2.16.2010

New Words For Old Thoughts


I said something on Sunday I had never said before. It just popped out of my mouth and it was so true but I hadn't thought it through and I hadn't planned to say it. I imagine it is what happens when fictional people fall in love without knowing it and those 3 little words just fly out.
"If my children ever came home and said 'I asked Jesus into my heart today' I think I will cry," and no I didn't mean tears if joy. It sounds weird or, if you happen to be an Evangelical, disturbing. But hear me out.
I don't remember not believing in God. I don't remember not believing in Jesus. But I do remember being told I had to have a conversion. So at five I said a prayer and it was supposed to change something, which it didn't. I still wasn't really a part of the church because I wasn't allowed either sacrament at 5. So why was it necessary? I didn't believe anything the next minute I didn't believe the minute before, or even the year before. It didn't give me access to my church. I was still an outsider looking up and in.
No one would ever have a baby, give them to an orphanage and say, "When this baby decides they want to join our family we will welcome them with open arms." So why would we exclude our children from the church until they can chose it? Why leave them spiritual orphans until they can verbalize something in the language of adults? Is it because we only understand salvation in a personal context? Is it because we've lead ourselves and our children to believe that there is salvation outside of the church? Do we believe that we each need to make our own path to God? Do we leave our infants to find their own way to food? Why leave them to find their own way to God?
I want the opposite experience for my children. I want to give them to the Lord as soon as possible. I want to tell them from that day forward that I loved them enough to give me away. Like Hannah, I prayed to have them, I cherished them, and so I gave the most precious thing I had to the Lord. This is not a hypothetical dedication. This is not a promise. I want to allow them to be grafted into the Body of Christ. I want to grasp all of those promises for them. 
They will be part of the church from the beginning. They will know that those promises are for them. They will know that by no merit or action of theirs they are the next generation of the covenant. One day the time will come for them to receive the Body and Blood of Christ and they will have been in our arms at the rail every week. They will have known, from before they can remember, what it is and why we do it. Then when it is their turn they will take all of those promises onto and into themselves. 
Finally, when they are old enough to verbalize all of these things they will stand in front of the bishop and he will ask them if they believe. They will confirm and be confirmed and they will stand on their own in the Lord, independent from me and from their father. The Lord will be the same yesterday, today and tomorrow for them. Nothing will change, if we've taught them and guided them well.
No one, if I have anything to say about it, will ask them for their testimony. There will be no pressure to tell a story of a fall from grace and a rescuing hand. They will, if my prayers are answered, be one of the 99 sheep who remained safe in the pen warm from the night and protected from the wolves by their family and the faithful shepherds serving their master. And if they ever feel the need to "pray the sinner's prayer" then I will cry because I failed them as their mother and I have failed the Lord as a shepherd. 

5 comments:

Carl said...

AMEN!!!
I agree. My children are being brought up in the church and were baptized very young age.

Christina said...

I agree with what you've said except the part where you will have failed as a mother if your children ever have to say "the sinner's prayer". This is -so- not true and you should -never- feel that you have failed to teach your children properly if they make an incorrect choice and have to repent. Part of the reason we are on this earth is to prove to God that we will follow him, and so to prove that, each one of us is given our agency to choose. No matter how well you might bring your children up, they always have the right to choose, unless you somehow manage to raise them in a bubble and keep them there for forever, which is contrary to God's plan anyway and is in fact Satan's plan... to bind you so tightly (captivity) that you have no right to choose anything. In order to grow and to prove to the Lord that we really do love Him, we have to make choices between right and wrong and inevitably at some time in our lives everyone does choose wrongly. However, this does not mean your parents have failed in teaching you. It merely means that you have made a mistake and that you should repent. I would actually -hope- that my children have to "say the sinner's prayer" at some time in their lives, or else that means they are not repenting! I would be more sad if they never said the prayer, because that would mean they are not recognizing when they have done something wrong, or they don't care! No matter how much you wish it could be, you cannot -force- your children to always make the right choices and to never do -something- wrong. Of course you should be sad when they make a wrong choice, but like in the story of the prodigal son, you should rejoice when they choose to repent and remember that once one has repented, God remembers the sin no more, so it is the same as if the sin never happened... tho they still had to say "the sinner's prayer".

Cel said...

I could say much more....but 1 thing I want to say is, if you were not permitted to take communion or be a member or whatever, that was from your parents. Yes, you need to (scripturally!) make some kind of profession of faith before taking communion, but I dont care what age that is, you should be involved in every aspect of 'the church' after that.

Im going to stop now...

Erin Leigh said...

Christina - When I say "The Sinner's Prayer" I mean the prayer printed in the back of every tract where you "ask Jesus into your heart". Confession is part of every church service, and children are taught to confess before they approach the rail. As to "choice", that is theology muddied by much more minutia than I am willing to get into at them moment

Cel- The Lord's table is for any baptized believer who can discern the Body & Blood but until you are baptized you have not been grafted into the church and the table isn't a place for you. In a credobaptist setting you have to be able to verbalize certain things before you can be baptized. I was baptized fairly quickly after that prayer at 5, less than 18 months for sure, it may have even be less than a year. But that was 5-6 years I was *in* the church but not *of* the church. I love my parents and in fact my father's theology is the reason I believe what I believe. I don't believe my parents made the choices they made because they didn't love me. I don't believe they ever designed to keep me from God. I just believe there is a better and more appropriate way. It's like many other aspects of parenting. You make your choices based on what experts you are listening to.

mira said...

hmm.... your posts are making me think, and I've only read 2 so far!

I think the cognizant choice to be a Christian is key to one's faith, and without that deliberate choice there is always room for doubt to creep in (whether valid or not!. So for me, I pray for the day my children come to me and declare THEIR decision for God as opposed to simply living the faith that I have taught them.

my parents had me wait to be baptized and take communion until I was ready to stand before the church and declare myself a Christian. I think perhaps for my own children I will let them take communion as soon as they are interested, but do want to wait to have them baptized until it is their informed choice and not mine.