I recently finished reading a book titled, Lincoln’s Battle with God: A President’s Struggle with Faith and What It Meant for America. I really enjoyed the book. I have not read exhaustively on Lincoln and it sparked a desire to continue to dig deeper.
This was not written to be a traditional biography. This book takes the specific area of Lincoln’s spirituality and draws attention to that trajectory throughout his life. My understanding of the author’s research led me to believe that Lincoln greatly despised the religion of his father. His father was deep into the camp meetings that exploded through his hometown in the early 1800s.
However, it seems that Lincoln held onto some value of his mother’s spirituality which was different than what his father practiced. His mother, highly intellectual as well as a competitive wrestler in her earlier days, taught Lincoln Bible stories throughout his childhood. Her last words to her son were ‘worship God.’ This seemed to have a lifelong pull on Lincoln.
In the most general sense, it seems that he began his adult life reacting to his father’s religion of hypocrisy and emotionalism. Then as his years progressed he began to display more of his mothers simple and foundational faith in God. It seems as though he was being pulled from his reaction to some experience to an embrace of truth through sentimentality.
At Crossings Community Church we speak a lot about the responsibility of discipleship and faith-training resting on children’s parents. But, there is another element to that discussion that we live around everyday as adults but often dismiss or forget.
Each of us, regardless of our embrace or disdain of biblical christianity, must process the spirituality we saw in our parents as children. Often times there is hurt and misunderstanding that takes root in those formative years which then marks the rest of our lives.
Someone who grew up in a home where parents were in church almost every Sunday and then behind closed doors witnessed alcoholism, abuse, even extreme legalism would mature with a deformed view of the hope and joy in Jesus Christ.
As parents, this is another reminder of the importance of our roles to guide and lead our children to an authentic and real faith in the Jesus Christ that permeates the pages of scripture.
As adults, we need to understand that our parents’ mistakes must not define our spirituality causing us to miss out on the greatest gift ever given.
Our parents, regardless of their spiritual successes or failures, are nothing more than sinful people (just like you and me). Rather than making judgments which turn into reactions which lead to lifestyle, we should journey back to the source of biblical spirituality, Jesus.
What if we lightened the load of the parental baggage that we have been carrying and journeyed back to discover the hope and rescue found in the Savior who came to embrace the punishment our life and choices deserve?