Faith like a child

“Daddy, Corban doesn’t want to go to heaven.”

My husband, the seminarian, was understandably shocked for several reasons by our 3-year-old’s declaration.

She continued by saying she was going to show Corban how to go to heaven.

“You fold your hands, close your eyes and say, ‘Jesus, please come into my heart.'”

Further investigation revealed that our daughter had learned this from another little girl at the Y.

When I came home from the library, where I’d been working on a writing assignment all afternoon, my husband asked her to tell me what happened at the Y. With a big smile on her face, Isabelle beamed and said, “I’m going to heaven!” Then she told me that she folded her hands and said, “heavenly father, please come into my heart.”

My husband, using his seminary education, had tried to explain to her that loving Jesus wasn’t all about going to heaven, that it was about a relationship and the way we live life now, too. That seemed a bit much for her 3-year-old mind. All she cared about was that she was going to heaven. And it was important that Corban be there, too.

My  husband and I are Christians whose spiritual journeys took different paths. He was in church from infancy, as our kids have been. I was not in church regularly until I began seeking God in college. We have friends who testify of faith and conversion at a young age, 4 or 5, and other friends who have children who chose to be baptized in childhood. This has always been hard for me to understand. Because I was an adult, and able to take college-level Bible courses and study the Bible in depth after I gave my life to Christ, I’m amazed at children who make this decision and don’t turn from it in adolescence or adulthood.

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

I don’t understand all of what Jesus means when he’s talking about children and the kingdom of heaven and how that relates to my spirituality, but I know that love is simpler for children than adults. Isabelle will cuddle up on our laps for no reason, or hug my leg while I’m cooking dinner. Corban will say “uppy” when I’m sitting in the rocker because he wants to sit on my lap. They hug and kiss profusely. Love, for them, is not complicated.

I could learn from my children.

I am thrilled that my daughter wants to go to heaven, but I’m not going to get overly emotional about her recent declaration. My uncle told me this story about my own confession of faith: When I was 5, he asked me if I wanted to know Jesus. I told him “yes.” I don’t remember this conversation, and it was many years later that I made the decision “for keeps.” While I don’t wish that for my daughter, I also know that this won’t be the last she hears of Jesus.

When the time is right, she’ll make the decision for keeps, too.

In the meantime, I pray that God will give my husband and me the strength and presence of mind to live like Jesus daily so that our kids see faith in action, not just in word.

This is new territory for us. So, if you can, help us out:

What are your thoughts on kids in the kingdom of God?

What has been your experience with your kids, conversion and discipleship?

If you made a decision for Christ as a child, what do you remember about it?

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3 thoughts on “Faith like a child

  1. I committed (as much as one can) myself to Christ at like 5 years old. I was in the basement of WEF and Rick (last name I can’t remember, but he led the kids night thing) was playing the guitar and had talked about how much Jesus loves us and did a little schpiel. It may sound silly to say it changed my life, but it did. I was a little girl with a baby brother so it mostly changed how I dealt with jealousy and lying, not much more, but my mom always said a ‘night night prayer’ with me. I really think that my mom being consistent with a night prayer and meal prayers and just living as this amazing woman who loved all, judged few and put others first is the thing that really molded me as a Christ follower. When I was in 8th grade I ‘rededicated” my life, which for me meant exploring other faiths and making my relationship with Christ fully mine and not at all my parents. Of course, I started doing devotionals by myself in like 5th or 6th grade, but 8th grade was the first time that I told my mom that I didn’t need to pray with her anymore b/c I was doing devotionals myself (I think it broke her heart at the same time as making her proud).

    I think for me KNOWING that faith isn’t easy and that hard things come your way but you can still turn out like my mom is what made it possible for me to be consistent and when every other ‘Christian’ turned their back, gossiped, lied, and hurt others my mom has always been this constant beacon of love to remind me of who Christ is and what He intends for us.

    As I’ve gotten older others have greatly influenced my faith, but I don’t think I would have been able to have a Live, Vibrant faith without my mom, I think it would have been one dimensional like so many others that I’ve known that have grown up in the church and may have only lasted until real opposition (like many I know).

  2. I believe that a child can often more readily hear the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit calling him/her. I also think that to even be moved to such a prayer can be the work of the same Holy Spirit. I don’t think that every “sinner’s prayer” can be classified that way. My prayer at age 7 was the result of just not wanting to be left behind in the rapture that the pastor had talked about that Sunday. It was fear-based. God spent the next 12 years showing me that He wanted me to come to Him out of love and not out of fear. That was when my true walk with the Lord started… the grace-walk. I think that – inasmuch as a child can understand at the age they are when first they understand their need for a Savior – a child can be on the road to the sanctification process that ends in heaven one day. Christian walk, after all, is a process. For some it starts at 3 or 4. For others, it starts at 70 or 80. I don’t believe the typically Arminian assumption that one minute you’re unsaved and the next minute you’re saved and that you can again become unsaved whenever you choose to or if you do a particular unpardonable sin, etc. I qualify that, because I don’t believe that God operates within our time and space… if you are ever going to be saved by the power of the Holy Spirit, His grace is on you from day one – drawing and calling and leading and moving – and until the day you leave this earth for the next part of your journey.

    Claire told me about a year ago that she wanted to be baptized. At age 6, this sweet girl said she wanted to be baptized. “Why?” I asked. “Because that’s what Jesus tells us we should do.” (This had been part of our Bible reading a couple of times in Matthew and Mark.) I had not put the two things together, but one night she had asked me what baptized means and why we should do it. She said, “Well, I know I’m a sinner that needs a Savior and I have told Jesus that I want Him to be my Savior. He IS my Savior. He wants me to be baptized. So I want to be baptized.” My first thoughts were the fear of man – “What will so-and-so think if I bring my child forward at church to be baptized?” I worried that people would think that we forced or pressured her into it in some way or another or that we were trying to look pious or self-righteous by sending her up to be baptized. We still haven’t done it. Based on what she says, I’m not at all concerned that she doesn’t have a complete grasp of what she wants to do. I talked to the pastor, and he said (as I expected) that he would want to talk to her first to make sure she understood what she was doing, but he said that he was not opposed to baptizing children who truly desired to be baptized for the right reasons. It’s that way with the other sacraments of the church too… we don’t let the kids just take communion because they want a snack or because we don’t want to tell them “no”. If we treated the sacred as common, then it would be so.

    I trust that Claire, in her relationship with her Heavenly Father, is nowhere near where she will be in 10, 15, 25, or 50 years – by God’s grace. However, isn’t that true with all of us? We all start somewhere… and He sanctifies us and is not finished with us, “until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). That being said, I think you touched on the key word – “discipleship”. We can’t just assume that because our child said “the magic words” at a revival meeting or church camp that they have the ticket to heaven – work done. Of course, you wouldn’t. Your guidance as she grows will give her guideposts, as the Holy Spirit continues to draw her. Your example as parents of unconditional love and grace also shows her (albeit imperfectly) the beauty of the kind of Savior she has. She has blessed your children with parents who love and care for her and who call her to accountability and relationship – both.

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