Teaching kids the message of hope, love and Jesus… one bedtime routine at a time.

Sometimes I wonder if anything is sinking in. 

Every Sunday morning, we load up and go to church where the girls go to Sunday school for at least one service, two every other week when we serve.

Every night we read a Bible story and pray with the girls before bed, even if all their other privileges have been removed for the day, the Bible story and prayer time remains.

Every mealtime we say a prayer of thanks for our food and even our 1yr old folds her little hands and says “Amen!” at the end.

Every Friday morning, the girls go to a little chapel service at their daycare where they hear a Bible story and sing some songs.

But I wonder… is anything sinking in? Truly sinking in?

It is one thing to learn a routine, sing catchy songs, and be able to recall what a teacher taught in Sunday school, but is the deeper meaning of all these things getting through to my young girls?

Do they know what it means when I say, “you know, Jesus will always love you, no matter what.” Or when they hear the story of David and Goliath for the umpteenth time, do they grasp any tiny semblance of why David was able to defeat Goliath? These are things I wonder sometimes when I gaze at my very bright 4year old snoozing peacefully on her Tinkerbell sheets at night.  When I see the chubby hands of my 19month old fold automatically when we say “Ok, time to pray!”  Are they getting it???

Yes, they are young; 1 and 4, so I’m not wondering if they ponder the afterlife and debate predestination vs. free will with their daycare pals.  I just wonder if the basics are sinking in. Am I asking the right questions and saying the right things, as their Mom, to convey this life giving, lifesaving, truth?

Sometimes I wonder.

But then… something will happen.  Something like this.

The other night, we were reading the story of Abraham and Isaac to the girls from the Jesus Storybook Bible (if anyone is looking for a Bible for their kids, this is our absolute favorite).  We read, “Isaac carried the wood on his back. His father carried the knife and the coals” (Lloyd-Jones, 62).  Then the story ended with, “Many years later, another Son would climb another hill, carrying wood on his back. Like Isaac, he would trust his Father and do what his Father asked. He wouldn’t struggle or run away” (Lloyd-Jones, 69).  As we got ready to close the book and say our bedtime prayers, our 4-year-old said, “Wait! I need to find something.” My husband looked at me and said, “I think she’s going to say something profound…”  And he was right.  My 4year old (who had just been jumping around shaking her booty and claiming to toot on everyone) said, “I need to find the story of Jesus dying.”  I can’t tell you the last time we read that story, but it had been at least several weeks.  So, we helped her flip the pages of that well-worn book to the story of Jesus being crucified and she said excitedly, “Look! The boy was carrying the wood on his back, and Jesus carried the wood on his back! And they were both sacrifices!!!!” 

Sure, the end of the Abraham and Isaac story alluded to this connection, but guys, I still got chills.  Her little four-year-old brain had been firing its neurons and not only knew who “another Son” alluded to, but also pulled out the word “Sacrifice” from the story we had just read, and a story she had heard many times over in the past, and connected the two – On. Her. Own. 

She pulled that word out and made that connection because it is sinking in.  

Sure, she doesn’t understand the full implications of the word “sacrifice,” nor the symbolism that is wrought in those two stories she connected of people carrying wood on their backs, but that’s ok.  It is enough for my Mama’s heart to know that the words we are saying, the efforts we are making, the time we are taking… it is all making a difference. And it is worth it. 

I see and hear these glimpses of my girl’s little heart and brain processing the message of hope and love, the message of Jesus, we try to instill in her and it makes my heart glad.  When my girl learned about Martin Luther King Jr. and how he dedicated his life to “helping set people free,” and said, “So he was like Jesus, Mama, because Jesus helped people and set them free too,” my heart was glad.  When she sees someone on the side of the road and says, “Mama, can we help them? Like the Samaritan man helped the hurt man?” My heart is glad.  When she says, “I like to say hi to the people outside their houses even if I don’t know them, because Jesus says we should be nice to everyone.” My heart is glad.  And when she says a little snarkily, “well, you might be the boss of me, but Jesus is the boss of the whole world.” My heart is still glad.  Because it is sinking in.  The message of love. The message of hope. The message of Jesus. 

It is sinking in.

And as a parent, that’s all I can hope for.  That the message my husband and I teach, and hopefully demonstrate, to our kids will sink in.  Sink in and form a foundation of truth that will be there for them to fall back on when the world inevitably knocks them down with lies and pain. Sink in so that when they doubt and stray, they have something rooting them to truth, waiting for them to come back. Sink in enough for them to one day examine that message and choose to make it their own.  Choose to enter a relationship with that same Jesus they read stories about and sang songs about when they could barely walk and talk.  Choose to believe the message of hope and love and Jesus that their Mom and Dad tried their hardest to convey to them while sitting on Tinkerbell sheets at bedtime wondering if anything was sinking in.

So, we will keep going to church on Sunday mornings.  We will keep reading Bible stories and praying together. We will keep thanking God for our food and for our friends and for our family.  We will keep helping people in need.  We will do our best to demonstrate forgiveness and humility.  We will talk about and to others with love.  We will act out inclusion and generosity.  We will fight for the oppressed and welcome those who are turned away.  We will keep doing whatever we can for the short time we have these little souls under our roof to allow the best shot for the message of Jesus to sink in.  As parents, we are not responsible for our children’s decision to follow Christ. But, we have been granted the privilege to do our best to show them the way. Because it matters.

It’s what matters most.

Lloyd-Jones, S. (2012). Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name. Zonderkidz.

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