Always one of my favorite hymns and a question that has repeatedly played in my head as I contemplate the salvific work my God has done in the lives of my two eldest children. As a mom, I feel like I’m a navigating fresh waters. As a Christian for over 22 years now, I feel like I’m seeing exactly what I would have expected to see. But let me back up just a bit…
I grew up in a very traditional Southern Baptist Church. I loved and adored (still do actually) my pastor, but as was the fault of many baptist churches in the 80s/90s, salvation was often reduced to just walking an aisle, praying the sinners prayer and getting baptized. Not that professions of faith, prayers of repentance and baptism do not have their place in one’s coming to Christ for salvation…but they certainly are not the “what” that saves you. “For it is by grace that you are saved, through faith and this not of yourselves, it is a gift of God” Ephesians 2:8. I didn’t quite understand all that at the age of seven, but I felt enough in my heart to know that while friend after friend walked down an aisle at a revival or prayed with our Sunday School teacher that I just wasn’t ready to dive into whatever they thought they needed to dive into at that moment. Then, after several more years of hearing the gospel, at the age of 12, I finally went to my parents with a feeling in my gut that I couldn’t ignore and told them that I was ready to turn my life over to Jesus and I wanted him to be King over my life (for some reason, I still remember using that exact expression!). They walked me through the gospel again, carefully explaining why we were guilty before God and why Jesus had to die and I prayed with them that night that God would forgive me and make me His. And He has been growing me in my faith by His means of grace ever since…praise be to Him who saves and Him who sanctifies!
In Louisville, while Kevin attended seminary, we were part of one of the most amazing churches and God used it greatly to prepare me for one of my greatest and most treasured roles, motherhood. I remember many conversations with women older than I about raising our children in the gospel, what it looked like to discipline with the gospel in mind, what it meant to point our kids to Jesus in each random moment of the day. Many times during a day, I see myself doing or saying something that I learned from one of these women…I am so indebted. We also talked about what it would look like for our children to become Christians…how would we know, how could we be certain, what should we look for? All of these conversations have stayed with me and as I’ve labored and poured out my soul day after day for the sake of the gospel taking root in my children’s souls, I’ve been carefully watching, carefully contemplating, carefully praying.
Interestingly enough, I’ve thought that Molly Kate has been a Christian for a while now. Somewhere between five and seven, she grew increasingly more aware of her sin and genuinely grieved it, she began to pay greater attention to God’s Word and desired to truly understand it and she often confessed that she knew the only way she could be forgiven was trusting in Jesus. But when she asked me if I thought she was a Christian, I would warily say “I hope so, but I’m just not sure yet” and that was the truth! How the world was I to know? Only God can judge the heart, only the Spirit tests the deep waters that reside there. “Oh Lord, how am I to answer her?” I would often cry out. Then it dawned on me one night…the longer I held her off, searching for some flashing neon sign to say “YES, SHE IS SAVED!” the more I communicated to her that it must take something else besides faith in Jesus to be a Christian. If I continued to say “I’m not sure” because I couldn’t see all that I wanted to see before affirming her in her faith, then she would continue to doubt that all it really takes is believing that Jesus died in her place to reconcile her to God. So, we sat down and I turned the table, asking her if she thought she was a Christian. She confidently answered “yes” and I asked why and she easily and clearly put into her own words her belief in the gospel. Parts of her discourse were more theologically accurate than some pastors…I’m amazed at the wisdom and understanding God has granted her at such a young age! And after much more conversation and a time of sweet prayer, I could do nothing but rejoice in the work God had done to save her!
Mikias, on the other hand, has a completely different testimony. From the time we brought Mikias home, he has always been such a literal child. We can never use metaphors or exaggeration with him…he takes every word as absolute truth! If you say you’re so hungry you could eat a horse, he thinks you’re headed to the store to find a mare and chow down! For this reason, I knew it would take a special work of God to work the principle of faith into his little heart. Mikias is also a pleaser, a legalist to the core and it is often hard for him to see his sin clearly and understand just how deep it runs because the truth is, he really doesn’t mess up all that often. I told Kevin once that I felt like Mikias would be one of those people that had to screw up big time before he could clearly see the treasure we have in Christ. I didn’t want that but I feared it might be the case and so it was. Without exposing Mikias’ big ordeal, let’s just say he had a run in with sin that left him feeling completely helpless…for once he saw the entangling web the enemy uses to draw us away from God and he saw his own inability to overcome it. He broke and in his brokenness, all by himself without Kevin or I knowing any of this, he ran to God for forgiveness. He too knew that Jesus was the only way he could be forgiven and after a couple of long discussions, I realized that God had opened his eyes to see Jesus as His Savior. With Mikias, it was almost as if you could see the burden of trying to live a life pleasing enough to God lifted and he was finally resting in Jesus.
I’m recording all of this primarily because I want to be able to recount the details to them when they are older. But I’m also writing it all down because I think there’s a growing tendency in reformed Baptist circles to shy away from children coming to know Jesus as Savior while children and a push to “give it time” or “to see if there’s spiritual fruit for a number of years” before affirming salvation in their lives. And while I’m thankful that parents and pastors are much more inclined to test hearts and be careful to acknowledge true faith, I also see the danger of letting the pendulum swing too far the other way. I could be wrong…I recognize that I am fallen and there’s a small chance Mikias and Molly Kate do not have saving faith. But, the greater part of my soul feels secure in their confession and would rather begin discipling them as young believers, helping them to walk in the ways of Christ and understand His word than to be so fearful that I’m wrong that I hold them in some sort of spiritual confusion. So, once again, I find myself in the need of grace….the beauty of parenting that I’ll never outgrow…Lord, give me grace to teach them, to lead them, to disciple them, to make them want more of You!