I'm the perfect role model for my child—well, at least in my fantasies. Reality proves differently. I am often the poster parent for poor behavior, and my son is the GameBoy–playing, gum–smacking, sneaker–wearing moral compass pointing me to the truth. Here are the top five truths I've learned from the greatest Bible teacher in my home, my nine–year–old son, Jordan.
Truth #1:The Bible is the ultimate source of truth.
One spring, with Easter quickly approaching, Jordan began asking questions about the Resurrection as I was driving him to preschool. Realizing he thought Jesus was rising from the dead for the first time this Easter Sunday, I tried to correct him. I pulled the car over and told him the entire Easter story. I was proud of myself for remembering all the details.
"So you see, Jesus rose from the dead a long time ago and now he lives in our hearts."
"Ohhhh," Jordan said knowingly, but his honest reply followed, "I still don't get it Mom."
Unsure how I could make it any clearer, I decided to bring in outside support. "How about we stop at the Christian bookstore? I saw some books on Easter when I was there last week. We'll get one and read it together," I replied.
"Can't we just read the Bible?"
I didn't see it coming, this spiritual knock–out punch by a preschooler. Jordan's question made me realize I was trusting outside sources to translate God's truth into bite–sized nuggets we could swallow. What I should have been doing was trusting God's Word.
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation (1 Peter 2:2).
Truth #2:Listen when God calls you.
Jordan sat in front of our television set, mesmerized by a cartoon. When I walked in, his concentration broke and he said, "Did you call me?"
"No, I just came in to do the laundry."
"Did you call my name when I was in the shower?"
"No, I didn't say anything."
"Oh. Then it was God."
That caught my attention. I put the laundry down and sat next to him on the floor. "What was God, honey?"
"When I was in the shower, somebody said 'Jordan, Jordan,' and it sounded like God."
"What does he sound like?" I asked.
"He has a deep voice."
"Could it have been the thunder? There's a storm outside," I replied.
"Nope, it was God," he said confidently, his faith unshakeable. "Besides, God doesn't sound like thunder."
He was sure he had heard God's voice. I began to get nervous.
"Did he say anything else?"
"Nope, just 'Jordan, Jordan.'" With that, Jordan ended the conversation and returned to his cartoons.
I fidgeted with the laundry and tried to convince myself that he had heard the thunder, the TV, or even some sort of storm–related power surge. As I talked myself into other possibilities, I realized that instead of celebrating Jordan's faith, I was trying to share my doubts. If God had spoken to him in the shower and Jordan believed it to be so, who was I to persuade him differently? Then a thought occurred to me: What if God had been calling me?
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock (Revelation 3:20).
Truth #3:Worship God, not your schedule.
Registering for new classes at church, Jordan was undecided about joining children's choir. Last year I forced him to go because I taught a Bible study during the same hour. This year he had a choice.
"I can't make up my mind. What do you think I should do?" Jordan asked for the umpteenth time.
"It's up to you," I said. This conversation had been repeated for days and had gotten us nowhere. Finally, I asked him to make a list of pros and cons.
"Well, the reason I don't want to is because we were always in a hurry last year."
I reassured him that since I wasn't teaching, we'd have plenty of time to make it from after–school activities to church.
"What's the reason you want to?" I asked, assuming his answer would have something to do with whether his friends were still in choir or if prizes were given out for hymn memorization. For third–grade boys, choir wasn't cool without outside motivation.
"The reason I want to," he said, "is because I like singing praises to God and Jesus."
I was so stunned, it took me a minute to catch my breath. "OK, then we'll sign you up," I finally said.
Had I underestimated him? No, I had assigned my motivation to him. Last year it was convenient for me to have him in choir, and I assumed he'd have some equally self–centered reason to do it this year. In reality, my rushing troubled him and interrupted his time for praise and worship. It made me consider how often I've hurried my own worship times.
Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him (Psalm 33:1).
Truth #4:Have faith that God can do anything.
"You said I wouldn't get a third game ball in this season, and I did. Then you said I wouldn't get a fourth, and I did. You
said my academic team wouldn't make it to the regionals, and we did."
It wouldn't do any good to tell Jordan what an amazing accomplishment it was for an eight–year–old to get four game balls in one baseball season. There were only 12 games and 11 players, and the coaches tried to divide them up evenly. As for his academic team, at the beginning of the year they were so pathetic that it was only the fear of not going to regionals that motivated his team to pull together—but it was useless to try to tell him those things now.
"That's why I like it when you tell me I can't do something, because the opposite always happens. You just don't have enough faith in me!" He picked up his GameBoy and left the room.
Jordan was right. I didn't have faith. Rather than believe it was possible, I made excuses to protect him from things that might not happen.
Sometimes I'm that way with God also. To protect myself from the disappointment of prayers that seem to go unanswered, I choose not to believe. "Oh, don't pray for healing, just pray for God's will." "Don't pray that I get this job, pray that I get the job God wants me to get." While these prayers may sound spiritual, as if I really want to do God's will, often I'm simply protecting myself from the possibility things might not turn out as I would like.
If this scene had been in a movie, it would have ended with a crack of lightning, a rumble of thunder, and a deep bass voiceover in which God would say, "Sometimes you don't have enough faith in me, either!"
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" (Matthew 14:31).
Truth #5:Forgive once more.
When Jordan was two and a half, he had neighborhood buddies. Will was four and Alex was five. Each boy made a good playmate for Jordan when they were alone, but when the three were together, Will and Alex had a way of teasing Jordan and running off, leaving him alone and crying. This had happened several times, and every time it occured, it made me crazy.
One particular afternoon, the three boys had been playing together nicely when Jordan's crying startled me. Will yelled over his shoulder, "We don't want to play with you anymore!" Alex, in a fast trot behind him, emphatically added, "Yeah!"
What happened next was a replay of every other time. Jordan, who wasn't allowed to cross the street, would cry and beg to follow them. If he did, they would run. If he didn't, they would stand across the street and mock him. If I tried to take him in the house, he would think I was punishing him. I felt the hurt I knew Jordan couldn't express.
However, this time would be different. I created a plan that would make them come crawling back to Jordan with their tongues hanging out.
"Would you like ice cream, Jordan?" I said loud enough for the boys across the street to hear. "We'll put sprinkles on it."
"Can we bring the ice cream outside?"
"Of course!" I replied. Now he was getting the idea. We'd show them!
He sniffled and then asked one more question, "Can I share my ice cream with my friends?"
I was without words. I wanted to say, "Of course not, they're mean to you." Instead I nodded and tried to blink back my shame.
His lesson has stuck with me. Now whenever I feel that sense of hurt, I try to soothe it, not by getting even, but by forgiving (and sharing my ice cream).
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy–seven times (Matthew 18:21-22).
While I'm always open to good teaching, it was only by having a child that I realized God could use anyone to teach me more about himself and his ways. No verse is clearer to me now than the third verse of Matthew 18: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
Jennifer Schuchmann is a freelance writer who lives with her family in Georgia.
Copyright © 2005 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian Parenting Today magazine. Click here for reprint information on Christian Parenting Today.