Like most preschoolers, Abby is at her most creative and clever when she’s coming up with excuses to postpone bedtime. Her latest technique is a sweet Puss-in-Boots upward gaze, followed by the question: “Will you pray with me one more time?” How is a mom supposed to say no to that?
But not long ago, the stalling-technique-du-jour had to do with fears. Swiper was in the corner, the bad guys who killed Jesus were going to get her, she heard a funny noise, etc. One night after a complaint of this nature, I seized the teaching opportunity. I knelt beside her bed to remind her that God was bigger than any danger she could imagine and that she could trust him to take care of her. “I don’t want to be in here by myself,” she protested. And of course I took the bait: “You are not by yourself. God is right here with you.”
Abby looked me straight in the eye and responded, “I don’t believe that.”
It chilled me a bit to hear her say that, although I don’t actually believe that her heart is as spiritually cold as it sounded in that moment. But it was a much-needed reminder that as great as it is to surround her with liturgical rhythms, to help her memorize Psalms and prayers, to read her stories from the Bible, nothing but the Holy Spirit himself can draw Abby’s heart to himself.
The most important thing I can do is to pray specifically to this end: that God would awaken Abby to spiritual realities from these earliest years, and that her heart would be sensitive and receptive to his Spirit.
I was reminded that my goal is not for her to absorb and imitate my faith, but for her to develop a faith of her own. I am a teacher and an example, but I am not her priest or her mediator. (That job has already been taken, and that’s a good thing.)
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