Dear Lord, Don't Let Me Get This Wrong
One random night in early February my daughter informed me she was going to bed, which means I’m expected to stop what I’m doing, tuck her in, rub her back and sing 100 choruses of “You Are My Sunshine”. This night I was tired, like go to bed in your clothes tired. I shuffled to her room praying for a short tuck-in night.
I arrived to find my nine-year-old in tears. Five minutes earlier she was fine. I reluctantly asked what was wrong. I really didn’t have the patience for 9-year-old playground drama.
She replied, “I’m scared of where I’ll go if I die.”
So much for a quick tuck-in.
My prayers shifted to, “Lord, don’t let me mess this up.”
We’ve raised our children in church. Church service. Sunday School. Sunday night missions. Wednesday nights. Church camp. And every children’s activity we can fit into our schedule. This doesn’t mean my children are any better (or better behaved) or more spiritual than anyone else’s children. It does mean they’ve been exposed to the gospel over and over and over again.
Ask them who Jesus is and they’ll tell you. Ask them about the meaning of Christmas or Easter. They can recite it for you. This recitation is where I stumble. Teaching our children Biblical truth is so very important, but at some point, a child’s understanding must mature past a head knowledge into a heart knowledge or experience.
We warn our children that the stove eye is hot or a knife is sharp as soon as they are big enough to touch those things. They can even tell you and others what they’ve been taught, but until hot water from the stove splatters their hand or they slice a knife through a cucumber for the first time they haven’t experienced it.
Our children must have more than head knowledge of who Christ is because they can’t claim our salvation as their own. The world will question what we’ve taught them and if they don’t know where to find the answers and have a personal experience with God, they are at risk of turning away from the faith we thought we taught them.
I cannot describe my elation at being able to talk about salvation with my daughter and to lead her to Christ. Through every word I spoke, though, my conscious thought was, “Am I leading her to make the decision I want her to make or is she making the decision she wants to make?”
I’d prayed for her salvation for years, but no matter how much I wanted it, I couldn’t take that step for her. And as often as I’ve repeated, “it’s not the words you say it’s what’s in your heart that matters,” I still fear “doing it wrong.”
My friends and I have spoken at length about the struggle to maintain some neutrality in our children’s faith journey. We want to guide them, yes, but it ultimately has to be their journey. My biggest fear is that my children will one day look back and realize they professed faith to make me happy, not because they desperately wanted to serve God. I wish I had a process to offer, but if there’s one thing Jesus didn’t care much for it was process.
Instead, I’ll offer you community. You are not alone in your fear of getting this most important part of our kids' lives right. They can graduate at the top of their class, save the rain forests, become accomplished musicians, win Nobel prizes or Super Bowl rings and without this submission of their hearts to God they’ll end their lives with nothing. No pressure or anything.
Lucky for us, God’s bigger than our imperfections. We aren’t enough to save them which means we’re also not enough to keep them from salvation. Teach them the gospel. Live it out in front of them. When God calls them to Him, no one, not even an exhausted, tongue-tied mama, can stand in His way.