Minivan Theology


The weekday mornings in my house go a little bit like this: me, sitting quietly on the couch with a cup of coffee, two boys crawl out of bed, on top of me, and then, like lion cubs, start pouncing and pawing at each other. One inevitably ends up in trouble. A lanky tween cuddles up with me for a few minutes after the boys are scolded, before getting herself cereal and ready for school. I get my youngest child up and fed, make lunches while everyone finishes eating, and remind everyone to put socks on and brush their teeth. Ten minutes later, I say the same thing to the same people, usually with a louder voice.


I’d love our mornings to be smooth, for all my kids to wake up happy, to start the day with a Bible story and it’s practical application over Cinnamon Toast Crunch and bananas. For the big kids to go to school and the younger ones who spend the day with me, everyone to be peaceful Christ-centered harmony. For us to gather together around our table, at the close of a day, post-practices and homework, and eat without anyone discussing bodily functions or crying. For my husband to lead our family in an age-appropriate, theologically accurate discussion of a Bible passage where every child participates and keeps their hands to themselves.


Sometimes it happens.


But, more often than not, it doesn’t.


The three-year-old will be falling asleep, the nine-year-old just can’t sit still – I know, I know, it sounds like I’m making excuses. (I guess I am making excuses.) But I’m just telling you the truth that sharing Jesus with my children, with anyone really, doesn’t happen in the way I thought it would in my head. We try our best, but life is kinda messy at this stage we’re in.


The best way we’ve found to tell our children, and everyone else we live life next to, is to take what’s happening in the world and life in general and use it as a launching pad to share gospel truths.


One morning last month, I had an appointment to be at right after dropping the kids off at school. I tasked each child with last minute instructions followed by “then, everyone: get in the car and buckle in” while I rushed through the house finishing getting ready myself. A minute or two later I closed the door to the house and walked to the car in the driveway, fully expecting to need to break up a fight between the boys or settle an argument while buckling up the little one. But instead, the boys were buckled into their seats and watching leaves fall in the neighbor’s yard, having obeyed my instructions. My oldest had helped the youngest get into the car as well as buckled her into her seat. “We’re all ready!”


I smiled at all of them. Everyone had listened. Yet, I couldn’t help being extra pleased with my oldest who helped her sister get in the car and helped me by buckling her in (a task that takes no more than 20 seconds but feels like 20 minutes some days).


Our Christian faith is not based on works — yet — we’ll be rewarded for obedient work done in faith to the glory of God. And I’ve always had trouble understanding the concept of “jewels in our crown” that the Bible speaks of (how some people will have more than others … largely based on this whole faith/works thing.)


I realize the analogy of my oldest daughter helping her sister into a carseat falls apart quickly, if we dissect it too deeply – but in the moment, I couldn’t help but understand a sliver of what God must feel like when we, as His children, do more than just “get ourselves into the car.”


“Hey guys, I’m so glad you listened. But I’m so happy with Nadia for helping Viv get in her seat. It reminds me of how the Bible talks about jewels . . .” and I continued to share with them this idea made real by what just happened.


Last week, on the way home from Sunday morning church, we drove down the road with the radio on. (Our 6-CD player, which seemed so modern when we bought the car 8 years ago, isn’t functional anymore. It was jammed with too many CDs a few years ago when I thought my 2 year old’s love of “playing in the car” was a swell way to kill 45 minutes. It’s radio or silence for us.)


“Mom,” my five-year-old (the CD jammer) said, “this song says ‘gospel.’”


“Yeah. Do you know what ‘gospel’ means?” I asked.


“Good news,” he said with a confident smile. He was proud of himself. My husband, Chris, and I couldn’t help but smile at his quick, correct answer, too.


“So, what is the good news?” I asked.


“What do you mean? The good news is the good news.” Five year olds are so funny. I kept smiling while my husband shared the good news, again, with our son. “Actually, Jesus is the good news …” and proceeded to tell him the gospel story, how God, in his great love for us, sent His son Jesus to die as a sacrifice for our sin, giving us the opportunity to be made right with Him and have eternal life.


At church, we’ve been talking about sharing our faith, and I wonder:  How do you share your faith? Is it intentional? Do you look for opportunities to share the “good news” you have in your heart? Do you keep it to yourself until a perfect opportunity arises? Do you live out what you believe without ever explaining why?


We live in a powerful city. And I stay at home with my kids. But it doesn’t matter if we share our faith with children or commanders, new friends or old neighbors. It doesn’t matter if we do it over coffee, in a dorm room, on the metro, or in a messy minivan. Wherever we are in life, whatever our vocation and location, we can tell someone a truth of God’s love using everyday opportunities.


Yes, when my kids are older, I do hope they remember their dad reading the Bible with them before bed, us talking about Jesus’ love throughout the day, and what it means and looks like to love God in-between filling glasses of milk and excusing burps around our dining table.


No matter what my kids remember, I’ll never forget discussing theology right in the middle of our messy minivan.





[A version of this essay first appeared in my church’s women’s ministry newsletter.]

Photo by Mark Cruz on Unsplash

Sonya Spillmann

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