One of our biggest desires as parents is to see our children realise that God loves them and to know Jesus as their Saviour. Sharing our faith with our children is a big responsibility and a privilege. It’s also an adventure as we laugh at their theological insights and delight in seeing them discover God is real. But how do you know when they have chosen Jesus for themselves?
Little Sam is six now and we know he loves God with all his heart. Sam wears his heart beating outside his body and ready to envelop anyone who crosses his path in a big hug. Even when he was two years old, Sam was asking questions about God. I think he accepted Jesus as his friend when he was three years old. There was no defining moment that I can remember him coming to that point. It just kind of happened. He knew the gospel and understood it. We’d had talks about how our hearts got dirty from sin and how only Jesus could wash us clean. We talked about how God made everything and Sam would go through everything in the garden saying,”God made that.” Sam simply accepted Jesus as his friend. He went through a phase of always choosing Jesus dying on the cross as his Bible story every night.
This little boy managed to teach me a few lessons about faith and forgiveness in his own innocent way. He was about two years old. I remember being mad about something he had done, scowling at my little Sam and telling him,”Mummy is cross. Do you know why Mummy is cross?” I can’t even remember why Mummy was cross! He looked cute. He looked perplexed. Then he said earnestly,”Jesus died on the cross.” That shot an arrow straight through my heart and reminded me that I just needed to let go and forgive. And he continues to teach those lessons. That’s a whole post in itself!
Noah is four and as many of you know has severe apraxia of speech. He has understanding of what we say, but has much difficulty producing speech. For a long time I struggled with not knowing whether he had any understanding of who God is or who Jesus is. This was because Noah simply couldn’t tell me verbally what his thoughts were. He couldn’t ask questions. He still can’t ask questions. Each night we read him a Bible story and pray for him. The first time I actually felt like Noah was able to participate in prayer was when he started to get more words, around age 3. We would begin our prayer time by thanking God for blessings in our lives. I asked Noah,”What would you like to thank God for?” He smiled and said,”Trucks.” I laughed. It was so cool to have him participate in prayer in a small way. He has since thanked God for everything from tools to kindy, Mummy, Daddy, Sam, Nanna, Grandad, Earle, Bec and Jedus. Of course, we know that you don’t have to be able to talk out loud to pray – God hears the unspoken.
When ‘Jedus’ started to show up in Noah’s thanks night after night I knew he was beginning to have some understanding of Jesus beyond a storybook character. Jesus was becoming real to him. I was trying to find ways to talk to Noah about faith in God and in Jesus that he could understand. It was hard to gauge his understanding as he can’t speak in full sentences yet. But Noah was picking things up through Bible stories – he knew Jesus was kind and loving and that he could heal people. His favourite story was the parable of the Good Samaritan and we read it over and over again.
My first attempts at explaining the gospel to Noah fell flat. I didn’t really think about how my explanation would sound to a little three year old. I tried to explain how sin makes our hearts dirty and that sin was all the bad stuff we do. I asked Noah if he would like Jesus to wash his heart clean. This was met with a loud resounding,”NO!” I imagine he had visions of his heart being pulled out of his body and put through a washing machine.
As Easter approached this year, I had a great desire to help Noah more fully understand the gospel. We read the Easter story quite a few times. One night I again explained that the bad stuff we do makes our hearts dirty. Jesus died on the cross for us so that we could be forgiven for all the bad stuff we’ve ever done or ever will do. Jesus will always love us, no matter what we do. And we will get to be his friend while we live on earth and forever in heaven one day when we die. This time I asked Noah if he wanted Jesus to always be his friend. He smiled sweetly and said,”Yes.” So I prayed for him and watched my little boy fall asleep with the most beautiful smile on his face.
How do I know for sure that Noah accepted Jesus that night? I can’t know for sure, but I’m pretty certain. Since then he has asked again and again for the story,”Jedus died cross.” Just like his brother Sam did when he first trusted Jesus. Ever since Good Friday service at church, Noah regularly crosses his arms and simply tells me,”Jedus died cross.” And I ask,”Did Jesus stay in the tomb?” And Noah says,”No! Alive!” Everywhere we see a cross, Noah pipes up with,”Jedus die cross!” Jesus has become real for him and is a true friend to him.
Perhaps it seems morbid that little children would have a fascination with a story about a man nailed to a cross, especially as a bedtime story. But they know that’s not the end of the story. That man was the Son of God. By the power of God he was raised to life again and calls each of us into relationship with him – life changing friendship that will last our whole lifetime and beyond. They see in Jesus total acceptance, no matter what. They see a friend who put his life on the line for them. They see that this friend will always be with them, whatever happens. They remind me of the wonder of salvation and that sense of coming home that I had when I first believed in Jesus. And I remember that He is preparing a place in heaven for each of us even now.