In September, her younger six-year-old brother joined the family of God. He was beaming from ear to ear when we went to pick him up from his Sunday morning class, and he matter-of-factly announced that he had said the prayer to accept Jesus into his heart. Being six years old, Joey and I were hesitant and probably even doubtful this was a real decision, but boy, did God prove this doubting Mama's heart wrong.
My son was different. He was more open to spiritual conversations, more attentive, more willing to listen and attempt to apply Biblical truth to his life. He drew a precious picture of his heart with a stick-figure God inside, writing along the side that, "Yes. I did it. The God of Heaven" with arrows pointing to inside his heart. I didn't even know he had drawn this picture. I had simply mailed the envelope for him, but then my mother-in-love texted me a picture of the drawing when she received it. My heart jumped! Of his own accord, he had willingly told someone else about his decision. In the days to come, he would write messages in the sand on the beach, and my shy, little-man-of-few-words would volunteer to lead prayer time in his Sunday morning class, saying prayers that only come from the most pure of heart. There's no doubt in my mind, the Holy Spirit filled my son this past September, and the conversations we have had since then have blessed me deeply.
But in the meantime, my eight-year-old daughter was hesitant, even resistant toward conversations we had with her about this decision. The Lord had to work on me. He told me I needed to shut my mouth, speak carefully and gently only when those small windows of opportunity arose, and not press. This was her decision, not mine. Her life choice. So I shut my mouth and prayed so fervently every night because I knew she knew. I knew she understood, but her open defiance was also clearly on display. She is queen of changing the subject, and Lord help us if we ever started to go deeper into anything than a puddle, she was always the first to come up for air, distracting herself with silliness and giggles and goofiness.
The Lord was faithful. He used a dear friend to point out Romans 2:4 to me, which basically states it is God's kindness that leads us to repentance. Kindness. That is not a character quality I would rank high on my list of attributes. We are a low mercy home in general. Practicing kindness seemed foreign. Good manors, respectfulness, obedience...yes, we do those, but kindness? Kindness relates closely to words like caring, heartfelt concern, mercy, compassion, empathy. Yeah, gut-check. I needed to work on those. My daughter needed to know my kindness, so she could understand in part the kindness of our heavenly Father.
So I stopped rolling my eyes at her dramatic flair; instead, at the Lord's prompting, I took more deep breaths and saw her for who she was right in her emotional moments. Hurt feelings, splinters, bruises, friend problems, school issues--these were all moments to put kindness into practice. Learning to love another person for who they are, right where they are in life, not getting frustrated at their unused potential, not seeing the person God is molding them to be, but seeing the person standing right in front of you, needy, hurting, responding to that person, that child--that has been embarrassingly difficult for me to do.
Lord, thank you for helping me to see my daughter through your eyes--valued, loved, wanted. Even in her rebellious heart, she was still wholly and completely desired as my child. Wow. Such a tender life lesson and peek through the looking glass at the heart of my heavenly Father. I don't think I really got it until I had to live it, to put it in to practice. Thank you, Jesus, for hard lessons.
Over the last few months, I've had to entrust my daughter over and over again back into the hands of her Heavenly Father who made her and knows her so much better than even I can hope to know. I've prayed often in tears. I've trusted the Lord's promise to me that before the age of 12, my children would choose to follow the Lord. I believed the encouraging words of wiser women who spoke truth that one day, my daughter would make that decision for herself. Somewhere in the past few months, I stopped focusing on my desires and my timeline and my daughter's attitude, and decided the only hopeful place to focus was on Jesus.
So I ordered the She Reads Truth Lent study. I've never observed Lent. I'm not even really sure what it stands for or what it is or how to rightly observe it. But I knew it was about my Jesus' journey toward the cross, and it was about intentionally focusing on Him and His sacrifice. So tonight, on Ash Wednesday, I sat my kids around our table. We lit the candle in our Lent Wreath and began the first of a 40 day journey toward the cross together.
Something about lighting that candle cast a spell on my children. They watched the flame and listened intently to the Scripture readings. They read some of the verses from their own Bibles. We talked and discussed and ate scripture together, and my heart was so full. And we talked about sin and repentance and confession and forgiveness and what it means to be a child of God. And in the tender closing moments, right before we prayed, my daughter tentatively announced that God was asking her to repent, that she believed in Jesus and what He had come to do, and that she wanted to follow Him and be a child of God.
And my heart overflowed! It burst open. Satan immediately tried to get in there with his voice of doubt, but I looked into my daughter's eyes, and I chose to believe God, just like she was doing. And she bowed her head and prayed, and I listened to her sweet words of repentance and confession and proclaimed belief in Jesus' death and resurrection. I didn't even have to say the words for her. She spoke them all herself, and she spoke them perfectly. And then I knew she was my child because the tears of happiness began to flow and her eyes shone and glistened, and the joy of the Lord filled her countenance.
And in the quiet evening of Ash Wednesday our family of four was made complete in the Holy Spirit, sealed together in Christ for all eternity. My children choose Jesus. I can ask for nothing more.
At ages and six and eight, I know that they know. Their Spirit testifies to mine because it is the same.
I have no greater joy than to know that my children
are walking in the truth. (3 John 1:4)
No. Greater. Joy.
Oh give thanks to the , call upon His name;