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.