Recently there has been a lot of extra discussion and prayer in our home about the state of the world. I won’t go into detail because I am pretty sure that we are not the only ones concerned and having these same conversations. What we keep coming back to though is that in order to actually change anything, it comes down to each individual doing their part to shine God’s light, to teach and lead with love, to show compassion, to do their part to contribute to their families, their communities, their churches, their state, our country. It doesn’t mean changing policies and rules but rather changing hearts and minds.
With this topic fresh in our minds, Mark and I spent the morning in a class preparing us to teach a pre-Baptism class to parents who wish to have their babies baptized in our church. Not a class that just goes over the basics of what will happen the day of a baby’s Baptism, but a class designed to teach a little bit about the history and importance of infant baptism as well as ways that we as parents can and are expected to raise our children. It is a quick faith formation for new parents if you will.
Though we didn’t get into the state of the world or the culture at large, we were struck by the blatant truth in the leader’s explanation of the importance of teaching our kids about faith. It wasn’t any new information but the way he explained it struck a cord. The first 7 years of a child’s life are called the formative years. They are the most important time to teach our kids moral character and to instill in them a foundation of faith. It all starts right here in our homes and families.
We all understand that not all parents are confident enough in their own understanding of their faith and that in turn they feel incapable of passing it on, many times making a conscious decision to “let the children decide on matters of faith when they are old enough to understand.” The downside of that theory, is that if we as parents are not teaching these things to our kids, SOMEONE ELSE IS. They are and will be formed in one way or another, be it by t.v., friends, music, teachers, books, video games, society, or by their parents and those who love them enough to make those hard decisions for them, before they even really comprehend what is happening. It is SO important to arm them with an understanding and a love for God, before they are faced with adversary and have to decide how to handle it on their own. Giving them nothing makes it most likely that they will choose nothing.
So this afternoon, I was raking leaves on the hill out back. It’s not something we need to do, but something I choose to do because that hill gets completely covered with leaves from the massive old oak tree at the top. Not a big deal, except that the hill is a favored sledding spot for our kids, their cousins, and friends, as it was for Mark and his siblings and probably his mom and uncles as well. We have learned from years of not raking the leaves that having a bedding of leaves underneath the snow cuts down on the fun factor of sledding. It’s a much smoother ride without leaves so as an act of love, I choose to rake the hill.
Anyway, so I’m busting my tail to get the leaves down to the bottom of the hill in hopes that I could just rake them right down into the woods. Normally I would burn the leaves but today they were very dry and it was too breezy for a fire. I started an early morning workout this week and after a week of using muscles I never knew I even had, I was sore. So as I started in on my challenge to get the leaves to the bottom of the hill I almost immediately regretted that decision. It hurt, there were a lot of leaves, and the breeze was not helping the cause.
As I raked my mind raced. It was reeling over the things I had learned this morning, the overwhelming task of changing myself and my selfish ways in order to be a better example for those around me, wondering how I can possibly worry about the rest of the world when my heart aches from it’s brokenness, sadness, and longing for Sophia, missing my kids who are staying with my sister and brother-in-law this weekend, questioning if we are doing enough to teach our kids the truth, wondering how bad things will get in this country before we see the light, panicking about the possibility of seeing religious persecutions in our lifetime, and on and on and on.
At some point I felt a pain in my hand from the blister that was taking form and realized that I was raking feverishly in a physical reaction to my mental state of frustration and angst. I was lost in the moment and then came to an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. I stopped and looked at the pile of leaves I was building and the amount still left to move and I felt completely overwhelmed. I lost hope in my ability to finish and started contemplating calling it quits.
As I stood there though weighing out my options, the wind picked up, A LOT. I had been fighting it the entire time but it suddenly blew strongly and in the exact direction I was raking toward! Hallelujah! But wait, there’s more….
I have never been one to “hear the voice of God” clearly and always wondered why. I never knew if that was a literal thing or a sub-conscious thing. But when that wind picked up and started blowing those leaves down the hill, I heard Him! I would describe it as being overcome with a thought that took hold of me and wouldn’t let go. I immediately knew it was God, without a shadow of a doubt. I can’t explain how, just that sometimes you just know. It said very simply but firmly, “YOU ARE NOT ALONE.”
I picked up my rake again and started chucking those leaves down the hill as high as I could and I’ll be darned if those leaves didn’t just fly right down to where I was headed. What should have taken me another good hour, took me maybe 30 minutes.
Thankfully no one was around because I literally started whooping and hollering and praising God and thanking Him for the help.
After I calmed down and kept raking though it all started to make sense. I was so dependent on my own ability, my own power to take on this monumental task that when it got too hard, I almost gave up. Even though I know that God loves me and is there to help me through every little struggle and trial, I still forget and fall back to thinking it all depends on me.
The veil was lifted from my eyes once again and I felt fully alive in Him. I was overcome with a sense of peace in my heart and a knowledge that as much as I may try to take on the ridiculous challenge of changing hearts and minds on my own, He is in control, NOT ME. When I do my part and then just get out of the way, He will do what needs to be done.
As I finished up raking a song popped into my head. No surprise it was this one:
Savior, please by Josh Wilson (<—Click to listen!)
Savior, please take my hand
I work so hard, I live so fast
This life begins, and then it ends
And I do the best that I can, but I don’t know how long I’ll last
I try to be so tough
But I’m just not strong enough
I can’t do this alone, God I need You to hold on to me
I try to be good enough
But I’m nothing without Your love
Savior, please keep saving me
Savior, please help me stand
I fall so hard, I fade so fast
Will You begin right where I end
And be the God of all I am because You’re all I have
Everything You are to me
Is everything I’ll ever need
And I am learning to believe
That I don’t have to prove a thing
‘Cause You’re the one who’s saving me
I know that I am not alone. I want everyone I know and love to know that too. I want them to see the difference it makes in our life to have faith, to live our faith, to choose something different from what society teaches and what “everyone else is doing”.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard. It’s very hard to choose to go against the “norm” sometimes. But the way I see it is that we only have 80-90 years here to do our best at whatever we choose to do. I know that whatever we choose, whatever our kids choose here, will be just fine if we are willing to submit to God’s will. Does that mean that God wills bad things sometimes, NO. That means that life here is going to throw us some bad with the good, God’s will is that we take whatever we are dealt and make the best of it.
I worry little about our happiness here. My greatest concern is where we go after here. Because when we get there, it’s forever, and there are only 2 options for where we end up.
I know that this world cannot be changed overnight because the mess we are in didn’t happen that way. I also know that there are no guarantees that our kids will turn out the way we hope they will just because we try to pass our faith onto them. But at the same time, I know that we have to do everything we can as parents to build in our kids a moral compass and instill in them a faith that can withstand the worst of what this world has to offer. Because if we don’t do it, someone else will.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6: 5-9
If enough of us raise up our kids with a strong moral compass, we will change this world, one heart at a time. Sounds overwhelming still, but thank God we are not alone in our efforts. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
But really, it’s not me at all, it’s all Him.