for Christ in their time outside the church? What about those whom God might blessed with wisdom that you need for your own growth. (believe me …We ALL need growth, encouraging and challenging from other believers no one is holy enough to be exempt) The Church NEEDS people who are discontent but LOVE her, the BRIDE of Christ as HE does. We need you and people like you ! Especially those who one who simply wants your faith to be about GOD alone and His love for mankind, rather than the human garbage drag into the experience of church (politics, backbiting, ingeniousness, etc). Every follower of Christ is to love in the same manner that He does. Jesus found time for the religious and the non religious. The son of God placed himself under the tutelage of human teachers. The God-man taught us that the father loves all his children, prodigal and otherwise. Should we be happy over the state of the church these days? By no means! Should we give up on her? By no means! Should we refuse to be taught about ourselves by her? By no means. He who has the ears to hear, let him hear.

  44. Being just past that 18-29 age group, I find myself concerned by the trend of people of that group (and those just past it) willing to toss aside the concept of church. Not because of the institution, but rather what is lost. I would agree that sometimes it is archaic and stale and no longer relevant to groups of people. However, church today is also not like church 100 years ago. The organization of “the church” is a living and changing entity. But it takes people willing to stick it out and push for changes in routine. By throwing hands up and saying, “it’s not relevant; I don’t need it”, a whole generation is missing out on the opportunity to affect positive change, helping the church morph into a relevant, living resource for the 18-29 generation, and learning from the leaders of previous generations in the church.

    In conjunction with the 18-29 stepping up, other groups need to be willing to work with the 18-29 group and sometimes stepping aside to allow them the freedom to begin change.

    Ultimately, the biblical idea of church is not irrelevent, but the dedication to a particular model of “church” may be. I would encourage younger generations to dig deep and push for change and relevancy rather than giving up attending. And maybe that looks different from a Sunday morning 10:30 am service, but it can be a tremendously great opportunity for fellowship, learning and worship if people work for it to be so.

  45. Jordan, you are definitely cut from your dad and mom’s cloth. You’re wise beyond years. I had to chime back in because after speaking before the youth at our church camp this past week, I realize that your outlook is very much quite a few of their outlooks. They long to feel Jesus but they don’t want to feel and know who He is in the traditional sense. They want to find Him out of the box, in places where we may not think He can be found.

    As I told them, your relationship is not your parent’s relationship. When you stand before the throne of God, you won’t be able to say, “But my mom read and prayed for me every day.” I emphasized the point that your relationship with Him is a very personal one, that only you and He share. But, I also emphasized that to grow in Christ means that you must be taught (as Brian mentioned). We are not to tailor it to a point that He is easily scooted out of the relationship without realizing it.

    The balance must be God and you….PERIOD.

    Thank you for sharing your honesty, Jordan!

  46. Wow!! I needed to read this today. My son (and first born) just turned 18. Oh my this mommy just prays that he will make the right choices and do the right thing as he grows into his adult years. It’s scary. I love the one person who described “the Perfect Parent” is watching over our kids!! Love it!!!

  47. “I don’t believe in God. But if I did, I wouldn’t follow Him…He’s a genocidal tyrant!!” Those were the words that came from the mouth of my first-born son, now 23, just a few months ago. The old me, the one baptized in a legalistic, evangelical upbringing, who never questioned, never pushed the boundaries and was comfortable and content within the confines of my self-created Christian bubble would have performed an exorcism right there on the spot. But the new me, the mature-er me knew that God has big shoulders, and He could take what my son, who had such a heart for God as a child, was dishing out. In fact, my son’s anger actually encouraged me. Because if he were the atheist he claims to be, he would be indifferent, not angry.

    Thankfully, my son and I have a wonderful relationship. He has challenged my faith and I have grown to know God in ways I would not have if it hadn’t been for him. When my son started to question his faith a few years ago, I did what we all do…I prayed, and I encouraged him to pray, to read his Bible and to keep seeking God. In every discussion or debate we had I fell back on God’s Word as my defense, and quoted scripture upon scripture to remind him of the Truth. But he resented my approach. He didn’t believe the Bible any more, so my words weren’t reaching him. He finally said that every good thing he learned about God came from observing the way that I treat people. It’s true, what they say…”it’s caught, not taught.” I can connect with him by relating to people, not by quoting words or emailing articles.

    I believe God’s primary purpose in allowing us to be parents is to teach us, to the extent we can understand, how great His love is for us. My son’s story is just beginning. I know God has a great plan for him, and He assures me now and then that He is still in charge and that when the time is right, He will get his attention. The calling of God is irrevocable!