“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6
As a mom I have so many little, odd jobs to do each day. Cooking, cleaning, and washing pale, however, next to the most important job of all, teaching my son about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. What other task are we charged with as a parent that will so affect our children’s lives, even determining where they will spend eternity? To me it is the greatest of God’s calls that I must answer.
When my son turned two last January, we started the practice of praying together as a family each night before he goes to bed. We taught him to close his eyes, fold his hands and encouraged him to say a small prayer like, “Thank you Jesus for my new toy.” Then he would listen as his dad and I prayed.
It had been several months since we’d started this family prayer time, but we still weren’t sure he really understood. Then on a recent night after visiting his great-grandmother who was ill in the nursing home, he asked to pray for her, much to our surprise. Tears came to my eyes as his sweet voice whispered, “Jesus make Great-Grandma’s ouwie better. Amen.” He’d repeated many times the words we told him to pray, but had never spoken a prayer on his own before. To witness that moment for the first time, my son taking his personal request to Jesus, and believing with his child’s faith that it would be answered, was as exciting to me as his first steps.
A few months before, when our son was about 2 and a half, I realized we’d never explained very well to him who we prayed to and why. We had told him simple things such as Jesus was in heaven, God was in heaven, and they protected him and loved him. Thinking he was old enough to understand more, we read the Easter story to him from his children’s Bible.
I knew he understood the concept of death. I explained it one day when we came across a Monarch butterfly lying in the driveway that must have hit the windshield of one of our cars. He asked what was wrong with it, and I decided the honest approach was best. Death is a part of life, and something we all confront. Understanding the truth now, hopefully will help him cope with it later. After the butterfly lesson, he pointed out and studied other dead creatures he found outside, always with much curiosity and some sympathy for the thing that lost its life.
As I’d hoped, my son had no problem understanding the crucifixion. In-fact, that next day he walked around the house telling me over and over that, “Jesus died on the cross.” Realizing that he missed the one event on which all Christian faith is centered, the resurrection, I sat him down and told him, “Yes he died, but God brought him back to life three days later. He’s alive and in heaven now with God. Remember what we read last-night?” He got very upset with me and insisted that Jesus was dead. He wasn’t ready to understand the supernatural. He could understand death. It was something he’d witnessed. Of all those dead creatures he’d come across in the backyard though, not one had ever come back to life.
My son’s insistence that Jesus was dead went on for weeks in-spite of attempts by both my husband and myself to get him to understand otherwise. We learned that theological arguments with a toddler can be quite heated. During this time it was difficult to get him to participate in family prayer time. I didn’t think it at the time, but I suppose he may have wondered why we were talking to someone who was dead.
A couple weeks ago my son got scared when it started to storm one morning. I told him Jesus was up in heaven watching over us, and would protect us. I held him as I prayed for our safety. Later that day when the sun was out, and we’d come through the storm just fine, he told me, “Storm come. Jesus in Heaven. We O.K.” The next morning when I was dressing him, out of the blue, he said to me, “Jesus died on the cross. But he came back to life. He’s alive. He’s in heaven.” We’d had a breakthrough. He finally got the rest of the story!
As I look back days later, I realize my son’s faith may have been grounded when we prayed together for safety in the storm. Jesus was alive, he was in heaven, because when we’d asked him to keep us safe, he had. He’d never witnessed a tangible answer to prayer before.
We also attempted to explain that God and Jesus are really the same person, and that there is a Holy Spirit as well. He doesn’t understand that at all yet. He does seem to understand the God is Jesus’ daddy. Most recently though, I was presented with trying to explain salvation to him.
Just last week my son announced, “Jesus is in heaven. I want to go to heaven. I have to die on the cross.” I tried to explain to him in simple terms, “We don’t have to die on the cross because Jesus did it for us. He took our punishment for being naughty so we don’t have to. All we have to do is believe in Jesus, and ask him to forgive us for being bad. If we ask him, he will come live in our hearts.” He looked at me for a few moments silently processing what I said, then put his hand over his heart and said, “Yes, Jesus is in my heart and in heaven. He keeps me safe. We O.K.”
I know my son doesn’t yet have enough understanding to accept Jesus at his personal savior, but I fills my heat with joy to know that he is learning to love Jesus, and well on his way to that day when, I pray, he will give his life to Jesus.
“Dear Jesus, I pray that you will help my husband and I to teach our son about you, both in actions and in words, so that he may grow up to know you and be a Godly man. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.”