“Somebody please hit me!” Those are the words I thought to myself as I witnessed my four-year old daughter sling The Jesus Story Book Bible across the room. Ballet lessons, really? I am thinking more like a quarterback on the football field at this point. It was destined to hit one of the three sitting ducks on the couch, and sure enough it soon spiraled directly into my four-year old’s head. Ouch!!! Insert: Screaming, yelling, fury, and near riot.
Exhausted from a long day, normally I would have continued to plow through the bible story. But on this particular night, my husband – the gentle “shepherd” that he is – tucked our convulsing son in his arms and made sure his head was not bleeding (why didn’t I think of that). Afterwards, my husband said, “Son, sometimes you just need to get knocked in the face with the Word of God.” Haha; yes! And sometimes the Word of God hurts.
For us, the flying Bible and the black eye to follow is actually symbolic of a deeper reality – family devotions can hurt. Often our family devotions feel like a trip to the dentist. You know you should do it, but there is always something that goes wrong. This includes the loud uncomfortable noises. Then, just when you think your kids are really soaking in the Gospel and becoming little theologians, one of them asks, “Why is poop brown?”
As you’re passionately reading the account of Jesus pulling Peter up out of the water, all of the sudden your daughter’s hair is being pulled out, literally, by her big brother. As you’re gently teaching your children about the importance of “loving one another,” one of them screams out to their sister, “I hate you!!”
From loud laughs to bodily functions to a hyperventilation or two, maybe you can relate.
At the end of the day, our family devotions end up revealing more sin in my husband’s and my heart than we could ever imagine. We’ve been trying to preach the Gospel to them, but by the time we’re done, we’re humbly reminded that we are the ones that need the Gospel.
But it’s crazy because we expect our children to love Jesus and to sit still like they are little saints, and yet we forget that they are children (children that may or may not even be converted). They will fidget; they will wiggle, and they will have questions (that may or may not relate to the bible story).
In the midst of the chaos, have you ever felt like, “What’s the point?!”
And then, it certainly doesn’t help your defeated attitude when your daughter, who apparently has been sipping on truth serum, reminds you of your perpetually bad bread. Then, if that’s not enough, when questioned about her thoughts on tonight’s bible story, she informs you that she “didn’t learn anything.”
It makes us wonder, why do we spend time with the Lord? Is it only to learn? Is our bible study time a complete fail if we didn’t walk away with a new revelation? Who is in charge of revealing His Word to us? Did the Holy Spirit drop the ball and forget His job? Or, is it my fault for being too tired and distracted (thinking about the fact that I’ve got less than 2 minutes before the next episode of Downton Abbey starts)?
Why do we sit our children down and open up the Word of God? Is it so we can check something off our list? Do we read the bible to our little arrows so we can feel good about ourselves? Sometimes. Often that is why I do it.
Or, do we long for them to know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we rest in the belief that the Word of God does not return void? This is our prayer as parents – that they may know the abounding, unrelenting, unconditional, rescuing love of Jesus Christ.
Our family devotions may rarely, if ever, go as planned. In fact, if you have toddlers, you can pretty much guarantee it will be flop at least half of the time. But at the same time we have to remind ourselves that God hasn’t called us to be successful in training our children to know God, He’s simply called us to be faithful.
Only God can change the hearts of our little ones. We can read them the Bible until the cows come home. We can have them in church every time the doors are open, and we can even make them memorize John 3:16 in New Testament Greek, but if the Spirit of Christ doesn’t open their eyes, they will never come. I don’t know about you, but this is incredibly liberating to me. Thank God the salvation of my children is not contingent upon my parenting skills, but their salvation rests upon the free mercy and grace of Jesus Christ.
So parents, keep reading them the Word. Continue sowing Gospel seeds in their hearts, even if it sure seems like those seeds are falling on hard, little hearts at the time. And through it all, pray for them every day. Pray that the same God who knit them together in your womb, would someday soon (if He hasn’t already) recreate their hearts to beat for Jesus and His glory. When that day comes, surely, all the painful family devotions will be worth it.