Monday, January 23, 2012

When You Want Now What Only God Can Do Later

I've been planning tonight for a while. I scoured the family devotionals on Amazon and found one that looked good. It was arranged to be a family devotional that you read at dinnertime. I thought it fitting since we are always on such a tight schedule and can't fit much in.

I bought the book. I looked at it today, hungrily. I read the topics, the discussion questions; I imagined in my head what I would say, how I would explain to my three stepkids that God isn't only with us in church on Sundays. I would say how Daddy and I wanted to bring God here, in this home, with us. Because God IS with us. I fantasized about this all day.

And then, tonight, we sat down and I pulled out the book. I even started my prelude to the occasion, but was interrupted by the 5 year old boy making goofy faces at me. He does this during dinner sometimes and Husband and I have to refocus him and remind him to finish his food. We did this and I moved on. Husband read the few paragraphs and then I realized that this wasn't going to be an easy task.

5 year old boy was squirming in his seat and playing with his fork. 8 year old girl was in and out of the experience. 13 year old girl had the classic skeptic look, a look I am so afraid she will keep forever.

But Husband and I kept going. We talked about seeds and how when good seeds are planted in us, a good harvest is produced. When bad seeds are planted inside us, a bad harvest is produced. We talked about what seeds (thoughts) were...

5 year old boy? What do you think?

"I don't know..." he giggled.

8 year old giggled at him giggling.

13 year old asked if she could have more potatoes.

I looked at Husband tenderly and nervously. We continued. We kept asking questions about how people show they are sad and how they are happy. 8 year old girl was all too happy to produce answers - answers she knew would make us happy. She's quite the pleaser. She also is the one out of the three kids who openly declares her love for God and Jesus. She is quite the artist about it. We have zillions of pictures depicting, "I love God!"

She has a tough time living that out, though. She can be manipulative and bossy, rude and cruel.

God loves us all.

8 year old girl said that it was God who puts the sad and happy and bad seeds in our heads.

Husband and I arched our eyebrows. "Uh...not exactly, honey..."

How do we answer that?

I suddenly felt totally inadequate. I didn't know how to explain all that is in my heart about our faith.

Yet we continued. We talked a bit more, asked more questions - 8 year old answered, 5 year old boy shrugged and giggled incessantly which only scratched my chalkboard-brain like fingernails. And 13 year old girl had this look on her face like she wanted to shrivel under the table and disintegrate.

I decided to bring the conversation to a close so I told them to think about the kind of seeds that were being planted in their hearts in the next few days.

They looked at me with utter confusion.

I think I even felt a bit confused.

So dinnertime ended and let me tell you, our new devotional time did not go how I thought it would.

As I helped Husband with the dishes, all kinds of thoughts and images ran through my mind: how a family of 6 that I know sits around their dinner table and reads Scripture and discusses it. The youngest is 6 years old.

How so many people I hear on the radio and read about in books grew up in good, Christian homes...

about how I grew up in a pretty decent home yet neither my mother nor my father made God a priority in my life. I felt angry. Cheated.

I felt angry at the 5 year old boy who kept laughing and making funny faces when I was trying to be serious.

I felt angry at the 8 year old girl who gave us the "right" answers, not even knowing what they meant.

I felt angry at the 13 year old apathetic girl who is only interested in being famous (though she has no intention on learning any skill) and being on her iPod.

I felt angry at Husband and my measly attempts at bringing God into our home and how we had failed.

I heard a voice telling me to quit.

And then I realized who that voice was:

It was the enemy. The Devil. That one who is the opposite of God, the opposite of Love, the opposite of Goodness. The opposite of everything we are trying to bring into this family and keep in this family.

I began telling myself that I ought to give them a break. They had only been experiencing God and faith for one year. When they lived with their mom, life was total chaos and its own kind of "hell" much of the time. I told myself that I can't expect them to become perfect little cookie-cutter happy children who can recite the New Testament after one devotional.

And did I really want that?

I reminded myself that everything I wanted to impart to them could not be accomplished in one evening.

In fact, this might take many, many nights of frustrating starts and stops at conversations about our faith and our God. 5 year old boy might have been laughing because he felt uncomfortable and didn't know what else to do when the spotlight was on him. I realized that 8 year old girl just wants to be loved and I had to continue this venture if only to show her - to show them all - just how awesome God's love is. And I realized how important it is for Husband and I to persevere in this for 13 year old girl's sake - for she is wrapped up by worldly things so much more than the other two kids. In fact, it's like she's wrapped up in a world burrito. She's trapped herself inside iPods and Facebook and her phone and texting.

Yes, I told myself. We must continue. It will be awkward. It will be hard. But the Christian life is hard. The United States has basically thrown out Christianity like the baby with the bathwater. A pastor we talked to over the weekend affirmed this and added that now the most common belief in the U.S. was atheism. How God does not exist.

Finishing up dishes, I was brimming with feelings, good and bad. I took a shower and the thoughts rolled over in my mind. I thought about a blog entry I would write, what I would say, and then I thought about the title:

Devotional for the Skeptic...

for example.

But then the phrase hit me like a truck: When You Want Now What Only God Can Do Later.

Indeed, I want NOW - my children to have a strong faith in God - and that can't happen by my efforts, alone. Even with Husband joining me, how could I think that we could do this alone? And in one night?

First of all, it is not we who will do this. We cannot bring the Holy Spirit to these children. Only God can. What we can do is model to them what loving God and following his law looks like. What being a good person looks like.

So, in closing, I invite you to ask how our devotional reading is doing. I promise you I'll answer quite frustrated at times. But I know, I just know...

one night in the future, something will click. Maybe it will be with 5 year old. Maybe 13 year old. Maybe 8 year old.

But I know God is on our side and is pleased with our efforts. And I trust that God will help us reach this kids.

We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.

If you don't succeed, try and try again. I realize that's not a Bible verse...

but it certainly applies here as well.

I say...

If at first you don't in be on your side...and he will bring you home.

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