Thursday, October 25, 2012

Oh Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say

Do you ever hear someone's story and then wish you could time travel to the past and change it for them? 

My husband spent much of his pre-adolescence in intense fear of, wait for it, black birds. He was afraid to walk under trees because he had a mental image of birds swooping down to peck his eyes out. And that is not the saddest part of the story. The real tragedy lies in the fact that the source of his fear was his home church. 

When my husband was still young, his home church showed a series of videos highlighting the events foretold in the book of Revelation. Enter the vision of birds coming to peck his eyes out. An even deeper fear had also taken root in my husband's heart. The fear of black birds was only a symptom. My husband worried that he would be among those whom God would not allow entrance into that heavenly home, the one that we as Christians are supposed to look forward to. He was taught that saying the right sinner's prayer, feeling contrite, and walking the aisle would allow him into heaven. Yet, with visions of black birds dancing in his head, he wondered: what if I didn't say the prayer correctly? What if I was never sorry enough for my sins? The inevitable answer: a tender young youth, feast for the birds.

This story makes me ache. If only I could reach into the past, share the truth of God's grace and love with this little one, perhaps I could have eased the suffering that followed him into adolescence. 

We were all children once. Some of us have forgotten what it is to believe like a small child. We need to be reminded: an intrinsic aspect of the child-life is a quest for answers from those he loves and respects; when she hears an answer, she will believe it. These little boys and girls will believe it because they trust us; they don't weigh each statement we make, using logical deductions and searching for proof. They simply believe. 

And the things the children believe will become a part of who they are. They will grow. They will either emulate their parents or rebel. Whatever they do, they will act on those things that have been built into them, either by fighting tooth and nail with them, or by embracing them, often without even knowing what they are doing.

If I, desiring strongly to usher my children into heaven (as though I could), fill their childhood with threatening stories about hell, Satan, and the judgment of God, it should not surprise me to see them grow into haters of Christianity, or, equally probable, incredibly fearful, insecure Christians (though they may not show their true feelings to me). It should not surprise me to see them, all grown up, mentally beat and berate themselves with well-versed self-beating-up mantras: "you're a wretched excuse for a human being; it sure must've been hard for God to give his life for the likes of you." Thus, every success, every talent, every complement given, by the child-turned-adult will be downplayed, ignored, buried far away from his or her psyche.

Is it needful to scare our children into heaven? Will any of us ever fully understand the degree of our "lostness"?

Yet, doesn't the Bible say that it is the KINDNESS of God that leads us to repentance? 

What if the focus of our dialogues with our children was on the incredible grace of God? My son, yes, knows that the payment for sin is death. But I do not dwell on the words "sin" and "death". To do so would only take the focus off of the beautiful centrality of Christ, broken, wounded, and given for us! My dialogue with my children, then, is all about God's grace. I talk often about how He died for our sins; how grateful that makes me; how we can run to him when we mess up, and how He forgives us. I hope that they grow up to be brimful of the truths of God's grace. Then, when they hear the stories in Revelation, they will relax with thankfulness into God's grace, knowing that, because of Jesus, because they do not have to live up to any standard of perfection, they have nothing to fear. 

Dear mommas, we must be so very careful with what we build into our children. The words we speak will leave a forever-imprint on their hearts. 

I read an article recently about the impact women have on society through their influence on children by author and blogger Samuel Martin. The article's impact was twofold: it sobered me greatly, and it inspired me! My children will be impacted by me. The people they touch will be inadvertently touched by me. The hard work of correct, grace-filled, truth imparting is upon us, mommas! Love those little ones by embracing them with the truth.

To read Samuel Martin's article, click here: The major role of women in the formation of the Hebrew Bible Thank you once again, Samuel, for your hard work and insight!

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