My first child and my only daughter was going to be in Germany for her 21st birthday as she was studying there, and so as I am not one to want to miss a party, I decided to fly to Europe to see celebrate with her. My 13-year-old at the time twins had never been on an airplane before much less to the country where I was born, and I like to provide opportunities to help my children support one another and to be close, so I decided to take them with me to Germany, which is the country of my birth. Thankfully, February is a reasonable month in which to travel overseas.
On this, my twins’ first trip ever out of the country, I wanted to show them some of my favorite places in Germany — like Neuschwanstein in Bavaria — and I also wanted to discover some new places so that the experience would be an adventure for me as well.
In my reading of German poets and theologians, I had become aware of the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, where Reformation leader Martin Luther hid after being accused by the church of heresy; while Luther was at the Wartburg between 1521 and 1522, Luther translated the Bible from Greek to German, and the castle has become a spiritual tourist destination. So, I took my three blondies to discover some new territory together in the Eastern side of Germany.
What a great trip touring the beautiful Wartburg castle in Eisenach, and what was especially neat was learning and experiencing first hand the history and heart of Martin Luther, a man after God’s heart. It’s one thing to go to a location that has a lot of history, but it’s quite another when that destination has a spiritual history to it.
A year later when we were in Germany again for my daughter’s wedding, I wanted to show my husband and youngest son the Wartburg as well; My husband called it a spiritual heritage journey, a pilgrimage of sorts.
We later found out that there are actual official tours that take you to the different locations related to Martin Luther’s life and Reformation.
In raising our children in the context of their spiritual lives, we hadn’t deliberately thought of connecting our faith with physical locations until this experience at the Wartburg. We’ve always focused on reading God’s Word and on prayer and on a commitment to fellowship with other believers at the various stages of our children’s lives; but this idea of allowing our kids to experience physical locations related to our faith opens up a different dimension in the dialogue around our faith. There is nothing like being in a physical space, gaining a sense of the roots of a location in real time.
The church we attend sponsors a trip to Israel each year where participants get to walk where Jesus walked and talked, and see physical locations mentioned in the word of God. People have noted how much this trip has given them a richer appreciation for the historical context of Christianity.
Of course, not everyone can go to Israel or Germany, and there are other ways to bring a physical, historical context to our faith for a kids. One idea is to show our kids the churches we grew up in, if we grew up in the church and if it is still there! Some of our significant spiritual memories may have been made in a certain location; my family growing up didn’t go to church, but I was invited by friends to churches starting in fifth grade: the Episcopal Church across the street where my friend Vicky’s dad was the pastor and the Baptist church near our house in Portland, which I began attending in high school after coming to faith in Christ at Jesus Northwest.
Another idea for sharing our spiritual background with our kids is to show them where we went to church camp, or perhaps where we served on a mission trip. I served with CRU after my freshman year in college on a Summer Project in Lake Tahoe, and I grew so much in my faith during those months. Two decades later, as part of a larger family road trip, I took my my kids to the exact location where I had spent an important summer of my life.
Each parent will have different experiences of location related to their spiritual life to share with their children. I am of course grateful that, because of my German background, one of my physical locations was in Germany, bringing the life of Martin Luther — a man I grateful respect for his courage and love for God and his word — to life.
Do you have any physical locations that bring an aspect of your spiritual life to life?