Last Sunday afternoon, my wife took a nap. Okay, so that may not sound like much to you, but my wife is NOT a "napper" (me? I don't get many, but I'm all for 'em). She has been on antibiotics several times this year for different things, and she has shingles. She has missed the better part of 2 weeks' work in the meantime.
Infomercial alert: "But wait, there's more!"
As if this weren't enough, a frozen water pipe burst in our upstairs bathroom on January 8, flooding our boys' bedroom (adjacent to the upstairs bathroom), destroying our living room ceiling, the laminate flooring in two rooms, and hardwood floors in another. Our house has been in chaos, needless to say.
Currently, there are air movers, dehumidifiers, and air purifiers sitting all over the house, running 24/7, making it very loud and annoying us to pieces. The kids have practically nowhere to sit or move around, school is at a standstill, and laundry was backed up so bad we had to take it all to the coin laundry the other day to catch up (and it took, like, a lot of coins).
At this point, we'd all like to take a nap...and wake up when it's over.
She didn't listen to me
So last Sunday, when she took a nap, I knew she was really wiped out. When it came time for our church's evening services, I did something I don't often do: I encouraged her to stay home.
But against my counsel, she dragged herself out of bed, and came to worship with the saints, children in tow, anyway.
That evening, long waxed the preacher (yours truly) about the Golden Rule, and loving others as yourself. The flow was good. The progression of points, natural and even. I didn't make too many noticeable mistakes. And for a sermon I had prepped less than usual (see above), as it drew to a close, I was just glad to have survived it.
As always, I invited any who would to respond to the Lord, or who might need a special season of prayer. What I didn't expect was to see my wife responding.
Wait. It wasn't my wife. Well, it wasn't just my wife. It was my wife...with one of the children in tow. Our nine year-old daughter, tears in her eyes.
My immediate thought was, "What's this? Is something wrong? Why are they moving up front?" Then, it hit me.
None of them alike
As of last Sunday afternoon, 3 of our 6 children have obeyed the gospel. Our oldest three, age order. Not one of them ever responded during a worship service. All of them came to their decision at some other time. And all of them spent several days giving signs, initiating conversations, talking about possibilities.
|Hannah (then 6), Emma (then 2)|
But Emma was so different (okay, so that shouldn't have shocked us!). Although there were signs of unrest lately (that are even more clear looking back), they were not as visible as the other children's had been.
But Sunday night, it was too much for her to bear, and it became immediately visible to us all.
After I talked with her on the front pew for a few minutes, it was obvious she was ready. She knew exactly what she was doing and why. It took a bit, and I happened to notice our song leader take an extra verse (maybe 2?) to give us a little time (boy, conscientious song leaders are worth their weight in gold!).
So I finally got up to address the congregation. I was speechless.
I started to talk, and almost had no idea what to say. This is what I do! This is my livelihood - and I couldn't arrange a single coherent thought to put into words.
So I finally gathered my wits enough to ask her to affirm her faith in the Lord, which she readily did. And with that, our fourth child, was baptized into Christ.
Some things that have struck me since then
One thing that struck me almost immediately that night was that our daughter was doing exactly what we had prepared her for since before she was born.
Let me assure you, I have had plenty of moments of being downright pitiful as a father. I have lost my temper, been egotistical, too sensitive, not sensitive at all - you name it. I have had days where I swung for the fences and missed every pitch.
But we have always kept our focus in the same place: heaven. We have painstakingly chosen to emphasize spiritual things in the lives of our children. The Bible describes children as arrows in the hands of a mighty warrior (Psa. 127), so we believe that parents have a tremendous responsibility to chart the trajectory of their children's spiritual lives.
So when my daughter responded to the gospel, part of me was not surprised at all.
However, the other part of me realizes that we are only servants who have the privilege of making her familiar with God's drawing power through the gospel.
Neither this daughter nor any of our other children who have already obeyed the gospel were coerced into doing so. They were given the freedom to understand it and ask questions, and make their own choice, which they have done. And we could not be more grateful to God for giving them the opportunity to do so.
And about my wife's nap
Of course, the other thought that occurred to me later that evening, was, "What if my wife had stayed home like I had encouraged her to do?"
While I was preaching, for the most part, my wife wasn't listening (hey, no punch lines). She was answering questions and quieting the concerns of our daughter's tender heart. She was offering encouragement and guidance to her as she struggled with her sense of the eternal, and her place in it.
Not long ago, I was called upon by someone who needs to obey the Lord. At the end of our discussion, this person was certain what they needed to do, but chose to put it off until the church's next meeting, much to my dismay. I encouraged this person that the devil would almost certainly find away to intervene between that night and the next opportunity of our meeting, and not to put it off. But they would not.
To this day, the season has not come again.
You may be tempted to think I'm going to offer this up as a parable about bringing your family faithfully to the assembly of the church. Let me answer that this way: I'm certainly not going to argue against it.
To this day, I've never once heard an elderly Christian say, "You know, we just spent way too much time attending worship and Bible classes."
But I have heard many parents say, "I wish I had emphasized our children's spiritual life more while they were growing up. I wish I had attended more regularly. I wish we would have prioritized differently."
That's one regret we decided long ago that we'd never have, if we could help it.
My wife didn't listen to me that night. And I am so thankful for that. She listened to the Lord. And by doing so, she was able to listen to our daughter, who had been listening to Him, too.